So here’s something you will NEVER hear spoken in church, or anywhere, for that matter; ‘I just wish those cymbals were louder!!’ Cymbals are often thought of as the most offensive part of any drum kit, so let’s fix it!! I’ve played many cymbals that just make me cringe every time I go to hit them. On the same note, I’ve played many cymbals that make me WANT to hit them. A great cymbal should make you smile when you hit it, and it should feel light, smooth, and ‘buttery’ when hit.
For the sake of this article, I have divided cymbals up into two categories; sheet metal cymbals and cast metal cymbals.
Sheet metal cymbals
These cymbals are geared towards beginner setups and should be avoided by any serious drummer/church!!! This includes but is not limited to; Zildjian ZBT, Meinl HCS/MCS, and Paiste PST5/PST3. Sheet metals have a plastic-y appearance that would make them at home with your kid’s First Act drums and are made from lower quality materials.
Cast metal cymbals
These cymbals, on the other hand, are made with much higher quality metals (EVEN GOLD!!) and are often hand hammered and hand lathed to achieve the desired tones. It may make you balk when you’re looking at a $500 ride cymbal, but it is definitely worth it to invest in a cymbal that won’t destroy the entire mix.
Any cymbals that are marketed as bright, extreme, heavy, cutting, powerful, etc, etc should also be avoided. The problems with cymbals not only arrive when they are struck, but also after they are struck. This is referred to as decay. For church applications, we want cymbals that have a fast decay, so they don’t linger around with annoying overtones that drive your sound man crazy. Try to find cymbals that are marketed as light, thin, ‘jazzy’ and dark. These types of cymbals not only sound great when played, they also don’t ring out forever and have a quick decay.
Now on to EXPERIMENTATION!! I have found tons of cymbals that I love and will never get rid of, and a few that I couldn’t sell fast enough. I have also found some things that work, and some that don’t. Have 2 extra crashes? Make them a hi hat! Have a light and thin ride? Use it as an epic crash! My favorite combo so far is a set of 18” hi hats made from 2 unused crashes. It sounds AMAZING!!
If you aren’t sure what cymbals to buy, I can provide with some somewhat biased recommendations. Definitely on the TO BUY list are (and try to avoid the medium and heavy options: opt for the light or thin); Meinl (Byzance Vintage series, Byzance Jazz, Byzance Dark, Byzance Traditional), and Zildjian (Kerope, Zildjian K, K Custom, and K Constantinople, A series). These are the only companies I have any experience with, but there are many other companies with acceptable products that would take forever to list (Sabian, Heartbeat, Istanbul AGOP, Murat Diril, Paiste, TRX, etc, etc). And if you’re still undecided, go to your local music store and bash on some cymbals! Make sure to play them like you normally would otherwise you might leave with something that will disappoint you later.
Feel free to ask any questions that you may have!