Crash cymbals are an important element to any drummer’s setup. No matter what type of music you play, you will be able to incorporate the crash cymbal in a variety of highly effective ways.
In the times of traditional classical composers, the crash played a particular role. It could be said that the crash player’s role was similar to the trombone player, which was to primarily wait for their moment to arrive in the musical piece, providing loud crashing in climactic musical moments as in Tchaicovski’s 1812 Overture.
Of course, today, the crash plays an important part in most Western music genres. From smooth jazz to loud metal, the crash provides a necessary contribution to the overall sound of a performance.
Whether you’ve been playing drums for a while, or are a beginner looking to upgrade your gear, it can be a tad bit overwhelming to find that there are quite a lot of different styles of crash cymbals available on the market. You need not have any fears, as we have done extensive research via blogs, forums, videos, and personal experience on the many types of crash cymbals available to help you make the best-informed decision possible.
This article will cover all of the details you need to know about crash cymbals, including:
- Types of crash cymbals
- Types of crash finishes and how they sound
- The various sizes available
- Crash cymbal weight
Finding the Right Sound for Your Drumming Style: the Many Types of Crash Cymbals Available
There are a wide variety of different types of crashes offered on the market, and the style you choose will likely depend on the style of music that you play. Of course, there are no rules against having multiple crash cymbals in your kit, and having a variety can add extra flavor to the rhythmic tapestry that you provide to the music.
A general rule of thumb is to find a complimentary sound to your ride and hi-hats. It may also be beneficial to stick with one family of alloys to ensure that your overall sound is consistent. Learn more in the video below.
There are many manufacturers that offer a wide variety of cymbals. Within the cymbal industry, there are four main manufacturers that many drummers opt to go with:
The crash that you choose greatly depends on your personal preference, so some experimentation is definitely needed here to ensure that you make the most informed purchase. Who doesn’t love going to try out new gear?
Zildjian, or the Avedis Zildjian Company, was founded in 1623 in Instanbul and is one of the oldest cymbal manufacturers in the world. Many famous drummers have used Zildjian cymbals and the company remains a popular mainstay within the drumming community. For a comprehensive overview of the sounds of Zildjian’s cymbals, check out the YouTube vlogger Nick Costa’s rundown on Zildjian crash cymbals.
The I Family of crashes offered by Zildjian is great for all-purpose uses. These crashes are bright sounding with a fast-crash type of response that doesn’t have a whole lot of sustain after the initial attack. These crashes are of medium weight.
The S Family line of crashes offered by Zildjian features B12 alloy to provide presence and versatility. If you are looking for your first crash, the S family might be worth looking into, as Zildjian has a large number of offerings within this line to help you find the sound you are looking for.
Zildjian A Family crashes are one of Zildjian’s oldest and most popular lines offered by the company. These are often found with a traditional finish and produce a sweet tone that is iconic to this style of crash cymbal.
The K Family line of crashes is a bit darker in terms of tone as compared to the A Family. These will generally produce lower pitches and warmer tones and blend well with an overall sound mix.
There are several offshoots within this line, including the Special Dry (producing an even darker tone), and the Sweet (which produces a brighter tone but not as bright as the A Family). Check out YouTuber Rayna Vandel’s thoughts on his K Sweet cymbal.
Sabian has been creating handcrafted cymbals since 1981 and was ironically founded by Robert Zildjian due to the fact that he was not picked to be the successor CEO of the Zildjian company. Since then, Sabian has been a top competitor in the cymbal market, offering cymbals that produce a wide variety of sounds.
Stage crashes can be best thought of as a standard all-around, all-purpose type of crash cymbal. These types of crashes are typically balanced in terms of attack response and sustaining resonance post-attack.
If you’re looking for a crash cymbal that doesn’t have a whole lot of resonating sustain after the cymbal is hit, a fast crash might be ideal for you. These types of crashes are typically very responsive towards the beginning of the strike and do not ring for very long after the cymbal strike.
Vault crashes are a type of crash cymbal that has a higher resonant pitch to the attack and sustain. While Vault crashes can be very prominent and bright sounding, they do respond very well to more dynamic playing.
Sabian X-Plosion crash cymbals provide characteristics similar to what the name implies. These types of crashes are bright and can really cut through the mix in a live-music setting. X-Plosion crashes also tend to feature a larger cymbal bell to provide a more accentuated attack response in all ranges of dynamic playing.
O-Zone crashes are a type of effects cymbal that has holes cut out of the cymbal to disrupt the way the crash responds and resonates. These can sound pretty harsh at times but they may be fitting for the right type of music.
Paiste was founded in 1916 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and currently holds a headquarters in Switzerland. The company has proved to be an innovative competitor in the space, creating new variations of cymbals including the flat ride, the splash, and the sound edge hi-hat.
The company has an extensive line of crash cymbals available on the market. For a comprehensive overview, check out the Drum Center of Portsmouth’s Youtube video here.
Meinl is a German cymbal manufacturer, founded in 1951. The company offers a range of cymbals that are produced for beginners (typically their HCS line) and professionals alike. For a great idea of the offerings from this company, check out Boston Drum Center’s Youtube quick video here for an excellent overview of how these cymbals sound.
Their Byzance line, produced in Turkey, is completely hammered out by hand. Meinl also offers a Pure Alloy line (made of pure bronze), a super lightweight line (Candela), as well an innovative and modern crash cymbal line made of a fusion of different alloys (Generation-X).
The 3 Factors that Affect the Crash Cymbal’s Sound
Crashes can have a variety of different sounds and attack responses based on three different factors, having to deal with how the cymbal is made as well as the size characteristics of the cymbal itself. This trinity of factors that affect the cymbal are:
- The finish of the cymbal
- The size of the cymbal
- The weight and thickness of the cymbal
The Finish of the Crash and How it Relates to the Sound
Believe it or not, the type of finish that your crash has greatly changes the sound that it produces. This is a factor that you may want to heavily consider when exploring your options for a crash.
Generally, cymbals that are lathed to have a brighter and shinier (often labled as “Brilliant”) finish will have a brighter and more responsive attack. These can be especially useful for cutting through a mix and ensuring that the sound of the crash can reach the back of a large room.
Dark crashes, on the other hand, have a darker timbre, allowing them to blend with the overall sound, rather than cut through. These types of crashes are not as responsive as a bright finish, having less resonant overtone qualities in comparison, but a more dynamic range to offer.
The style you may opt for greatly depends on the style of music you play and the rooms that you play in. Darker crashes tend to be seen in jazz settings, while brighter crashes are typically used in high-volume musical settings such as metal and other rock genres.
Standard Sizes of Crashes and the Affected Response
Crash cymbals come in a wide variety of sizes, which effectively changes the response and overall sound of the cymbal itself. For the most part, crash cymbals can range from 8 inches to 24 inches.
Generally, the smaller-sized crash cymbals will be very reactive to any touch, often not requiring too much attack to activate the sound. Small-sized crashes tend to be higher in pitch. These can be especially useful in small-room settings.
Larger crashes tend to require a little more attack but offer a wider dynamic range than is found with smaller crash cymbals. These types of crashes tend to be lower in pitch than smaller crashes.
For a good all-purpose crash cymbal, especially for beginners, the recommended size falls somewhere between 14-18 inches. In this range, the crash cymbal offers a best-of-both-worlds type of response, allowing for different uses depending on musical setting and application.
Crash Cymbal Weights and How They Affect the Overall Sound
Another factor to consider when trying out crash cymbals is the weight of the cymbal itself. This is because the sound produced by the cymbal attack has different resonant qualities depending on the overall thickness of the crash.
There are many different weights available, but much will depend on your preference. You will find all types of weights available, ranging from:
- Medium Thin
Lighter weight (or thin) crashes typically produce a lower-pitched sound and offers a subtle sound palette. These types of crashes can be effective in a jazz-music setting, where there tends to not be high-volume musical situations.
Heavier weight (or thicker) crashes will generally be more present with attack response and will have a higher pitch than what is found on lighter weight crashes. These types of crashes are generally found in rock music settings, where loud volume is usually part of the overall sound mix.
Akin to the overall size, a medium-weighted crash will offer a balanced sound and attack response. Medium-weighted crashes are generally recommended if you are looking for your first crash cymbal.
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There is no question that the crash cymbal is an important piece of the drummer’s setup, as cymbals can be a part of the defining characteristics that make you unique as a drummer. Like most music-related things, the gear one uses is a highly personal choice based on preference and the styles of music you play.
Fortunately, there are many different variations and styles of crash cymbals available on the market today. With the information you’ve learned by reading this article, you can have a better idea of what to look for the next time you go exploring the wide world of shimmering crash cymbals. And, if you’re looking to modify your crash cymbal and create a unique sound, you can get some great ideas in this article.