How to Make Your Cymbals Sound Better & Darker or Brighter

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

When it comes to drum equipment, cymbals have the potential to make or break your overall drum sound. You could have the best sounding drums in the world, but a bad set of cymbals would stand out way more than the drums would.

Cymbals are also the part of the kit where drummers spend most of their money. It’s the unfortunate part of being a drummer looking for the best sounds possible. However, there are a few things you can do that will make your current cymbals sound slightly better.

Upgrade Your Hardware

The first things to look at when it comes to cymbal sounds are the stands you have your cymbals on. A high-quality cymbal stand will ensure that the cymbal is resonating freely without any obstruction. Make sure that the stand has a plastic covering at the top. These are called cymbal sleeves.

If the stand doesn’t have a cymbal sleeve, the metal of your cymbal will be making contact with the metal of the cymbal stand. It’s not going to sound good and it will damage your cymbal in the long run. Then make sure that there are felts on the sleeve to cushion the cymbal.

The sleeves and the felts are vital in allowing the cymbal to produce the best tones that it can. If you tighten the cymbal too much on the stand, the sound will be choked. So, don’t tighten it too much either.

Improve Your Technique

The next thing to do is make sure you’re playing the cymbals with good technique. There’s a very good reason why the best drummers in the world still sound like the best drummers even on low-quality drum kits. It’s all in their technique.

Hitting a cymbal head-on doesn’t allow it to vibrate as much as it would if you hit it from an angle. Try hitting your cymbals in a crossing motion and focus on playing through them instead of at them. The difference may seem subtle at first, but the improvement will be huge the more you do it.

Hitting them like this will also improve their lifespan as they’ll be less likely to crack.

Keep Cymbals Clean

If you have brilliant cymbals, cleaning them regularly will improve their bright tone. The dirtier a cymbal gets, the darker it begins to sound. This is something that many drummers miss, and they end up wondering why their cymbals have lost their tone.

I’ve found that the Zildjian Cleaning Polish (also available on Amazon) is one of the best tools to use to get the cymbals to sound brighter. Just note that it only works with brilliant cymbals. Giving them regular wipe-downs will make a huge difference.

Making Your Cymbals Sound Brighter or Darker

While many drummers want their cymbals to sound brighter, some may want them to sound darker. The easy answer to this is to just get them dirty. The more dust and grime that builds up on the cymbal, the darker it’s going to sound.

Unfortunately, there’s no proven way of making dark or dry cymbals sound brighter. Using a cymbal polish won’t do much for them as they weren’t made to be shiny in the first place.

Soundproofing Your Drum Room

The room you’re playing in makes a huge difference in how all your drums and cymbals sound. If you want your cymbals to sound more controlled, you’ll need to play in a room that has higher sound insulation.

The best way to do this is to add materials that absorb sound. You may be thinking that you need to get some expensive sound panels to hang on the walls. However, there are a few things you can do before heading to that route.

If you don’t have carpets on the floor, that’s the first step that will make the biggest difference. Another thing you could do is cover all the corners of the room with objects. The cymbal sound bounces harshly off the corners.

If the room is carpeted and the corners are covered, then you should consider adding some sort of insulation to the walls. This could come in the form of sound panels or soundproofing curtains.

Adding Things to the Cymbals

If you want to alter the sounds of your cymbals drastically, you could modify them in certain ways. One of the easiest things to do is to add things to them. For example, applying some duct tape to the bottom of a cymbal will reduce a fair amount of the sustain, leaving you with a quick and punchy sound that doesn’t ring for too long.

Another common cymbal trend, especially amongst jazz drummers, is to add a sizzling sound to the cymbals. You can do this by placing a Meinl Ching Ring or a cymbal sizzler to the cymbal.

If you don’t want to buy something to get that sound, a popular drum hack is to tape a coin to the bottom of the cymbal. I’ve tried this many times. While it works fairly well, it didn’t provide the same quality that the Meinl accessories did. I’d suggest getting those if you really want the sizzling sound from your cymbals.

Getting Better Cymbals

At the end of the day, cheaper cymbals won’t be as flexible as higher-quality cymbals when it comes to altering sounds. Most entry-level drum kits come with some very low-quality cymbals. If you’re wondering how to improve the sounds of those, it would be better to just invest in a few higher-quality ones from one of the top cymbal brands.

When it comes to the more upper-tier cymbals, you should experiment as much as possible before deciding that you need to buy better cymbals. I have so many cymbals that I used in the past that I was able to repurpose and get a better sound out of.

Wrap Up

In summary, to make sure you get the best sound out of your cymbals you need to have good hardware, solid playing technique, keep them clean and make sure you’re playing in an audio-friendly environment.

Having a great cymbal sound will arguably make you play better, especially as a beginner or intermediate player.

About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

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