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A crash cymbal is a type of cymbal that produces a loud, sharp, but comparatively short-duration "crash" used mainly as an occasional accent effect. They can be played by hand in pairs, or mounted on a stand to be played by hitting with a drum stick. One or two suspended crash cymbals are a standard part of a drum kit. Suspended crash cymbals are also used in bands and orchestras, either played with a drumstick or rolled with a pair of mallets to produce a slower more swelling crash. Sometimes a drummer may hit two different crash cymbals in a kit at the same time to produce a very loud accent, usually in rock music.
Crash cymbals range in thickness from paper-thin to very heavy, however all crash cymbals have a fairly thin edge. Crash cymbals are most typically 16 to 19 inch (406 to 485 mm) in diameter, but down to 13 inch (330 mm) and up to 20 inch (508 mm) are readily available from major makers, and sizes down to 8 inch (203 mm) and up to 24 inch (610 mm) were in production in mid 2004. Custom crash cymbals up to 28 inch (711 mm) have been used by big bands. Different thicknesses are used by different kinds of music, and the alloy for each manufacturer's models varies. A thick cymbal is likely to be used by a metal or rock band, thinner cymbals are generally used in lighter rock. Orchestral cymbals vary on thickness. Most bands use higher quality bronze [or even titanium] - usually with less copper in the mix.
The range of cymbals is also dependent on the manufacturer. More commonly will a UFIP range be more extensive than any other, especially when crashes are concerned. Price ranges also say a lot about the cymbal; a good buying tip is to look for mid range -> expensive costs, because the cheaper cymbals generally splinter easily, or do not sound as crisp. Crash cymbals are typically the first cymbal in a setup to crack. Wear on the cymbal can be reduced by playing with glancing blows (angled to the side, slightly away from the vertical) and allowing the drum stick to bounce off naturally, rather than forcing the stick down at the cymbal head-on. Bell hits (tapping the drum stick on the bell near the center of the cymbal, producing a sharp "ting" sound) and edge hits (hitting the side of the drum stick against the very edge of the cymbal, producing a deeper "whoosh" sound) expand the dynamic range of a single, horizontal-mounted cymbal, but should be done with care, as they put more strain on the cymbal. Repeated rough hits to the bell may cause a crack, and repeated rough hits to the edge may cause warping. In general, most hits to the cymbal should be about a quarter of the way between the edge and the center.
Cracks are often machined out of cymbals. They can be stopped by all sorts of means:
- A crack that starts at the edge can be stopped using a domestic drill. If a hole is drilled at the one evident end, it stops the cymbal cracking further.
- The outside of the cymbal can be machined off. This is generally only a benficial in larger crashes
- Cracks can be resoldered
- Sometimes, it is a good idea to experiment with a cymbal. If it is largely cracked, some drum teachers persuade their students to try and make new sounds with different cymbals.
The sound of a crash is changed by its 'shinyness'. A cleaner cymbal creates a more crisp sound, whereas a cymbal showing signs of weak oxidation [usually called a 'raw' cymbal, when used on purpose] will have duller sound. Cymbal manufacturers suggest that crash cymbals are to get a lot of cleaning.
A pair of identical crash cymbals held in either hand by leather thongs passing through holes in their bells are called clash cymbals, and are a standard part of an orchestral percussion section. Two tones are normally used by major orchestras, known as Germanic or Wagnerian (heavier) and Viennese (lighter); a third, rarer tone is known as French (lighter still). Clash cymbals are also used in stage, concert, marching and military bands.
- Ride cymbal
- China cymbal
- Splash cymbal
- Sizzle cymbal
- Drum Kit