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How to Use a China Cymbal: Unleash Your Unique Sound

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If you’re a drummer looking to add some distinctive flair and character to your sound, a china cymbal is an excellent choice. The china cymbal is known for its unique tone and explosive sound, making it a popular choice among drummers across different genres. In this article, we will explore the world of china cymbals, from choosing the right one to playing techniques and maintenance tips. Let’s dive in and discover how to use a china cymbal to elevate your drumming to new heights.

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What is a China Cymbal?

A china cymbal, also known as a china splash or china boy, is a type of cymbal that features a distinct shape and sound. It is characterized by its upturned edge, giving it a trashy and explosive tone. The china cymbal originated in China and was traditionally made from bronze, but modern versions can be found in different materials, including B20 bronze and various alloys. Its unique sound makes it a favorite among drummers looking for something different to add to their setup.

Choosing the Right China Cymbal

When selecting a china cymbal, there are a few factors to consider. First, think about the sound you want to achieve. China cymbals can vary in tone, from dark and trashy to bright and cutting. Consider the size of the cymbal as well, as it can affect the sound and projection. Experiment with different models and sizes to find the one that resonates with your musical style and preferences.

Setting Up Your China Cymbal

Proper setup is crucial to maximize the potential of your china cymbal. Start by finding the right position on your drum kit. Most drummers place the china cymbal on their right side, above the floor tom and to the right of the ride cymbal. Experiment with different heights and angles to find the position that allows for easy access and comfortable playing.

Playing Techniques

There are several techniques you can use to extract various sounds from your china cymbal. Let’s explore some of the most common techniques:

a. Striking the Edge

Striking the edge of the china cymbal produces a sharp, explosive sound with a quick decay. Experiment with different striking angles and velocities to achieve different tonal variationsand dynamics.

b. Striking the Bell

Striking the bell of the china cymbal creates a distinct, piercing sound. This technique is often used to add accents and punctuations to your drumming. Experiment with different areas of the bell and varying degrees of force to explore different sonic possibilities.

c. Choking the Cymbal

Choking the cymbal involves grabbing it with your hand or dampening it immediately after striking to stop the sound abruptly. This technique can create a unique staccato effect and is commonly used in genres like rock and metal.

d. Scraping and Swiping

Scraping or swiping a drumstick or another implement along the edge or bell of the china cymbal produces eerie, haunting sounds. This technique can add texture and atmospheric elements to your drumming, making it an excellent tool for experimental and ambient music.

Incorporating China Cymbals in Different Music Styles

China cymbals find their place in various music styles, from rock and metal to jazz and fusion. In rock and metal, the explosive and trashy nature of the china cymbal complements the heavy guitars and aggressive drumming. In jazz and fusion, the china cymbal can be used to create accents and add a touch of exoticism to the music. Experiment with different genres and explore how the china cymbal can enhance your playing in each style.

China Cymbals in Recording and Live Performances

China cymbals can make a significant impact in both recording and live performances. In the studio, the unique sound of the china cymbal can help you create memorable and standout drum parts. It adds character and depth to your recordings, allowing you to create unique sonic landscapes. In live performances, the china cymbal can cut through the mix and add excitement to your drumming. It can be used to accentuate certain parts, create dramatic crashes, or add a splash of energy to your fills.

Maintenance and Care

To ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your china cymbal, proper maintenance is essential. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Clean your china cymbal regularly using a mild cymbal cleaner to remove dirt and grime.
  • Avoid excessive force when playing to prevent cracks or damage.
  • Store your china cymbal in a padded cymbal bag to protect it from scratches and dings.
  • Consider using cymbal sleeves or felts to minimize metal-on-metal contact with other cymbals in your setup.

By taking care of your china cymbal, you can enjoy its unique sound for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

a. Can I use a china cymbal with other cymbals?

Yes, you can use a china cymbal alongside other cymbals in your drum kit. Experiment with different combinations to create unique textures and layers of sound.

b. How do I prevent cracks in my china cymbal?

To prevent cracks, avoid excessive force when playing and ensure you have proper technique. Additionally, consider using cymbal sleeves or felts to reduce stress on the cymbal.

c. Should I use mallets or sticks to play a china cymbal?

Both mallets and sticks can be used to play a china cymbal, and each produces a different sound. Experiment with different implements to discover the tonal qualities you prefer.

d. Can I use a china cymbal in jazz music?

Yes, china cymbals can be incorporated into jazz music to add accents and unique flavors to your playing. Experiment with different playing techniques to find the right sound for your jazz compositions.

e. How can I experiment with unique sounds using a china cymbal?

To experiment with unique sounds using a china cymbal, try the following:

  • Explore different striking techniques, such as scraping, swiping, and choking, to create unconventional sounds.
  • Combine the china cymbal with other percussion instruments or unconventional objects to create hybrid sounds and textures.
  • Incorporate effects pedals or electronic processors to manipulate the sound of the china cymbal.
  • Experiment with different playing surfaces, such as using brushes or mallets instead of drumsticks, to achieve alternative timbres.
  • Play around with different placements and angles of the china cymbal to alter its resonance and response.

Remember, the key to discovering unique sounds is to experiment and let your creativity guide you.


Adding a china cymbal to your drum kit can unlock a world of unique sounds and textures for your drumming. By following the tips and techniques discussed in this article, you can learn how to use a china cymbal effectively and creatively. Explore different playing styles, experiment with various techniques, and discover your own signature sound with this remarkable instrument. Embrace the versatility of the china cymbal and let it be your sonic weapon of expression.

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