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What Are Drum Cymbals Made Of?

Drum cymbals are an essential component of a drum set, adding depth, character, and dynamics to the music. They produce unique sounds and create a rhythmic atmosphere that complements the beat of the drums. Have you ever wondered what drum cymbals are made of? In this article, we will explore the materials commonly used to craft drum cymbals, their characteristics, and how they contribute to the overall sound. Let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of drum cymbals!

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1. Introduction

Drum cymbals are percussion instruments that consist of a thin, circular metal plate. They are typically struck with drumsticks, mallets, or brushes to produce a variety of sounds. The materials used in cymbal construction greatly influence their tone, durability, and versatility.

2. Brief History of Drum Cymbals

Cymbals have a rich history that dates back to ancient civilizations. They were initially made from basic materials such as clay, wood, or bronze. Over time, cymbals evolved, and their construction techniques became more refined. Today, modern drum cymbals incorporate various metals and alloys to achieve specific sonic characteristics.

3. Traditional Cymbal Materials


Bronze is the most common material used in traditional cymbal construction. It is an alloy composed primarily of copper and tin. Bronze cymbals offer a rich and warm tone, with a balance of brightness and darkness. They are renowned for their musical versatility and are widely used in various genres, including rock, jazz, and orchestral music.

B20 Alloy

B20 alloy is a specific blend of metals consisting of 80% copper and 20% tin. It is commonly referred to as “bell bronze” and is highly favored by professional drummers. B20 alloy cymbals are known for their complexity, projection, and distinct harmonics. They produce a full-bodied sound with a wide dynamic range, making them suitable for a broad range of musical styles.

4. Modern Cymbal Materials

B8 Alloy

B8 alloy is another popular material used in cymbal manufacturing. It is an alloy composed of 92% copper and 8% tin. B8 alloy cymbals are generally more affordable and offer a bright and focused sound. They are often preferred by beginners and drummers who require a cutting and articulate tone.


Brass cymbals are primarily made of copper and zinc. They are less expensive compared to bronze cymbals and provide a distinct and bright sound. Brass cymbals are commonly used in school bands, marching bands, and beginner drum sets. Although they lack the complexity and depth of higher-end cymbals, they offer a great starting point for aspiring drummers.

Nickel Silver

NickelSilver is a material occasionally used in cymbal construction. It is an alloy composed of copper, nickel, and zinc. Nickel silver cymbals produce a bright and shimmering sound with a quick decay. They are known for their crisp articulation and are often favored by drummers who require a focused and cutting tone in genres like metal and punk.

5. Specialized Cymbal Materials

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cymbals offer a unique sonic characteristic. They provide a bright and metallic sound with enhanced sustain. Stainless steel cymbals are highly durable and resistant to corrosion, making them suitable for drummers who play in aggressive styles like heavy metal and hard rock.


Titanium cymbals are relatively rare but offer exceptional durability and a distinctive sound. They produce a bright and powerful tone with a focused attack. Titanium cymbals are favored by drummers who require high volume and projection, making them ideal for live performances.

6. Experimental Cymbal Materials

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber cymbals represent an innovative approach to cymbal construction. They are lightweight, durable, and offer unique tonal properties. Carbon fiber cymbals produce a warm and controlled sound with excellent stick definition. They are often used in electronic drum setups and situations where low volume is necessary.


Acrylic cymbals are made from transparent acrylic material. They produce a bright and glassy sound with a quick decay. Acrylic cymbals are visually striking and provide a unique visual element to drum performances. However, they are less commonly used compared to other traditional and modern materials.

7. Factors Affecting Cymbal Sound

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Apart from the material used, several other factors influence the sound of a cymbal:


The thickness of a cymbal affects its overall character. Thicker cymbals tend to provide more volume, projection, and sustain, while thinner cymbals offer a faster response and a more delicate and shimmering sound.

Hammering Techniques

Hammering is a crucial process in cymbal manufacturing. Different hammering techniques create unique surface patterns that impact the cymbal’s tonal complexity, articulation, and wash.

Lathing Patterns

Lathing refers to the process of removing metal from the cymbal’s surface to shape its profile. Varying lathing patterns produce different levels of brightness, stick definition, and wash. Cymbals with heavier lathing have a drier sound, while those with lighter lathing offer more sustain and complexity.

8. Cymbal Manufacturing Process

Manufacturing Processes:guide


The traditional method for creating high-quality cymbals involves casting. Molten bronze is poured into molds to form ingots, which are then rolled out into thin sheets while hot. This process allows for a more random crystalline structure, which contributes to the complex and rich sound of the cymbals2714.


In contrast to casting, some cymbals are made by stamping them out of large sheets of metal. This method is typically used for lower-cost cymbals. Stamping involves cutting and shaping the cymbal from a flat sheet of metal, usually brass or lower-quality bronze. This process results in a more uniform crystalline structure, leading to a brighter and less complex sound3.

Lathing and Hammering

Once the basic shape of the cymbal is formed, it undergoes lathing and hammering. Lathing involves spinning the cymbal on a lathe and shaving off layers to form the final shape and thickness. This process creates the grooves and patterns seen on the surface of most cymbals, which are crucial for their sound characteristics. Hammering is done either by hand or machine and is used to create dimples and indentations on the cymbal’s surface. Hand-hammering, used in higher-end cymbals, offers a more random pattern, contributing to a richer and more unique sound. Machine hammering, found in more budget-friendly options, provides a more uniform pattern and a consistent sound.

Sound Characteristics

The choice of material and manufacturing process greatly influences the sound of a cymbal. B20 bronze cymbals, known for their complexity, offer a wide range of overtones and a warmer, more musical sound. They are preferred by professional musicians for their expressive sound qualities.B8 bronze cymbals, while less complex, provide a bright and cutting sound that is often favored in live rock performances where durability and higher pitch are desired. Brass cymbals, being the least expensive, are brighter and less versatile. They are suitable for beginners or as practice cymbals but are generally not preferred by professionals for performances


Drum cymbals are made of various materials, each offering distinct sonic properties. From traditional bronze alloys to modern compositions like B8 alloy and brass, drummers have a wide range of options to choose from. Factors such as thickness, hammering techniques, and lathing patterns further contribute to the overall sound of a cymbal. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional drummer, understanding the materials and construction methods behind drum cymbals can help you make informed decisions when selecting the perfect cymbals for your drumming style.

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