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What Is Cymbal Choke?


Cymbal choking is a dynamic drumming technique used to abruptly silence the sound of a cymbal. This technique is employed across various music genres to create dramatic effects, emphasize particular beats, or signal the end of a musical passage. The method involves striking the cymbal and then immediately muting it, either with the same hand or the opposite hand.

Historical Context

Cymbal choking has a rich history in drumming, dating back to the early 20th century. It was a common technique in ragtime and early jazz music. Drummers in these genres would use cymbal chokes to accent key moments in the music, creating a staccato effect that added punctuation to their performances. Notable early practitioners included Chick Webb and Baby Dodds, who used this technique extensively before the trend shifted towards allowing cymbals to ring out naturally in the late 1920s.


There are two primary methods for performing a cymbal choke:

  1. Two-Handed Choke: This method involves striking the cymbal with one hand and immediately grabbing it with the other hand to mute the sound. This technique is effective for cymbals that are within easy reach of both hands.
  2. One-Handed Choke: This method is more challenging and involves using the same hand to strike and then mute the cymbal. It is particularly useful for cymbals positioned far to one side of the drum set, where reaching with the opposite hand is impractical.

Applications in Modern Music

Cymbal chokes are used in various modern music genres, including rock, metal, and classical music. In heavy metal, for instance, cymbal chokes are often employed to emphasize particular beats or to signal abrupt transitions within a song. Notable examples include the opening of “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and throughout Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”.

Safety Considerations

While cymbal choking is a valuable technique, it requires careful execution to avoid injury. Drummers should practice the motion slowly and ensure they are using the correct part of their hand to mute the cymbal. Approaching the cymbal in an upward motion and letting it hit the top of the index finger before pinching it can help prevent cuts and bruises.


Cymbal choking is a versatile and impactful drumming technique that adds dynamic expression to musical performances. Whether used to create dramatic accents, match the sustain of other instruments, or signal the end of a musical passage, cymbal chokes remain a vital tool in a drummer’s repertoire. With practice and proper technique, drummers can master this skill and enhance their musical expression.

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