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Studio Class 1

Crash Cymbal

Dr. Jason Kihle, Associate Professor of Percussion

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

General Thoughts

  1. It takes practice to get the sound on crash cymbals, just like any other instrument; they are not just a “bang-em’-together” instrument
  2. Crash cymbals provide an incredible color to the sound of any group, and they are almost always a solo instrument
  3. The player must consider what type of sound they want, as cymbals have a tone like any other instrument

Holding the Cymbals

  1. Heavy cymbal goes on the top (has the higher pitch)
  2. Sabian logo is usually on the heavy spot
  3. Line up the heavy spots so the cymbal doesn’t move in your hand as you are crashing


  1. Ring finger through the strap, pinkie below the strap
  2. Pinch into the strap with the thumb and tip of the first finger
  3. Cymbal pads are generally for marching band and are not recommended for concert cymbals

Playing Technique

Variety of different techniques

  1. Upward motion technique
    1. This is a good place to start for beginning players
    2. Have them only move the dominant hand; this will give a clean sound, and once this is comfortable they can add the other hand
    3. Start with the position where you want the cymbals to meet
    4. Put the top edge of the cymbals just below eye level; put the right hand cymbal about an inch below the left hand cymbal
    5. Drop the RH below and away to the left, then bring it back in a sweeping motion in and up towards the LH
    6. There is an element of flam to this technique, but the listener should not necessarily hear two separate attacks
  2. Flat-in-front technique
    1. Also good for younger players
    2. Non-dominant hand holds cymbal parallel to the floor near waist level
    3. Dominant hand cymbal held at an angle above the lower cymbal
    4. Cymbal moves down and away from the body
    5. As in most other techniques, holding the top cymbal at an angle to the bottom and crashing “through” the other cymbal is key to activating all of each plates
    6. Angle of attack will influence your dynamic
    7. Follow through: pull the cymbals out of the crash
  3. Ted Atkatz (PASIC 2008 YouTube video) (from Alan Abel)
    1. In technique, elliptical circles are used
    2. Right hand is held at an 80 degree angle, left hand is vertical
    3. The left hand comes from underneath, the right from up above
    4. Think about offset with the cymbals; RH is over LH
    5.  Then think about the angle, a bigger angle will give a bigger blow
    6. Use both arms
  4. Put the cymbals down if you’re not using them; keep the fingers loose

Playing Checklist

  1. Check angle
  2. Don’t want to hear a flam, but it is the type of attack we want
  3. For some techniques, you can start with cymbals together to get the feel of the instrument

The Sound

  1. Regardless of technique, the goal is usually to get both cymbals to vibrate fully
  2. Remember to finish the motion and that, if you are in the correct hand position, finishing the motion will give you a full sound


  1. Bring the cymbal in your right hand to a point just below the inside edge of the cymbal in your left hand
  2. Make use of the whole cymbal, but you can focus on the edge
  3. Must make sure the edges line up
  4. Turn your body to the side if the crash is too loud

Short Notes

  1. For short notes, bring the cymbals towards your body to aid in dampening
  2. Cymbals should be dampened against your stomach
  3. Don’t start the cymbals too far away from your body or you make your job harder