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Taking Care of Your Cymbals
Posted On 03/27/2008 15:48:54 by KenSanders

Although much of this discussion may be boring to some readers, I am writing this blog because I have seen too many nice cymbals being trashed just because the owners didn’t understand how to properly care for them.   

So, I’m going to share a few simple and practical tips about taking proper care of those expensive musical instruments we call cymbals. 

 First, a cosmetic stage tip....

You can avoid getting fingerprints all over your shiny cymbals if you will use both hands and hold them with just the pad of your palms at the edge when handling and placing them.

Many Drum Technicians for touring drummer wear cloth gloves when handling cymbals.  You can do that too, and those cloth gloves can be easily placed into your cymbal bag and be ready for set-up or tear-down duty.   See....ta-dah!.....no more fingerprints made easy. 

Now some drummers like the sound of aged and “dirty” cymbals.  It's a matter of taste and I think that’s cool but the following is applicable whether you like them clean or dirty.


I recommend that you lay you cymbal bag or case flat on the floor when you set up.  Just take them out of their “protected environment” one at a time to set them up.  Taking all the cymbals out first and then standing them on their edges is an unnecessary risk..It  can result in dents and scratches....and worse. 

Why put your cymbals in danger?  If your cymbals fall or drop onto concrete, or against some hard metal object, it could even crack them.  I have seen it happen many times……a cymbal falls from the drum riser, or the drum throne, or off of an amplifier….bang, boom, crash, crack, dent.  Treat them like the expensive musical instruments they are.

You probably already know that you always need the nylon sleeves and felts on your cymbals mounts.  Constant metal-to-metal contact while playing your cymbals not only produces an undesirable sound, it will also eat into the cymbal's bell hole and ultimately damage to the soft bronze metal. Why risk that?  Carry extra replacement sleeves and felts!

In other bogs I have already spoken about securing your cymbals onto your mounts loose enough so that they move when they are played.  If cymbals are tightened down to where they can not move freely, then do not be shocked when repeated direct hits result in cracking them! 

Your cymbals will sound better when they are not tightened down "to the max" because they can vibrate freely and, therefore,  produce their full overtone series.  If cymbals are mounted too tightly it simply kills their natural tone and volume qualities.  Plus, it is a major reason for cracking them. 


This simply means that there is a point with every single cymbal where hitting it even harder will not result in more volume......or more importantly....useable tone.   HOWEVER....IT WILL BREAK THE CYMBAL. 

In all seriousness......if you need more volume than your current cymbals can produce, then you need to get some larger and thicker models.  If the larger and thicker cymbals STILL do not provide enough for volume for you...... then two things I promise you:

One:  You are in the volume range where your band is playing so loud that it will make you pee blood and pop out your eyeballs 

Two:  You are damaging your hearing.  And seriously......musicians need their hearing in order to play their best......so why would you want to do that to yourself?


If you have your brought cymbals in from the cold, allow them to get to room temperature before playing them.  Very cold bronze becomes brittle and it needs a few minutes to recover.
 If they are still a bit cold when to touch them then they are still NOT READY to play.


To adequately protect your cymbals you should carry them in a bag or case designed for cymbals transport.  Additionally, you need to make sure there is no metal-to-metal, or cymbal-to-cymbal, contact or rubbing while they are in transport.

Some cymbal bags and cases have partitions or non-abrasive separators to do that.  However, you can get also excellent protection with old drum head cardboard boxes.  Just use scissors to round the shape and size them for your cymbal sizes.  Then just place them into your bag or case.  It’s a very easy way to keep your cymbals from rubbing against one another.


I’ve also discussed cleaning and polishing in other DSA posts, but NEVER use abrasive cleaners like Brasso, Comet, or strong solvents to clean your cymbals.  It will eventually ruin them.  NEVER use a buffing wheel or other powered device to shine your cymbals.  The heat generated ns a big risk for ruining them or making a weak spot on them. 

The best method is the appropriate commercial brand cymbal cleaner for your model cymbals and a soft cotton cloth such as an old tee shirt.  Always rub in the direction of the cymbal’s grooves when cleaning or polishing your cymbals.


Drummers who like them "dirty" may still need to wipe them down with an old tee-shirt after some gigs.  That's for those situations where they believe there is excess moisture, dew, etc. on the cymbals and they do not want to pack them away with that on them.  A light wipe down with a soft tee-shirt does not disturb the natural aging properties of the cymbals' molecular structure.

The major cymbal makers have specific cleaners for the various types of finishes that their cymbals may have, and you can’t go wrong using them.

If you have some good cymbals that produce the sounds you want, then you have a fairly sizeable investment in them.  If you care for them properly they will provide you years of playing satisfaction.

I have heard some immature drummers basically brag about being such “hard hitters” that they break cymbals like they were glass.  I suppose that may impress some folks……..but it really doesn’t impress professional drummers who cherish their cymbal collection.

After all, drumming is a combination of finese, power, dynamic contrasts, and percussive artisty.   The"'demolision derby" mentality doesn't appeal to serious musicians at all. 

Well, if you have gotten this far, I hope this was worth reading.  If you have comments, please add them here.

If you're a drummer who likes cracking cymbals and it really pissed you off......great!

Until next time,

IBJAMN in Nashville

Tags: Cymbals


Viewing 1 - 3 out of 3 Comments

From: Tomm
01/24/2009 16:50:13

Ken, very informative article on cymbal care.  I personally have had to change my mind a couple of times in respect to using clean or aged cymbals.  Clean look good, and carry the sound that you chose you liked when you bought them.  Aged, as you pointed out, had many good points also, i.e. you can't beat them for cool jazz.  I prefered aged for quite some time, but when un-noticed sweat or oils from hard working hands stay on a bit too long, you have to clean them.  So, instead of having two of every cymbal, I clean mine ever so often, and learn to like it all over again.  If I need a truely aged sound I just use a wooden tip instead of nylon, or borrow one from my son...who is a life long aged cymbal user.  I think he does have two of every one of his.

From: KenSanders
03/31/2008 00:20:06
Seriously cool comments CANNYYD.   Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts.   I know that many great Jazz drummers always prized their aged cymbals for their distinctive tone! 


03/30/2008 08:28:15

KEN!!!.. GREAT WISOM SHARED TO THE PEOPLE THER MATE!!..  I am new to this site and getting to grips with the navigation and setting up profiles, but stumbled on your cymbal advice..and i must agree, take care of them babys man!!!...i love the tones of my cymbals and i have had the same ones now for 8 years all 10 of them ...K custom dark hats are now like butter, soft and expressive, as with my ZILDJIAN CIE VINTAGE RIDE , I never clean my cymbals, i wear a glove  but never clean them , they now are so so maturing taking on every gig and musical jam ive had with them , adding warmth, softness, precision clarity...taking care really does only help the casts mature into  full flavoured  time machines...so dont rub away the flavour by cleaning them is differnt long term experience than cleaning them , i see the cosmetic side to a new shiny cymbal ,but with natural finish cymbals i have found they take on the ghosts of past gigs and hold in all the flavour  that a maturing process does in non cymabl cleaning.

so ken what stuff you been doin musically , im like you when you said some people might find this boring at the beggining of your talk on cymbal care...i love the wood side too..

great read ken. 

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