Are Brass Cymbals Good? The Best Cymbal Guide + Bronze Alloys Made For Pros

By Evan C

Most Popular Brass Cymbals

Meinl HCS Cymbal Pack

Brass Cymbals Are Everywhere!

Cymbals are always something drummers will be looking into. With so many choices and price tags, it makes sense to ask, ‘are brass cymbals good?’ Let’s talk about those and get into some details here. 

Are Brass Cymbals Good?

Brass cymbals have been a staple for music in some fashion for hundreds of years. They are known for their unique sound and ability to cut through a mix of instruments. However, there is much debate over whether brass cymbals are actually good or not.

One argument against brass cymbals is that they can be too harsh and overpowering. Some musicians prefer a more subtle and mellow sound, which can be achieved with different % mixes of copper and tin (bronze).

Additionally, brass cymbals tend to have a shorter lifespan than other materials due to their softness and susceptibility to corrosion.

Are brass cymbals good if they have a shorter lifespan though?
Brass cymbals, also are typically lighter in color than bronze

On the other hand, many musicians swear by brass cymbals, especially for beginner drummers. They are more affordable and can offer a bright and powerful sound.

They may often be used in louder genres where their cutting tone is necessary to stand out amongst heavy guitars.

Too Many Choices For You?

​You may be looking for entry-level cymbals and with so many cymbal companies and both brass and bronze alloy, it’s pretty overwhelming. 

If you are on the fence with more affordable bronze cymbals, Click here to check the best ride cymbals under $300 and/or click here to check out the best hi hats under $300!

Let’s dig into what’s up with brass.

Construction, Composition, and More:

To understand the distinctions between brass and bronze cymbals, we must first examine their compositions.

Brass cymbals are primarily made from an alloy of copper and zinc, while bronze cymbals consist of varying percentages of copper combined with varying percentages of tin.

This composition variation accounts for the significant differences in their sound and performance. The manufacturing process for even the finest quality brass cymbals are less time consuming than bell bronze and really not as popular, due to the best cymbals being made of bronze.

So, are brass cymbals good? Other than some gongs and zills, brass really makes a cheap cymbal and shouldn’t be your choice if you want to provider great quality in sound.

Zills, also known as finger cymbals

Tonal Characteristics: Brass cymbals are renowned for their cutting, brighter sounds with a quick response.

They produce a vibrant and focused tone, often characterized by pronounced high frequencies. This tonal profile makes brass cymbals ideal for genres such as rock, pop, and marching bands, where a sharp and powerful sound is desired.

The bright and penetrating nature of brass cymbals allows them to project over amplified instruments and provide a strong presence in live performances.

On the other hand, bronze cymbals are celebrated for their warm and rich tonal qualities. With a mellower and darker sound, bronze cymbals offer a broader frequency range and a complex blend of harmonics.

This makes them suitable for genres like jazz, fusion, and orchestral music, where a more nuanced and expressive sound is sought after. The resonant and shimmering character of bronze cymbals adds depth and texture to musical compositions.

Durability and Projection: When considering durability, bronze cymbals have the upper hand. The addition of tin to the alloy enhances their strength, allowing them to withstand vigorous playing and prolonged use.

Bronze cymbals are less prone to cracks and keyholes, making them a reliable choice for drummers who require durability for touring and regular performances.

Here’s a video of me back in 2007 when I had brass hi-hats and a brass crash (Sabian Solar series).

Additionally, the superior projection of bronze cymbals ensures their sound carries well in larger venues, offering a balanced presence that fills the space.

Are brass cymbals good when they can be more prone to cracking, warping, or breaking under heavy use or aggressive playing styles?

Drummers who require cymbals that can withstand intense playing and last longer may opt for cymbals made from sturdier materials.

I can attest those brass cymbals didn’t have very prolonged life or projection and it sounded a bit harsh.

Customization and Variability: Both brass and bronze cymbals offer a wide range of customization options to cater to individual preferences.

Manufacturers employ various techniques such as lathing, hammering, and shaping to mold the sound of cymbals.

However, it is worth noting that bronze cymbals often exhibit a higher degree of variability due to the influence of tin percentages and manufacturing processes.

The amount of tin and copper can make a big difference in cymbal sound. This variability allows drummers to select cymbals that align precisely with their desired tonal characteristics and playing style.

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Genre Suitability: The choice between brass and bronze cymbals often depends on the musical genre in which they will be used.

Brass cymbals excel in genres that require power, brightness, and projection. They are a natural fit for rock, metal, and contemporary music genres that demand a strong rhythmic drive and cutting sound.

Bronze cymbals, with their warmer and more nuanced tones, find their place in jazz, fusion, and orchestral settings, where subtlety, complexity, and dynamic range are highly valued.

Sheet Metal vs. Cast Metal

Sheet metal and cast metal cymbals are two distinct types of cymbals that offer different sound characteristics and are made using different manufacturing processes.

Sheet metal cymbals are crafted by cutting and shaping a metal sheet, typically bronze or brass, which is then hammered or lathed to refine the shape and sound.

These cymbals tend to have a bright, cutting sound with a faster response, making them popular in rock, pop, and metal genres.

They exhibit pronounced higher-frequency content and a shorter sustain. Sheet metal cymbals are generally thinner and more susceptible to damage under heavy playing.

Sabian’s XSR line – Sheet metal cymbals

On the other hand, cast metal cymbals are created by pouring molten metal, often a bronze alloy, into a mold, allowing it to cool and solidify.

The resulting cymbal takes the shape of the mold and is further processed through hammering, lathing, etc.

Cast cymbals are known for producing a warmer, darker sound with a longer sustain. They offer more complex overtones and a broader frequency range, making them a favored choice in jazz, fusion, and other styles requiring a nuanced and expressive sound.

Cast metal cymbals are typically thicker and more durable, able to withstand heavier playing without denting or cracking.

The choice between sheet cymbals and cast metal cymbals ultimately comes down to personal preference and musical style.

Sheet metal cymbals are prized for their bright and powerful sound, while cast metal cymbals offer a warmer and more versatile tonal range.

Factors like durability and budget also come into play, as sheet metal cymbals are generally more affordable than their cast counterparts.

Musicians should consider these factors, as well as try out different cymbals, to find the right match for their playing style and desired sound.

Most of the time, you’ll also hear more about bronze with cast and sheet metal cymbals. Sabian XSR are an example of sheet metal cymbals.

They still utilize B20 bronze, which is the highest quality bronze/tin mixture, but the process to make them is a lot shorter than any of Sabian’s higher end cast cymbals, like the HHX line for example.

One of Sabian’s HHX series, Legacy – cast metal cymbals

Cast cymbals will normally weight more than sheet cymbals and bronze overall will usually have more heavy cymbals over brass. Bronze is heavier and denser than brass.

Other Thoughts:

With all that being said, the overall sound of brass cymbals are not typically enjoyable and are distinctly distinguishable, especially when you play bronze, which will always give you a richer-sounding cymbal.

However, for young musicians and beginners alike, it may be their best bet for a musical cymbal if they’re just getting into drums. There’s no need to spend a ton on cymbals if you don’t know if someone will stick with playing the drums after a few years. With

If you are in the market for budget cymbals, anything brass and up to different alloys of bronze like B8, B10, or B12 would be perfect for you.

Meinl’s Classics series uses B10 bronze which is 90% copper and 10% tin

If you’re looking for the cheapest of bronze, any Sabian B cymbals like B8 or B8X or the Zildjian I or the discontinued Zildjian ZBT series would work. B8 bronze is 92% copper and 8% tin.

It’s not limited to just these cymbal companies. You can always find other companies by searching, ‘bronze cymbals for beginners’. 

Brass-made Meinl hcs cymbals would have way more affordable prices over Zildjian K customs or any other copper alloy of B20 high-end cymbals we may have mentioned

What’s in the Zildjian secret alloy that they’ve been in business for 400 years anyway? Are brass cymbals good? Meinl’s HCS series is pretty popular even among bronze cymbal players.

Meinl’s HCS uses brass and is fairly popular

Another less popular these days are Nickel Silver Cymbals​, which use a mix of copper and nickel and are usually marketed to beginners as well.

A cymbal set will usually come with the different types of cymbals you for your drum set (crash cymbal, ride cymbal, hi hats, etc.) and be your best price point per cymbal.

Brass Can Be Good For Certain Situations

In the debate of brass versus bronze cymbals, it is essential to consider the specific needs and preferences of the musician.

Brass cymbals offer a bright and penetrating sound that shines in genres requiring power and projection, while bronze cymbals provide a warm and expressive tonal palette suitable for more nuanced musical genres.

Ultimately, the choice between brass and bronze cymbals lies in finding the perfect sonic match for your musical style and artistic vision.

We think for beginners, these are perfect! With them being entry level cymbals and stock on a lot of beginner/intermediate drum sets, they’re awesome to get comfortable with cymbals on.

Brass (left) vs bronze (right)

Brass Can Go Far!

With their rich heritage, versatility in sound, affordability, and capacity for artistic expression, brass cymbals continue to captivate musicians and audiences alike, even if they aren’t the bronze.

So, are brass cymbals good? I think they can be good, but if they are cymbals you love the sound of that’s all the matters!

Don’t let my opinions stop you from smashing brass! What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Want FREE drum hacks to help your drum chops foundation and get you on the right track?

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Until next time, stay attuned!

-Evan C.

About the author

Hi there, I'm Evan and I love drums.. Also, I love music! I've been playing drums for most of my life and nothing beats the thrill I get from it. I hope to be able to provide you with insightful tips and reviews on things within the drum and music world!

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