Why Are Cymbals Hammered? Hammering Explained Now In 5 Minutes!

By Evan C

Cymbals And Hammers

Cymbals are awesome and also have to power to elevate any performance because we know drummers rule. With that, why are cymbals hammered and what does it mean?

Why are cymbals hammered anyway?

Hammering Cymbals Is Methodical

Cymbals are hammered to shape their profile and enhance their sound characteristics. Hammering involves applying force to the metal, creating surface irregularities that affect the vibration and resonance of the cymbal.

The hammering process adds complexity to the sound by introducing variations in tonal color, sustain, and projection. It also adds tension and stress to the cymbal, contributing to its overall durability and responsiveness.

The hammering technique allows for a range of sonic possibilities, from brighter and more focused tones to darker and trashier sounds, depending on the specific hammering pattern and intensity.

Ultimately, hammering is an essential step in cymbal manufacturing that helps craft the unique and expressive qualities that drummers seek in their cymbals.

So Much More To Hammer Out

There are a lot of things to look at with hammering and even other things that go into making cymbals that affect the sound. We’ll dive into hammering, but also throw some other stuff in there that’ll help you decide on your cymbals.

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Why Are Cymbals Hammered? A Deeper Dive In!

Once a cymbal has undergone the initial steps of stamping its bell and center hole, it enters the hammering phase, where its overall profile takes shape. As a general rule, a steeper profile produces a higher pitch.

Saluda V-bell clock
My Saluda V-bell turned into a clock – Notice the hammer markings

A Tradition Rooted In History

Hammering cymbals is not a recent innovation but a time-honored tradition that dates back centuries.

The technique of hammering involves carefully shaping the metal through precise strikes with a hammer. This meticulous process requires the skilled hands of cymbal artisans, who have honed their craft over generations.

Shaping the Sonic Personality

One of the primary reasons cymbals are hammered is to shape their sonic personality. Each cymbal possesses its unique tonal characteristics, and hammering plays a vital role in defining and refining these qualities.

By strategically hammering different areas of the cymbal, artisans can control the sound, creating a wide range of tonal colors and timbres.

Enhancing Complexity and Expressiveness

Why are cymbals hammered to control sound? Hammering cymbals introduces complexities and nuances to their sound.

The intricate patterns of hammer marks create microscopic irregularities on the cymbal’s surface, which contribute to its distinctive tone.

These irregularities break up the vibrations and produce a complex blend of sounds like overtones, giving the cymbal a rich and expressive sound that is highly sought after by drummers and percussionists.

Controlling the Cymbal’s Response

The hammering process allows artisans to control the cymbal’s response, including its attack, sustain, and decay.

By strategically hammering specific areas, such as the bell or the bow, the cymbal’s responsiveness can be fine-tuned.

This attention to detail enables musicians to achieve the desired balance between projection, articulation, and overall tonal character. NoteTapering is something else done during the lathing process (after hammering) which also affects the attack and wash of the cymbal.

Sabian HHX Legacy Ride – hand hammered

Achieving Versatility

Why are cymbals hammered so specifically? Hammering provides cymbals with a versatile sonic palette.

The combination of hammering techniques, including size, density, and spacing of hammer marks, can produce a wide array of sounds within a single cymbal.

From  a crisp and defined ride cymbal to a dark and trashy crash cymbal, the art of hammering allows for endless sonic possibilities.

Evolving Craftsmanship

Over time, the techniques and tools used in cymbal hammering have evolved. Modern advancements in technology have introduced hydraulic and mechanical hammers, enhancing the precision and efficiency of the process.

However, many cymbal manufacturers still preserve the traditional hand-hammering methods, recognizing the irreplaceable touch of human craftsmanship.

Difference Between Machine-Hammered and Hand-hammered

Why are cymbals hammered different ways? Hand-hammered and machine-hammered cymbals are two different approaches to the process of shaping and creating cymbals.

While both methods involve the use of hammers, there are distinct differences between the two techniques, resulting in unique sonic characteristics and playing experiences. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between hand-hammered and machine-hammered cymbals:

Hand-Hammered Cymbals

Craftsmanship: Hand-hammered cymbals are created by skilled artisans who meticulously shape the metal using traditional hand tools such as hammers and anvils. The process is labor-intensive and requires a high level of craftsmanship and expertise.

Artistic Expression: Hand-hammering allows for greater artistic expression and individuality. Each cymbal has a unique sound, as the hammer marks and patterns are applied by hand, resulting in subtle variations and nuances in the sound of the cymbal.

The artisan’s extensive hammering technique and personal touch influence the final sonic character of the cymbal. Custom cymbals are something done with hand hammering.

Sabian HHX Legacy Crash
Notice the irregular hammer marks on this Sabian HHX Legacy crash. This is a hand-hammered cymbal.

Complex Overtones: Hammer strikes through this method introduce irregularities on the cymbal’s surface, which creates complex overtones and harmonics.

These subtle variations in the metal produce a rich, warm, and organic sound that is highly prized by many drummers and percussionists. Large hammer marks will give more complex tones in your overall musical mix. 

Responsiveness: Hand-hammered cymbals are known for their responsiveness and nuanced playing experience. The combination of carefully placed hammer marks and variations in thickness allows for a wide dynamic range and enhanced control over the cymbal’s response. 

Machine-Hammered Cymbals

The use of machines for hammering cymbals began to gain traction in the mid-20th century with advancements in industrial automation and technology.

Specifically, the 1950s marked a significant turning point when cymbal manufacturers started adopting mechanized processes to meet the growing demand for their products. Why are cymbals hammered by machines?! 🦿

Consistency: a machine-hammered cymbal is created using automated or mechanized processes, where a machine applies the hammering pattern. Symmetrical hammering ensures a consistent and uniform process across each cymbal within a particular line or series.

Machine-hammered brass cymbal
Machine-hammered cymbals are cheaper to make (This is a brass cymbal, so it’s super cheap)

Precision and Reproducibility: Machine-hammering offers precise control over the hammering pattern, allowing for consistent results from one cymbal to another.

This makes it easier to reproduce specific sounds and maintain consistency within a product line. Whatever specific cymbal, they will have the same exact markings as the others in the same line.

Defined Tonal Characteristics: Machine-hammered cymbals often have a more focused and defined tonal character compared to hand-hammered cymbals.

The hammering patterns are designed to achieve specific sonic attributes, such as brighter sound, projection, or sustain, catering to different musical styles and preferences.

machine-hammered bronze hats
Machine-hammered bronze hi-hats

Efficiency and Affordability: Machine-hammering is a more efficient process, capable of producing a larger quantity of cymbals in a shorter time frame.

This increased efficiency often translates to more affordable price points for machine-hammered cymbals compared to their hand-hammered counterparts. A regular pattern is formed and time is money, so get the robots to do it! 🤖🦾


Some may wonder why with machines, why are cymbals hammered any other way?! It’s worth noting that even with the introduction of machine-hammered cymbals, many manufacturers still offer hand-hammered options.

A hand-hammered Saluda Decadence crash

This caters to the preferences of drummers who value the unique qualities and craftsmanship associated with this traditional method. I am definitely more of a fan of hand-hammered cymbals myself.

It’s also important to note that while hand-hammered and machine-hammered cymbals have distinct differences, both approaches can produce high-quality cymbals that cater to different musical styles and preferences.

Ultimately, the choice between hand-hammered and machine-hammered cymbals depends on the individual drummer’s sonic preferences, playing style, and budget considerations.

Hand-hammered can also be randomized machine-hammered cymbals in some cases, but I don’t know much into that realm of things. 🤷🏼‍♂️

Other Notes In Conjunction with Hammering

There are other things that affect the the sound of some soulful cymbals and lathing is one of them. Lathing is a process done after hammering that produces a concentric ring from shaving the metal off.

These tonal grooves are the path for vibrations to travel over the surface of cymbals and are also used to tune their tension.

Deeper grooves direct vibrations to spiral out and it takes the sound waves longer, so you have to hit the cymbal hard enough to get the right response.

More shallow groove cymbals have an immediate response because the path is lesser for the cymbal to open up and requires less force. 

Cymbals with deeper tonal grooves like the Sabian AA and Sabian HH, have a higher frequency response, tighter feel, and more sustain.

Saluda Mist X crash ride
This Saluda Mist X Crash/ride has deep tonal grooves and lots of sustain!

When comparing these higher pitch cymbals to the HHX Evolution series, it differs because they contain more shallow grooves, a looser feel, and a deeper tone/lower pitch.

Their response is immediate because it takes less force to open up the cymbal. This especially ‘rings’ true for crash cymbals. This gives us the opportunity as drummers to a wide range of applications. 

Sabian Artisans (as well as all experienced cymbal artisans) have years of cymbal crafting experience and all of these subtleties have to be mapped out like material, weight of the cymbal, hammering, lathing, tapering, and more!

I am not an expert and am merely doing my best to understand (a little bit more each day) about the secret process bronze cymbals go through. I use Sabian as an example because I’ve always loved their cymbals. 

Any discerning drummer should really paint a picture of what they want when they’re ready to get a new cymbal.

Different cymbal company’s will have different sounds and that’s something to take into your research.

Online makes it convenient, but I’m a fan of in person too.  If you’re at a music store in person, you can test out different brands. Look at the trans stamp if you can’t find out what company it is. 

Sabian HHX Legacy hats

Cymbals Are Art Where We Express Ourselves

So, why are cymbals hammered than? The captivating sound of cymbals is a result of the skilled artistry behind their creation.

Hammering cymbals is a time-honored tradition that allows artisans to shape their sonic personality, enhance complexity, and achieve unparalleled versatility.

Whether you’re choosing modern cymbals with more automated processes or traditional cymbals with artisans, the final result will hopefully fit your style of music.

Let Me Know What You Think!

What do you think of hammering on cymbals? Hopefully this has been helpful for you. I’d love to hear any questions or even your thoughts in the comments below! Let me know, I’d love to chat.

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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