Why Do My Cymbals Sound Bad? 5 Reasons + How To Cymbal Guide

By Evan C

Stop The Cymbals, Please!

Why do my cymbals sound bad?? You probably got here because your great sounding cymbals may not sound so great anymore, or maybe they didn’t sound good in the first place and you’re 

The Verdict On Your Cymbal

There are several reasons why cymbals may not sound their best. Firstly, it could be due to poor cymbal placement. The location of your cymbals on your drum kit plays a significant role in how they sound.

If they are placed too high or too low, they may not resonate correctly and produce a dull tone. It’s essential to experiment with different placements until you find the perfect spot that makes sense. Secondly, the problem could lie in the condition of your cymbals themselves.

Over time, constant use and exposure to air can cause oxidation on the surface of your cymbals that affects their sound quality, or they may even be cracking. A few other reasons could be your room acoustics or just wrong cymbal choices. 

Maybe your cymbals cracked and you’re in the market for new ones!? New Cymbals may sometimes even be the best way to a better sound though. 

why do my cymbals sound bad?

Cymbal Material Can Be A Sign

Why do my cymbals sound bad? Well, cheap cymbals like ones made of brass can sometimes give a real harsh tone and be considered unpleasant, but let’s talk about other reasons outside of that. There are tons of other reasons. 

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Why Do My Cymbals Sound Bad?

Understanding Cymbal Sound

Before we dive into troubleshooting, it’s essential to understand what constitutes good cymbal sound.

A well-sounding cymbal should have a balanced tone that complements the music and provides clarity and definition.

It should possess a pleasing sustain, whether it’s short or overly lingering. Additionally, a good cymbal should respond well to different playing dynamics, allowing you to express a range of sounds and articulations.

Common Reasons for Bad Cymbal Sound

Improper Cymbal Selection: There are really a wide variety of cymbals. One of the primary reasons for bad cymbal sound is using the wrong cymbals/cymbal type for your musical style or genre.

Different cymbals (ride, crash, hi hat, etc.) have their own unique characteristics, and using an unsuitable cymbal can result in a mismatched sound.

For example, using a heavy rock ride cymbal in a jazz setting may produce an overpowering and harsh sound. It’s crucial to choose cymbals that are appropriate for the musical context you’re playing in.

different cymbals

Depending on the type of cymbal in questionsince they have different sounds and purposes, you’ll classify ‘bad’ according to its function.

You don’t really want to use crash cymbals as a ride if you’re looking for that mellow sound and definition you’d hear from a ride itself.

A crash ride is a different story, but using a crash as a ride may give you an unavoidable washy-ness. This is because they tend to be thinner than rides. 

Cymbal Damage or Wear: Over time, cymbals can become damaged, leading to a deterioration in sound quality.

Cracks, keyholing, dents, or general wear and tear can significantly impact the sound produced. These issues often result in a choked, dull, or even metallic sound.

Regularly inspect your cymbals for signs of damage, and if you notice any issues, consider replacing the affected cymbal or consulting a professional cymbal repair service.

Why do my cymbals sound bad? It could be the big crack!
Huge crack in this cymbal

Keyholing is generally something you may not deal with as much, especially if you use decent cymbal sleeves.

The edge of the cymbal is a lot more fragile than the top of the cymbal, so you’ll see a lot more damage on worn and older cymbals on the edge. Why do my cymbals sound bad is a legitimate question with a massive crack in them!

Crash cymbals: Normally, these will crack because we drummers LOVE to smash them. Whether they are thinner or thicker, it doesn’t matter. You may have to get up close to inspect your cymbals. 

Splash cymbals: For me, these crack first before any other effects cymbals, minus any china cymbals. Splashes are so small and a lot more fragile than crashes. 

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China Cymbals: Tend to start sounding worse faster because they are thinner cymbals and really fun to hit. You’ll notice once you start getting a crack in this cymbal because the decay and harshness are shortened.  

O-zone cymbals or cymbals with several holes cut in them to offer a trashier sound are another that is not safe from cracks. They are thinner cymbals as well and can meet the same fate as a lot of china cymbals. 

Incorrect Cymbal Positioning or Setup: The placement and setup of your cymbals within the drum kit play a crucial role in their overall sound.

Incorrect positioning can result in poor sound projection, uneven volume balance, or undesirable overtones.

See the way my cymbals are angled toward me?

Experiment with different positions and angles to find the sweet spot for each cymbal. Pay attention to the interaction between cymbals and other drums to ensure they don’t interfere with each other’s sound. You may have to move your stuff around to figure out what works best for you. 

Improper Striking Technique: The way you strike your cymbals greatly affects the sound they produce.

Using incorrect striking techniques, such as hitting too hard or too softly, can lead to uncontrolled or muted sounds.

Experiment with different striking areas and techniques to find the optimal sound. Additionally, consider the type of drumsticks or mallets you’re using, as they can significantly influence the cymbal sound.

If you’re hitting a crash, you may want to make sure you have it angled just enough and actually crash it with the shoulder of the drum stick.

Why do my cymbals sound bad? Well, it could be because you’re hitting them way too hard!

If it’s a ride, typically you’ll just use the tip of the stick on the bow and bell. Although, there are no rules that say you can’t crash on a ride. 

Room Acoustics and Sound Reflection Issues: The acoustics of your practice space or performance venue can have a significant impact on your cymbal sound.

Excessive room reverberation, sound reflections, or uneven frequencies can mask the true sound of your cymbals.

studio room
Sometimes even playing with other musicians can make your cymbals sound off

Addressing room acoustics through sound absorption, strategic placement of baffles, or alternative room setups can help improve cymbal sound clarity.

I used to play drums in a garage and didn’t really like the sound as much as I did playing in a basement. 

Troubleshooting and Improving Cymbal Sound

Assessing Cymbal Damage and Wear: Regularly inspect your cymbals for signs of cracks, keyholing, or dents.

If you notice any damage, it’s advisable to seek assistance from a professional cymbal repair service, or you could be like me and just use hedge shears.

You could also replace the affected cymbal if you don’t want to deal with any of that. There would be no judgement here. Remember, a damaged cymbal will never sound its best.

I would say it’s best to inspect them after every time you practice or perform. Take a bright flashlight and run your fingers (doesn’t have to be fingertips) around the edge of the cymbal, as well as the bow and the bell. Do this on both the top and the bottom of your cymbals. 

broken cymbal

Sometimes you may hear a rattle from your cymbal when you strike it and this is due to a crack that has formed.

Usually, this is a sign of an edge crack. I’ve gotten dents on my cymbals before, but it’s mainly been from accidents where my cymbal hits the ground and has a dent on the edge. 

Sometimes, clean cymbals may be an easy answer to why do my cymbals sound bad. Although, a lot of drummers will get used to the way their cymbals sound without cleaning them.

Many drummers, including myself, don’t like the way our cymbals sound when they are cleaned. It’s an acquired taste. 🧐

Choosing the Right Cymbals for Your Music: Take the time to understand the different cymbal types and their characteristics.

Research and listen to cymbals that are suitable for your musical style. Experiment with different models and brands to find the ones that match your preferences and musical context. 

How to determine your drum sound:

It’s a good idea to determine if you like bright cymbals or dark cymbals better, as they are on two opposite ends of the spectrum.

You should also determine if you want more complexities, faster decay, or if what you like even sits good in a mix of the genre you play.

Cymbal sounds vary and the first thing that will really help you out, is listening to other drummers and determine what they use behind their drum set. 

Choosing cymbals can be hard, but there are so many videos out there showcasing plenty of cymbals

You can also find out what set of cymbals would be best for your genre, by Googling, ‘Best cymbals for xxx’ (insert your genre for xxx).

Whether it’s for live use or a recording session, different types of cymbals can make a huge difference.

Another thing you can do is join drum Facebook groups, comment on YouTube videos, and reach out on other social media platforms and forums and start asking other drummers for their opinions on the matter.

There is no general rule to what is definite for each style of music, but the drumming world will always have some ideas you probably haven’t thought of. 

Proper Cymbal Setup and Positioning: Consider the overall drum kit setup and ensure that each cymbal is positioned optimally.

Adjust the height, angle, and proximity to achieve balanced sound projection. Pay attention to the interaction between cymbals and other drums, ensuring they don’t interfere with each other’s sound.

On my kit, all of my cymbals have room to breathe, so I don’t have to worry about anything being affected.

Nothing is too close to me either and everything makes sense logistically. I have my cymbals angled down toward either another cymbal or drum and it helps me to play more efficiently. 

Developing Proper Striking Technique: Experiment with different striking areas and techniques to find the sweet spot for each cymbal.

Practice control and consistency in your strikes, finding the balance between power and finesse. Additionally, explore the use of different drumsticks or mallets to achieve the desired cymbal sound.

I try to continue the fluidity of making sure my sticks rebound off of my cymbals, even if I’m hitting the edge of the cymbal.

When I crash, I hit the angled cymbal just enough to express the sound of the crash. I used to just smash the crap out of my crashes and thats how I got cracks quicker and I would also ask, ‘why do my cymbals sound bad?’ 

When I ride, I’ll try to use the tip of the stick and then the shoulder of the stick to accent into the ride to get some dynamics going. 

So, just try to be intentional with your cymbals purpose vs. beating the crap out of them because it feels cool. I’m not attacking you, I’ve been there plenty of times. haha..

Addressing Room Acoustics and Sound Reflection Issues: If you’re experiencing issues with room acoustics, consider implementing sound-absorbing materials, such as acoustic panels or baffles, to reduce excessive reverberation.

Experiment with the placement of your drum kit and cymbals within the space to minimize sound reflections. Additionally, using rugs or carpets under your drum kit can help dampen unwanted frequencies and improve overall sound clarity.

Acoustic panels can help reduce reverberation

Your Cymbals And Your Choices

So, why do my cymbals sound bad again? Understanding the common reasons behind poor cymbal sound and implementing the troubleshooting and improvement techniques discussed in this guide, you can significantly enhance your cymbal sound quality.

Remember to choose cymbals wisely, regularly inspect for damage, experiment with positioning and striking techniques, and consider room acoustics.

With patience, practice, and attention to detail, you’ll be on your way to disregarding that question from site!

With all this being said, everyone has a personal preference to what cymbal sounds they like. The tips here are meant to be helpful.

If you like brass cymbals or using crashes as rides, who am I to put you down? Pick the sounds you like and that fit your style!

Have Any Bad Cymbals?

Have your cymbals ever sounded bad? What did you do to fix the situation? Let me know in the comments below, or if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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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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