A (usually) round metal plate with a slightly concave shape, with the shape often created by “hammering” the metal into the desired form. The center, most concave section of the cymbal is called the “bell,” “dome,” or “cup,” while the outer, flatter portion of the cymbal is referred to as the “bow.” Sometimes the bow is divided into “ride” (the inner, thicker part of the bow) and “crash” (the thinner, outer part of the bow).
In a drumset, a cymbal is usually suspended from a stand and struck with drumsticks or brushes to make a metallic ringing or crashing sound. In an orchestral situation, two cymbals may be hand-held and crashed against one another.
Cymbals are typically made from brass, though other metals or alloys may also be used. Cymbals are made in a wide variety of sizes and thicknesses (referred to as the “weight”), making a full palette of tones available to drummers. All other things being equal, a larger cymbal will be louder with longer sustain. A smaller cymbal will offer less sustain, but will provide fast, tight response.
Specialized types of cymbals, such as “china,” “splash,” “sizzle,” and “ride” are used to create alternate sounds or effects. Another specialized type, the hi-hat, consists of two stand-mounted cymbals that may be closed against one another using a footpedal to create varying timbral effects.