What are Cymbals Made of?

Cymbals – they’re the heart and soul of a drum kit, infusing each beat with its own unique flair. Whether you’re a seasoned percussionist or someone new to the world of cymbals, it’s crucial to grasp their composition and how it impacts their sonic profile. This article takes an in-depth look at the diverse materials employed in cymbal manufacturing, shedding light on their impact on both sound and aesthetics. Whether you’re just starting out or already well-versed behind the drum set, comprehending cymbal construction empowers you to make informed choices that align perfectly with your rhythmic style. So let’s embark on this journey into the realm of cymbal alloys together and uncover why they resonate so profoundly within musicians worldwide.

To view more about choosing the right cymbals for your drumming style. For helpful tips when selecting the perfect set of hi-hats, crashes, or rides. Click here to learn about incorporating various cymbal types into your percussion setup.

Bell bronze

Bell bronze is a widely used material in the production of high-quality cymbals. It is an alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin, with approximately 80% copper and 20% tin content. This specific combination of metals gives bell bronze cymbals their unique sound characteristics. Bell bronze cymbals are known for their rich and complex tones, with a bright and shimmering quality. They offer great projection and sustain, making them perfect for various genres of music. Many renowned cymbal companies like Zildjian, Sabian, and Meinl use bell bronze as the primary material in their cymbal manufacturing process. The precise mixture of metals, along with different techniques such as hammering and lathing, contribute to the distinctive sound and appearance of bell bronze cymbals.

Malleable bronze

Malleable bronze is another common type of material used in the production of cymbals. This type of bronze, also known as B20 bronze, is made up of approximately 80% copper and 20% tin. Malleable bronze offers a unique balance between durability and tonal characteristics. The higher percentage of copper gives cymbals made from malleable bronze a warmer and darker sound compared to other types of alloys. It is favored by many drummers who prefer a rich and full-bodied tone. In addition to its sound characteristics, malleable bronze cymbals can be crafted using various techniques such as casting, shaping, hammering, and lathing to further enhance their sonic qualities. Some well-known cymbal manufacturers like Paiste offer a wide range of B20 cymbals that cater to different musical styles and preferences. So whether you are a beginner or an experienced drummer, malleable bronze cymbals provide an excellent option for those looking to buy high-quality instruments with great sound and durability.


When it comes to making cymbals, brass is a popular material choice. This metal is formed by combining copper and zinc in various ratios to achieve specific cymbal characteristics. One thing that sets brass apart is its beautiful golden color.

Brass cymbals are prized for their lively and vibrant sound. They create a distinct tone that cuts through the music, attracting drummers from jazz, rock, and pop genres. In addition to their sonic qualities, these cymbals offer great durability and are less prone to cracking compared to materials like bronze.

Prominent manufacturers like Zildjian and Sabian produce an extensive range of brass cymbals tailored to different playing styles and preferences. Whether you need crash cymbals or hi-hats, there’s sure to be a brass option that delivers the desired sound.

Overall, brass cymbals give drummers an affordable choice without compromising quality or performance. They strike a perfect balance between price and value, making them a top pick for drummers at any skill level.

Nickel silver

Nickel silver is another common material used in the production of cymbals. It is an alloy primarily composed of copper, zinc, and nickel. This combination gives it a unique sound and appearance. Nickel silver cymbals are known for their bright and shimmering qualities, making them popular among drummers who prefer a distinct and cutting sound.

One notable advantage of nickel silver cymbals is their durability. The addition of nickel enhances the strength and resilience of the material, allowing the cymbal to withstand heavy playing without easily cracking or breaking.

In terms of appearance, nickel silver cymbals have a brilliant shine that adds to their allure on stage. These cymbals often have a high-pitched sound with a fast decay, making them suitable for genres like jazz or fusion.

Notable cymbal manufacturers such as Paiste produce nickel silver cymbals alongside other types in order to cater to different player preferences. Whether you’re looking for a bright and cutting sound or something that stands out visually, nickel silver cymbals offer unique characteristics worth exploring.


What is bell bronze?

Bell bronze is a type of alloy made primarily of copper and tin. It is known for its rich and full-bodied sound and is commonly used in high-quality cymbals.

What is malleable bronze?

Malleable bronze is another type of alloy used in cymbal production. It contains copper, tin, and other metals, which give it a softer and more flexible nature. This allows for greater control and versatility in cymbal playing.

What is brass?

Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc. While it is not as common in cymbal manufacturing as bell bronze or malleable bronze, it can still be used to create cymbals with a unique and bright sound.

What is nickel silver?

Nickel silver, also known as German silver, is not actually silver but a copper alloy that contains nickel and zinc. It is occasionally used in cymbal production to create cymbals with a distinct bright and cutting sound.


In conclusion, understanding the materials used in cymbal production is crucial for every drummer. The type of metal and manufacturing techniques greatly impact the sound characteristics, durability, and appearance of the cymbal. Bell bronze, malleable bronze, brass, and nickel silver are the most common types of alloys used in cymbal making. Each has its unique properties and will produce different tones. Additionally, various shaping processes such as lathing and hammering contribute to achieving desired sound profiles. Cymbal care practices also play a significant role in extending their lifespan. Remember to clean and maintain your cymbals regularly using appropriate methods and take note of any specific recommendations from the manufacturer for optimal results. Keep these considerations in mind when selecting your cymbals to ensure that they meet your preferences and suit your playing style.