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Do Cymbals really go bad?

Drumstickdude

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I have this 40s - early 50s trans stamp a zildjian 22" ride, it's a beautifull dark/ complex jazzy sounding ride but I tell you when using it in a bigger band situation the sound just gets lost, it makes me wonder if it it sounded like that when new, When playing it I often get the impression that it may be 'just worn out', and deader sounding, it's the real deal in a small jazz band setting though. image.jpg
 

Cauldronics

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CherryClassic said:
Do cymbals really go bad? I have an A Zildjian 21" Mini Cup Ping Ride that's losing it. The after ring/humm is getting to the point that I need something else and it's bothersome to other musicians. It's so old they don't even make them anymore.

For years people have said that cymbals get better with age; not this one.

sherm

Yes, I believe they do. I had a 16" K Constantinople crash that sounded great at the store and on my kit - lively, buttery, modern and vintage at the same time, just the right amount of complexity and volume. It lasted about 2 months before the tone and sustain disappeared, and it sounded like hitting a broken crash, yet there were no visible cracks or damage anywhere on the cymbal. It just went full dog and I could no longer play it. Shame, too. The K Cons aren't exactly cheap, and it started out sounding like one of my best crashes...
 
Z

zenstat

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JDZ said:
From a chemical stand point, they should. Picture copper tubing, or for that fact snare wires. When you pull on a copper tube, it gets stiffer or "work hardened." This is probably the case with most metals or alloys.

Dave
Here is a quick and simplified overview of what I've learned about cymbal production technology.

I'd say a more appropriate physical model for a cymbal is that it acts like a spring. I believe somebody here on DFO first suggested modelling a cymbal as a spring, but I can't remember who. Thank you whoever it was.

Springs can wear out over years of use. If you have an old car you might find that the springs need replacing at some point due to metal fatigue. This isn't the same thing as replacing the dampeners (shock absorbers) in the system. I had to have the leaf springs in my old Toyota Landcruiser replaced because they had sagged from years of heavy off road use in the Australian Outback. If a cymbal wears out (metal fatigue) it would lose some of its ability to radiate in the higher frequencies. It would seem darker, and could even seem a bit loose and floppy. What we don't know is how many intense playing decades it takes for, say, 10% of cymbals to show this effect. All we know from the evidence so far is that some people have experienced it with some cymbals, and it seems to be reported relatively rarely. I've got two 1950s UFiP cymbals which seem loose and floppy in the way I've described, but then I didn't own them from new so I can't say what they were like at first. But also remember that with 1950s cymbals you are also comparing potentially much lighter cymbals to modern cymbals and that makes a direct comparison more tricky.

There can be a difference between work hardening specifically, and what is done to create the general curved shape of a spring. This is true of cymbals as well. Surface hardness (I measure it on the Vickers scale in my research) is not the same material property as the tension creating the curvature.

The metal in a cymbal holds tension when it is hammered in to create the bow. The hammering creates work hardening, and Matt Bettis emphasizes this aspect in his Hard Top series where all the hammering is done on the top.

http://www.bettiscymbals.com/hard_top.php

In earlier times, the bow shape was created by hammering except in the case of Italian cymbals where the cymbal is cast in the shape of a cymbal. Since the 1970s, American manufacturers (Zilidjian and then Sabian after the split) started pressing in an initial shape on a hydraulic press. This is followed by hammering for complexity of sound. Some Sabian lines are said to be mostly (or completely) hammered for shape rather than pressed. Chinese and Turkish manufacturers continue to use hammering to create the bow shape. Paiste use hammering to create the shape in all of their professional lines, and I believe Meinl does this as well. Pressing into preliminary shape won't create work hardening in the same way that 100% hammering for shape will. Pressing into preliminary shape creates a more "focused" sound according to my cymbal making friends. Hopefully Matt Bettis will see this and chime in to correct any deficiencies in my explanation.
 

EvEnStEvEn

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On the other side of the coin, I definitely believe certain cymbals require a "play-IN" period, as I've experienced the tonal change first hand.

I once ordered a new Sabian AA crash online, never heard it 'til I got it.

That cymbal most certainly "opened up" after a few months of playing time and the tonal change was very apparent after the break-in period, slowly it just came alive with shimmer - whereas, it wasn't very responsive when brand new, almost a dud.

I've read that all new B20 cymbals have a break-in period, but I think it's more noticeable in certain sizes & weights than others.
 

Cliff DeArment

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I can't say a cymbal is "bad". It changes. Might have a cymbal that changed and you don't like it anymore, but someone else might like it. Sell it and you'll find that person who loves it.
 

michaelg

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Apparently some new cymbals have a coating (to prolong pristine showroom condition) which wears off over the course of 6 months to a year, perhaps they open up more when this coating is gone.
 
Z

zenstat

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JDA said:
"About as often as drums do"
Good point to get some added perspective. Drums may not go "bad" very often, but drum heads do (plastic or animal skin). So you replace the drum head, but you don't have to replace the shell and hardware. What is different about cymbals is that they are idiophones and make a sound by vibrating themselves. Drums are membranophones, and when the head gets too old you replace just the vibrating membrane which is the head.

Anybody have a story to share about having to replace their entire drum kit because a head wore out? :happy11:
 

AtlantaDrumGuy

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In my experience only, having owned some very old cymbals...at least for Zildjian...Id say rarely they go bad unless they were not cared for or played too hard over a long period of time. Even then, Zildjians tend to be quite durable. Generally a cymbal will mellow out to a certain degree or another, but rarely would a Zildjian go bad.

If the cymbal was cracked, warped, or damaged in some way, those things would impact the sound possibly for the worse (but there are still cracked cymbals that sometimes sound good). Age will mellow a cymbal, again but it sort of depends on the cymbal.
 

Slippy

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I have a x-ray machine at my work. I check my cymbals now and them to make sure there are no hidden cracks. I have found small cracks in the grooves of my cymbals that cant be seen by the human eye.
 

felis

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I recently heard a 21" cymbal that had a long crack about 3" in from the edge.

Hitting it anywhere within that range towards the center, it was completely dead.
No ring, no wash, no low pitched buzz. It sounded like hitting a hard tabletop.

Funny thing is though, that if I hit it outside the ring, near the edge, it still gave up a little bit of a
quiet crash sound.
Weird.
 

funkypoodle

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I'm thinking hairline crack too. I've had one or two that sounded dead before I could actually see the hairline crack within a groove. I've never had a cymbal that was just "played out" ans I'm assuming I will be played out before they will be!
 

Treviso1

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Slippy said:
I have a x-ray machine at my work. I check my cymbals now and them to make sure there are no hidden cracks. I have found small cracks in the grooves of my cymbals that cant be seen by the human eye.
Very interesting! I have one too and I will do that. What technique do you use (kvp, mas, etc...) to capture the image best. This fascinates me...
 

A J

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All this talk about "beating the life out of cymbals" really makes me regret my decision this Summer to lend one of my drum sets to my band's (former) lead singer. Apparently, he turned out to be a real basher; smashing the cymbals with the butt end of the stick. Nothing broke but who knows? Grrrrr....
 

ron pangborn

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Ive only owned one cymbal that, to my ears, began to sound less musical, an A Custom 17 crash. I think its lost some of its shimmer. It does make an interesting top hi hat cymbal now, paired with something heavier like a K med crash.
 


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