I was asked...why are cymbals round?

dtk

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and I can't think of why they are...i guess when you take a chunk of molten metal and roll it...it will be round like (like bread?)...

anyone have any ideas?
 

JDA

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Makes them easier to play from any side...

><m,. or when clasped together..
 

zenstat

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The trouble with that explanation of why cymbals are round is that they aren't all round. *edit* The explanation of why all cymbals are round because of acoustical physics which I was responding to has been deleted leaving this post an orphan. I knew that the OP also had non round cymbals and thought it would be interesting to extend our thinking "outside the circle".

Previous thread (from the OP as it happens) regarding Octagons (aka Sabian Roctagons)


Non round cymbals aren't that common, but they exist. So my question would be what different sonic properties do non round shapes bring to cymbals?

Matt Nolan makes cymbals round and cymbals non round. Here's a Nubat

nolan-nubat.png


Here he is talking about the process


and he also mentions Steve Hubback who is another maker of round and non round cymbals


Another example of a non round instrument is a Hammerax offering: the Boomywang.


I'm not sure if this passes the "It's a cymbal" test as it is more like a Gong in how it is hung. But is isn't round and it certainly has an unusual sound.
 
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Tama CW

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The only 2 shapes that would easily balance on a stand are the circle and square. And sure is a lot easier to reach for a circular cymbal (even without looking) at any time and know where it is. A square, or other shape not so easy. Those corners on 4-6-8 sided cymbals are a pain. A square cymbal would effectively act like a round cymbal with chunks cut out of it. Would probably be pretty dry and somewhat lifeless. As mentioned by Mcjnic it's nice to be able to follow the tonal grooves to flow the pressure waves of sound. A square would continually drop sound pressure waves off the edge of the cymbal (like a chunk is missing). And those areas will sound deader.
 
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bongomania

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Not that this makes any kind of definitive answer, but I think about the cymbal rotating on a lathe. It spins around an axis, so that the cutting edge scribes a circle or spiral as the plate turns. As long as the whole thing turns around a central axis, a circle is the natural result.
 

zenstat

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Not that this makes any kind of definitive answer, but I think about the cymbal rotating on a lathe. It spins around an axis, so that the cutting edge scribes a circle or spiral as the plate turns. As long as the whole thing turns around a central axis, a circle is the natural result.
Yes I wondered how they lathe an Octagon without ripping up their backing plate. :dontknow:

*edit* This was a joke in response to bongomania which seemed to be taken seriously by some others and used as evidence that I don't know what I'm talking about. Bongomania is actually spot on in that lathing is only practical with round cymbals. Polygon shaped cymbals are lathed while still round, and then the edges are cut and smoothed. If cymbals weren't traditionally round then some other method for removing the outer oven crust might have developed (like sandblasting). But for historical reasons round and lathing as we know it co-evolved. If you look at the non round shapes Matt Nolan and Steve Hubback produce you won't see lathed finishes (as far as I know). I know some cymbal modifiers who don't even take on relathing jobs on cymbals with rivet holes or cutouts because they mess up the lathing tools. Octagonal cymbals (or cymbals with edge cutouts as repairs) are similarly challenging to re-lathe.

At one level cymbals are round by tradition, and at another level they are round because they are trimmed round in the factory. They aren't completely circular after rolling

20-blank-bot2.jpg


but they are after edge trimming

birth-of-a-cymbal.jpg


And a sonic representation of the journey thanks to independent cymbal maker Craig Lauritsen

 
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zenstat

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They play with the flow and collisions of the waves to achieve particular sonic properties. A cut on the edge dissipates the wave motion while the sharp angles cause wave collisions ... etc etc etc.
Again, a simple review of waves and the basics of movement through a medium will enlighten the subject.
Imagine all the different ways you can have five skillets (or garbage cans or tin buckets or even brass rings that would represent waves) collide and the varied sounds you can get from them. There is a staggering number of ways they could collide and with each there would be a slightly different sound perceived.
Again, this is Elementary explanations but it should be clear enough ... without having to deal with the ridiculous number of variables associated with cymbal design.
I have a bit of University physics under my belt from long ago, but I did my Masters and PhD in Statistics. But you could try me on the proper equations and modeling if you know of some. Complex nonlinear models with "ridiculous numbers of variables" are something I'm used to. All I take from what you have said is "it's complicated" but no specific prediction about a sonic shift. These guys, on the other hand, have a computational model which would probably do the trick


although they don't deal with the effects of hammering or tonal grooves -- which is two more topics we need for cymbals.

The only 2 shapes that would easily balance on a stand are the circle and square. And sure is a lot easier to reach for a circular cymbal (even without looking) at any time and know where it is. A square, or other shape not so easy. Those corners on 4-6-8 sided cymbals are a pain. A square cymbal would effectively act like a round cymbal with chunks cut out of it. Would probably be pretty dry and somewhat lifeless. As mentioned by Mcjnic it's nice to be able to follow the tonal grooves to flow the pressure waves of sound. A square would continually drop some off the edge of the cymbal (like a chunk is missing). And those areas will sound deader.
And yet...despite what people are suggesting Octagons don't sound dry and lifeless and aren't a problem on the stand. Spider Rondinelli using an Octagon as his main ride on a jazz gig. He also has a smaller Octagon crash on his right and it sounds a little trashy to me.



I'm thinking that a regular polygon shape increases the trash in the same way drilling big holes does. I haven't yet come across an analysis which shows why drilling some large holes increases trash, and how many holes of what diameters do what level of trash.


And if you want odd there is a 23" Sabian Fierce Nonagon from 2014...because they can. :happy11:

 
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CSR

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It’s a metaphysical construct secretly mirroring the psychological reality surrounding us combined with the flat earth paradigm. Each of us is the center of our own reality, surrounded by an equidistant field of influence. If you picture yourself at the center of the cymbolic model, your disc of influence radiates around you at a finite radius. Thus, any disturbance in the field (ie. a cymbal tap) sends vibrations around your disc of influence on the known universe until all the molecules are excited. You are represented by the hole in the middle of the cymbal (sometimes spelled symbol or cymbal), and your astrophysical influence surrounds you.

Some of us are 6” splashes, and some of us are 26” flat rides. See? Didn’t know that, didja?
 

bongomania

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Hm, there is middle ground. For example I have a decent familiarity with waveform manipulation and acoustics, and I couldn’t say why angles at the edges of a plane would necessarily add harmonics rather than canceling them. Does a cowbell have white noise? How about a marimba bar, whose ends are literally squared off?

We can say the acoustical rules for a vibrating bar are different from a vibrating plate, but why?
 

zenstat

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I'm no longer participating in this discussion. Apologies for posting what I thought were interesting questions and examples.
 

NewBeat

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Because the circle is perfection, like the sun & the moon. All musical instruments would be round if they could, but only cymbals, gongs, crotales can pull if off. Then there's the cylindrical drum. Being circular with extra baggage, they're pretty cool too, but not as cool as cymbals (8^D).
 

dboomer

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I was gonna try to quote a few things but it’s just too hard on an iPad to bother with.

So first, please don’t throw around the term “white noise” unless you actually mean white noise. It has a very specific meaning, that being equal energy per frequency. I doubt there has ever been a cymbal in the world that could go from 20Hz-20kHz with equal energy per frequency.

I think it would be better said the RULES for vibrating bodies are are consistent for all vibrating bodies however the results of shape can considerably affect the outcome. So to that point cymbals have been modified in any number of ways to modify the sound. Whether that's good or bad Is subjective and everyone gets to have their own opinion.

So to the OP’s original question I agree with you they just sort of naturally end up being nearly round when you roll or pound them out. From there they were rounded off to be pleasingly aesthetic. That’s my best guess. Everything else was done just cuz people like to screw with things. So most cymbals are round, but not all.
 
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Cliff DeArment

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We don't have to have a degree for this stuff.

Short and sweet…
Fundamental - Lowest sound (pitch).

Rectangle - Square - Circle….

Rectangle - Fundamental speaks in the center. The more the length is stretched, the more the fundamental will be focused. (vibraphone is a different story)
Square - Fundamental is more spread. (kinda… close enough)
Circle - Fundamental speaks at the edge. (gong is another story, boss, hung, etc.)

A cymbal stands on a center post. Lightly tap a finger on the bell. Now lightly tap the edge. Which one speaks the lowest? Now take the cymbal off the stand. Grab the edge and tap it anywhere. Can you hear the fundamental? That's why a cymbal is round. :)
 

dboomer

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Hey Cliff - Not to be argumentative but just to learn ...

As you point out the fundamental of gongs is not the edge and neither is it of drumheads. I suspect with cymbals it is because they are suspended (usually) from the center. Tell me more.
 

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