How Many Cymbals Are in a Drum Set? (+How Many Do You Need?)

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  • Find out how many cymbals you need for your new kit
  • Learn how cymbals are used and their importance
  • Understand the difference between the various cymbal types
  • Also, check out our post on ride vs crash cymbal

A standard drum kit contains three cymbals — a pair of hi-hats, a crash, and a ride.

That said, it’s not uncommon to find kits with a total of 4 cymbals, which includes the addition of a 2nd crash. Premium kits may add splashes, chinas, and more. But be prepared to pay more!

Read on as we cover some of the most frequent questions about cymbals in a drum set. Let’s dive in! 

How Many Cymbals Are in a Drum Set?

As we already mentioned, there are usually three or four cymbals in a drum set:

  1. Hi-hat cymbal 
  2. Ride cymbal
  3. One or two crash cymbals

These pieces form the basic cymbal kit. For high-end drum kits, there are three additional cymbals you can include in your set:  

  1. Splash cymbal
  2. China cymbal
  3. Stack cymbal 

How Many Cymbals Do I Need?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. The truth is – however many you need to achieve your desired sound!

Some drummers may use only one cymbal. Usually, this will be the hi-hat since it is well suited to creating rhythms. Everything else is a personal choice for experimenting with sound. 

For instance, popular drummer Jojo Mayer demonstrates what is possible with only a hi-hat and a ride. You can check his video right here. Another great American drummer, Aaron Spears, has various online videos where he plays with only a hi-hat, kick, and snare.

Usually, hi-hat and ride cymbals are used for rhythm, while crash, china, and splash cymbals emphasize the intonation of the sound.

To summarize, classic cymbal sets include a hi-hat, a ride, and a crash. If you’d like even more sound diversity, you could add china or splash cymbals.

Overall, the number of each cymbal depends on you, your style, and your drumming goals. 

Here are a few quick tips about cymbals to take away:

  • Take care of your cymbals – This means cleaning them properly. To do this, spray cymbal cream or cleaner onto your cymbals and wipe gently with paper towels. This method works best with brilliant cymbals. Traditional cymbals are tougher to clean, but you can still try this method. To finish off, buff the cymbal with a dry cloth. 
  • Buy a cymbal bag – This will protect your cymbal from scratches. 
  • Drumsticks are also important – When buying sticks, pay attention to their weight. You don’t want heavy sticks that you can barely hold for practice!
  • Cymbals warranty – Cymbals are usually covered by a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects. If yours break within that period, you should return them.

Why Are Cymbals Important?

Cymbals are crucial to drumming. They are used to keep time and add flavor to grooves. Which means they have a massive impact on the final sound.

Poorly manufactured cymbals can ruin the sound of a well-tuned, high-quality drum kit.

However, unlike drums, cymbals cannot be tuned to meet different musical needs. This means it is essential to choose wisely before making a purchase. 


Are Bigger Cymbals Louder?

When we refer to cymbal size, this is the overall diameter of the cymbal. And yes, bigger cymbals are louder. They produce more volume and longer sustain but with a slower response.

Smaller cymbals produce lower volume, faster attack, and faster decay.

Why Do Some Cymbals Have Holes? 

Cymbal holes create a sound with a higher attack but shorter sustain, producing a distinct “trashy” sound. The more holes, the trashier the sound. 

These cymbals are also called effects cymbals, and they sound and look very different from traditional cymbals. 

Cymbal holes can vary in size and shape. Generally, holes are circular, but some cymbals have longer or wider holes. This is done to achieve specific sound qualities.

What Materials Are Cymbals Made Of?

The five main alloys used to make cymbals are all copper-based.

  • Bell bronze – B20
  • Signature bronze alloys
  • Malleable bronze – B8
  • Brass
  • Nickel silver

Aside from these five main material types, cymbals are also crafted with silicon and aluminum bronzes. These are, however, less popular and rarely used. Typically, cymbals are crafted from copper alloys because they produce desirable sound properties. 

Bell bronze – B20 is the traditional choice for cymbals, gongs, and bells. It usually contains 20% tin and 80% copper. There are variations to this ratio, but this is the most common. 

Signature bronze alloys were released in 1989 by Paiste. These represent a professional cymbal series made from sheet metal bronze with around 15% tin.

Malleable bronze – B8 consists of tin and copper with 8% tin content. Unlike bell bronze, it can be cold rolled into sheets. B8 is usually available as commercial sheet metal with varying grades and thicknesses.

Brass cymbals are the cheapest and are usually beginners’ cymbals. These are widely available but are prone to cracking. Brass cymbals contain about 38% zinc in copper. When compared with other copper alloys, brass produces a very limited sound. 

Wrapping Up

It’s normal to be unsure about the number of cymbals in a drum set. With manufacturers and retailers offering so many different options, it’s easy to become confused.

However, if you’re looking for a full drum set<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>, this will come with everything you need, including drums, cymbals, and even hardware.

These sets can even be more affordable, but this is because they are not crafted to the highest quality. If you’re looking at mid-range or professional drum kits, these will not come with cymbals. 

At this level, you can choose from individual cymbals or cymbal sets. The best choice will depend on the sound you’d like to produce.

If you have any questions or thoughts or are confused about something you read, please let us know in the comments below.

Before you go, check out our guide to The 12 Best Drum Solos (In Songs)!