How to Hold Crash Cymbals

Crash cymbals are part of the percussion instruments that are used to play in orchestras, marching bands or concert bands.

Learning how to play crash cymbals is an important part of being a percussionist whether you are in a marching band, orchestra or concert band. It isn’t just about banging two 20 inch plates of heavy metal together.

You have to learn how to make the best cymbal sound possible and it starts from how you hold the cymbals to the technique of holding it while making a cymbal stroke. You hold a crash cymbal by grabbing the leather strap between your thumb and your index finger (first finger) about 1 or 2 inches away from the dome or bell of the cymbal.

As with any acquired skill, learning the right technique and continuous practice will help you perfect your craft and be the best at what you do.

Keep reading for a 101 guide on the basics of holding crash cymbals to help you take the first steps in being a good cymbal player.

Body Posture and Stance

To begin with, before you get to the part of holding crash cymbals you have to ensure your body posture is right. Playing cymbals is a physical activity therefore it is crucial for you to have the best posture possible and to be in the right physical position.

Standing properly is important. One foot should be in front of the other with your weight equally distributed between both feet.

It is recommended for your knees to be slightly bent so that you are able to move freely.

Holding Crash Cymbals 101

  • You hold a cymbal by grabbing the leather strap between your thumb and index finger about 1 or 2 inches way from the dome or bell of the cymbal.

This is important as it helps it move freely, since it is the movement that causes the vibration.

  • Do not put your hand through the strap but around it. The dome should rest on all your fingers, excluding the thumb of course.
  • It is crucial to note that when you hold the cymbal by the strap, it should not be too close to the dome as this will choke the sound of the cymbal. If you hold it too tightly it inhibits the vibrations.
  • The cymbals should be below your face for many reasons but mostly for safety purposes. Sometimes when you do a loud crash and the cymbals are by your shoulders, it could hit your face if you have not yet developed a good technique.
  • The cymbals should be titled to the side but ensure you are comfortable in that position and your posture is right before you start playing.
  • Cymbals are very heavy so in the moment you aren’t playing them you want to place them down on a table with a towel or a cymbal holder. This ensures they don’t make any sound when idling or when lifting them to play again.

How to Hold Cymbals for a Basic Cymbal Stroke

For most of the part of cymbal playing, you hold the left cymbal vertically as it remains stationary while the right cymbal is the one that moves.

The right cymbal moves downwards and circles back up to the start forming an ellipse (egg- shape). The right cymbal mostly always moves predominantly.

If you want to achieve a very loud sound, then the left cymbal has to move in a contrary motion to the right cymbal.

A summary on How to Hold Crash Cymbals

BASICS

 

TECHNIQUE
PURPOSE
BODY POSTURE
One foot in front of the other with weight equally distributed.

 

Body posture is important since playing cymbals is a physical activity.
 
Knees to be slightly bent.

 

To move freely.
HOLDING CRASH CYMBALS
Hold straps between thumb and index finger 1 or 2 inches away from dome.

 

To move freely enabling vibration.
 
Put hand around the strap and not through strap.
Only recommended for percussionists in marching band.

 

 
Do not hold strap too close to the dome of cymbal.

 

Inhibits vibrations thereby choking sound of cymbal.
 
Hold cymbals below your face.

 

For safety reasons. Prevents you from hitting your face.
 
Tilt to the side while playing.

 

Ensure you are comfortable and have good posture.

 

HOLDING CYMBALS FOR A BASIC CYMBAL STROKE

 

Left Cymbal is held vertically.
Remains stationary.
 
Right Cymbal mostly always moves.

 

Moves downwards and circles back up to the start. Forms an ellipse (egg-shape).

 

 
To achieve a loud sound.

 

Left cymbal moves in a contrary motion to the right cymbal.

 

 

Percussionists in Marching Bands

Specific percussionist techniques vary with where you are playing. For those who play crash cymbals in a marching band you hold the cymbals by placing your wrists through the straps instead of wrapping your wrists around the strap.

The technique for holding the cymbal with wrists wrapped around the strap is mostly for concert band and orchestral playing.

FAQs

How do you hold a crash cymbal?

You hold a crash cymbal by grabbing the leather strap between your thumb and your index finger (first finger) about 1 or 2 inches away from the dome or bell of the cymbal.

Why should you not hold the strap too close to the dome of the cymbal?

You should not the strap too closely to avoid choking the sound of the cymbal. Holding it too closely to the dome of cymbal restricts the vibrations.

Which is the most common way to hold both cymbals while playing?

The left cymbal is held vertically and remains stationary while the right cymbal moves predominantly. The right cymbal moves downwards and circles back up to the start forming an ellipse shape (egg-shape).

Which is the right body posture to maintain while playing cymbals?

One foot should be in front of the other with your weight equally distributed between both feet. Also, your knees should be slightly bent to enable you to move freely.

 

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