Percussion Instruments 101: How to Play Suspended Cymbals

PHOTO: Dave-Grohl
The suspended cymbal can be found as part of a drum set, in a symphony orchestra, in a middle school band, or even accompanying a conga player's multi-percussion set-up. The percussion player will vary their suspended cymbal technique based on the situation and overall percussion set up.

Basically, a suspended cymbal is simply that - a cymbal suspended in the air. The suspended cymbal can be suspended by a suspended cymbal stand or even by a percussion player's hand looped through a hand cymbal strap.

A drum set will often have several different types of suspended cymbals, from a crash cymbal to a ride cymbal to high hat cymbals. The drum set player will play the different cymbals with sticks, Hot Rods, brushes, or even yarn mallets.

In a conga player or hand drum set up, the suspended cymbal may be struck with a stick or even with the hand, although that is mostly for visual effect. A small crash or splash cymbal is easier on the hands for the percussion player.


In an orchestra, band, or wind ensemble, the suspended cymbal most often has its own stand and is set up hovering over other percussion instruments, like a xylophone or the timpani. If a percussion player has time or is only playing the cymbal for a music piece, then they will often have a music stand set up with a variety of different mallets and sticks. Most times, however, the percussion player will have other percussion instruments to play and will have the chosen mallets laying as a cross stick on the actual cymbal for easy access or will use whatever stick or mallet is handy.

The most common use of the suspended cymbal is the building of a suspended cymbal roll. This is accomplished by alternating strokes with yarn mallets on the outer edges of the cymbal. For the best sound, the percussion player should try to place their mallets on the farthest edges away from the cymbal bell.

A piatti attack, seen in many music scores, involves a quick strike with a wooden stick and muting of the cymbal shortly afterward.

Sometimes a suspended cymbal will be used to substitute for a set of hand cymbals. Although nowhere near as acoustically effective as a true hand cymbal crash, the percussion player can imitate the sound by striking the cymbal forcefully with a yarn or cord mallet near the far edge of the cymbal.

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ABOUT SABRINA PENA YOUNG
Award-winning composer Sabrina Pena Young is a foremost expert on Virtual Opera Production and Music Technology. A sought after consultant and speaker in music, arts, and technology, Young continues to push musical boundaries. Critics have called her "Wagner 2.0"and "Talented" with her works presented at Art Basil Miami, Opera America in NYC. the Beijing Conservatory, ICMC, London's Angel Moving Image Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, SEAMUS, the NY International Independent Film Festival, Miramax's Project Greenlight, TEDxBuffalo, the Holland Animation Film Festival, TEDx, and countless venues in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.

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