Reviews

The Best Marching Cymbals

Musician plays cymbal at the festival of brass bands

When you think of a marching band, you think of drums and cymbals. That loud crash of the cymbals is a trademark sound of any band you see in a parade or on a football field.

Getting the right type of marching band cymbal can be tricky when you are trying to find not only the best sound for your band, but also something your percussionists will be able to control and play.

If you are a band director looking to get a new pair of marching cymbals or replace a current set, here are a few tips on what to look for and a few reviews to help you start your search.

After performing as a percussionist for over thirty years, I know that finding the right sounding cymbals is crucial to getting the perfect sound for whatever band you are playing in.

Cymbals can have varying sounds depending on how they are made, the alloy that was used, and the finish that is used on them.

The most important part of shopping for a cymbal is going to the store to test it out, so make sure to never skip this step as it can make or break the sound of your band.

Credit: Sabian Ltd

Top Pick: Sabian B8 Pro Pair

Buy from Amazon

An affordable option for a school’s music program with a sound normally found in a more expensive cymbal. Great look, lightweight enough for a young player to control.

Using Cymbals in Marching Band

Marching band cymbals are not used in the same way that orchestral crash cymbals are played due to a different grip of the straps.

With a marching band cymbal, your hand fits through the twists and hoop making it lay flat against the cymbal’s bell, although this can be varied for different effects. Players carry two cymbals that are the same size and they are either crashed together, or sound effects can be created by striking or rubbing them together.

Cymbal players in marching bands often perform visual tricks like flips and twirls that are great for added effect.

A marching band also has either a one to two or one to one ratio of cymbal players to snare players as a snare drum player will often play on the cymbals in a performance, kind of like they were hi-hats in a drum set, so the number of cymbal players in a marching band can vary depending on how they are used.

Cymbal parts are also split up much like bass drum parts are making each cymbal players part one component of the larger piece. Some marching bands and drum corps often

Some marching bands and drum corps often use less cymbals players while indoor percussion ensembles are trending more towards maintaining or expanding their cymbal sections.

Marching Band vs. Orchestral

When differentiating between marching and orchestral cymbals, you will notice there are several different types of crashes. A crash-choke is used with a normal crash and is pulled into your body at your shoulders or stomach to efficiently stop the sound when you have acquired the desired crash.

A crash-choke is used with a normal crash and is pulled into your body at your shoulders or stomach to efficiently stop the sound when you have acquired the desired crash.

You use slides by playing the right cymbal into the left and having the outer edge of the cymbal hit halfway in between the edge of the left cymbal and the bell. You then bring the cymbal right back into your body after the right cymbals

You then bring the cymbal right back into your body after the right cymbals has slid up on the left. Once the cymbal has caught an air pocket inside the cymbal, it will stop, but the cymbals always maintain contact with each other.

Different types of crashes and cymbals can help you will help to give you different sounds and various visual effects that you want in a marching band.

How Cymbals Are Made

Cast Cymbals

Cymbals are typically made of either cast or sheets of metal. Cast cymbals are created by pouring molten, raw metal alloys into a circular mold.

These casting are then rolled, shaped, heated, hammered, and lathed giving a cymbal it complex and full sound that often improves with age. You will hear a unique sonic character with each cast cymbal.

Hand-Hammered

If you are curious about “hand-hammered” cymbals, be careful as this can be a deceptive term. A craftsman usually used a hammer, one blow at a time, on the finest cymbals that normally give you a darker, richer, lower-pitched tone that can vary from one cymbal to the next.

Inexpensive cymbals can be hammered with a machine and give you a higher tone that is brighter and will cut sharply through the other instruments, plus they do not vary much from cymbal to cymbal.

Lathe
Certain sonic characteristics are conveyed to some cymbals by a lathe. This can be done on either the bottom or the top of the surface. The bands on many cymbals are lathed and unlathed to give

you tonal options that depend on what area of the cymbal you are playing.

Sheet Metal

Sheet metal cymbals are cut out of huge metal sheets that have consistent composition and thickness. They give you a uniform sound from one cymbal to the next in the same model and are usually less expensive than a cast cymbal.

You’ll also find that inexpensive student cymbals often have hammering and lathe marks pressed into their surface.

Polish or Finish

You’ll also find polish and finish treatments on some cymbals with cymbals that are fully lathed receiving clear lacquer finish to keep them from tarnishing. Those that have “bright” or “brilliant” finishes have received a high-speed buffing that can actually dull the sound of the cymbal when it receives its attractive gleam.

Sound

How a cymbal sounds is an individual preference. You’ll find that jazz players favor a dark and complex sound, and rock drummers prefer a louder and brighter sound that cuts through the music. There are a couple of cymbal-manufacturing giants that dominate the cymbal market, but you’ll also see smaller competitors with more options starting to break in.

There are a couple of cymbal-manufacturing giants that dominate the cymbal market, but you’ll also see smaller competitors with more options starting to break in.

Before Buying a Marching Band Cymbal

Leather Straps

If you are choosing between wooden handles and leather straps, leather straps are much better for the cymbals themselves. Wooden handles tend to be tightened too much which can cause a crack and make the cymbal unplayable.

Leather is either tied or you can buy a strap that will hold onto the cymbal with a metal ball in a pouch. You may also want to look into a bag or case to carry your cymbals in to protect them from cracks and scratches which can change its sound.

Size

You will find that cymbals range in size from 4″ to 30″ which makes a big difference in their sound. If you are using smaller cymbals, you will get a quieter sound that responds quickly with less sustain. Larger cymbals have a slower response with a larger sound.

If you are using smaller cymbals, you will get a quieter sound that responds quickly with less sustain. Larger cymbals have a slower response with a larger sound.

Manufacturing Process

When considering how the cymbals are made, you’ll find the preferred method of manufacturing is the cast cymbal. Casting is a

Casting is a length process that gives the cymbals a full and complex sound that professionals love. Since they are individually made, they have their own unique sonic sound that can get better with age.

Sheet cymbals are less expensive since they are cut out of huge sheets of metal. That doesn’t mean that they will be bad quality, but they will have a more uniform sound with all the other cymbals that are the same model. One negative is that they can crack easier if they are played heavily.

Alloys

Tin and copper are used in all bronze variation cymbals. The B8 is the most basic and usually a starter cymbal which is made of 92% copper and 8% tin that can give a somewhat brittle sound.

A B20 is made of 80% copper and 20% tin giving it a more musical quality with a warmer sound. There are several cymbals in between including the B10, B12, and B15 bronzes.

Test Them Out

Always make sure you head to the store to try a few cymbals before purchasing one. It helps to bring your own sticks and strike them as you would normally play to make sure you get a good idea of their sound.

It also doesn’t hurt to try them out in different areas of the music store to see if the surrounding area has any effect on its sound.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.


InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Sabian B8 Marching Band Cymbals
Mixes its experience and skilled craftsmanship to make innovative and modern cymbals that drummers lovOut of stock
Sabian B8 Pro Marching Band Cymbals
The bright and focused sound penetrates more than more expensive models due to the totally lathed and fully hammered bronze alloyOut of stock
Zildjian 18" S-Band Cymbal Pair
With modern manufacturing techniques that are cutting edge to make a cymbal that can provide a wide variety of musical expressions$249.95
Sabian 22022 20" AA Marching Cymbal
Have a moderate pitch spread due to their weight that gives them a clean articulation when you play them with sticks$577.94
Zildjian ZBT 14" Band Cymbals Pair
Give you clear, sharp, and high-pitched tones while staying lightweight making it easier for younger arms$119.95
Meinl Cymbals MA-BO-16M Bronze 16-Inch Marching Cymbal Pair with Straps
Give you a fast and clean response with a controlled feel that is good for younger players$149.99
Zildjian Stadium Medium Cymbal Pair
Project a warm, shimmering sound that you can hear easily throughout a stadium$414.95
Meinl Brass Marching Medium Cymbal Pair
Come with a quick response and a controlled feel that is a great option for a serious beginner$64.99

Our Recommendation: Sabian B8 Pro Pair

Credit: Sabian Ltd

Sabian is a well-known name in the cymbal world, and they are a vital part of any marching band or drumline. The Sabian B8 Pro Marching Band Cymbals are available at an affordable price, and its medium weight design makes them easy to hold.

They are perfect for performance groups and percussionist and they will help small high schools and middle school marching bands make a large impression.

They feature a mid to high pitch with a bright sound and a medium to heavy weight design that isn’t difficult for younger player to control. They are good looking cymbals with a raw, natural finish that also gives it impressive sound.

They are precisely made from beginning to end that provide a mid to high pitch that has a cutting sound that can be heard well through the blare of the other instruments.

The bright and focused sound penetrates more than more expensive models due to the totally lathed and fully hammered bronze alloy. A high-pressure and high-heat polish process gives it a brilliant finish that smooths the groove edges that house the tonal rings giving it a sleeker and

A high-pressure and high-heat polish process gives it a brilliant finish that smooths the groove edges that house the tonal rings giving it a sleeker and glassier sound and look.

Combining a creative vision and many years of experience, Sabian continues to push the boundaries with their innovative crafting techniques. All of the B8 Pro are designed from the perspective of the percussionist to create cymbals of the highest-quality.

The Sabian B8 Pro Marching Band pair is available for $250

Pros

Lightweight and comfortable to use
Great for smaller groups
Sleek and cool looking, very affordable

Cons

None

Zildjian 18″ S-Band Pair

The Zildjian Sound Lab has produced S-Band cymbal after an exhaustive two years of design and research.

The legendary Zildjian Company has created the S Family cymbal that has balanced frequency response that is expressive and perfect for a lot of different musical styles.

Featuring a B12 alloy (88% copper, 12% tin) that is combined with modern manufacturing techniques that are cutting edge to make a cymbal that can provide a wide variety of musical expressions.

This incredible sounding cymbal line is perfect for either the professional or semi-professional percussionist. The B12 Alloy gives you balanced low to high frequencies with a top-bottom lathing process that gives it the ideal feel, weight, and sound.

The brilliant finish of the S-Band cymbal line gives it a right and shimmering tone that opens up the sound and the vast amount of hammering gives is a sonic response that is dialed-in to all of the dynamic ranges.

The Zildjian S-Band cymbals are available in the mid $200s.

Pros

Very versatile, good for lots of different situations
Has great lows and highs
Comfortable to play and carry

Cons

None

Sabian 22022 20″ AA

The Sabian 20” AA Marching Band cymbals have a full-bodied tone that is bright with a long sustain.

These medium-heavy weight cymbals are available in both regular and brilliant finishes, and they are typically used in cymbal lines that use different-sized pairs.

They have a moderate pitch spread due to their weight that gives them a clean articulation when you play them with sticks.

The Sabian 20” AA Marching Band cymbals work well in outdoor setting projecting long distances with their bright sound, and they are ideal for either high school or collegiate bands.

The Sabian 22022 cymbals are available in the low $500s.

Pros

Great for outdoor settings
Good for older players in high school and college
Can also be played with sticks

Cons

On the expensive side

Zildjian ZBT 14″ Pair

The Zildjian ZBT come in either the 16″ or 14″ size and are ideal as the first set of cymbals for either concert or school marching bands.

Revolutionary production techniques were used by the Zildjian Sound Lab to create the bright and fast, high-volume sound of the ZBT alloy.

These powerful ZBT Band Cymbals give you clear, sharp, and high-pitched tones while staying lightweight making it easier for younger arms.

The Zildjian ZBT is available for around $120.

Pros

Lightweight, good for young players
Very affordable, powerful
Well-made with a clear sound

Cons

Can flip inside out if you aren’t careful

Meinl Cymbals MA-BO-16M Bronze 16″ Pair w/ Straps

With a warm character and bright cutting sound, the Meinl Cymbals MA-BO-16M come with straps and are perfect for the student marching range.

They give you a fast and clean response with a controlled feel that is good for younger players. They are tonally matched and pressed into shape for a harmonic and balanced spread.

The Meinl MA-BO-16M are available for around $140.

Pros

Great for beginners, have a good controlled feel
Comes with straps
Good matching tone

Cons

Can invert if you aren’t careful

Zildjian Stadium Medium Pair

The Zildjian Stadium Cymbals have a brilliant finished top with a traditional finish design that was created by working closely with the world’s top drum corps specialists.

They project a warm, shimmering sound that you can hear easily throughout a stadium. They also give you that emphatic “zing” effect, plus a bright and smooth overtone blend throughout a wide sonic spectrum.

The Zildjian Stadium Cymbals are available in the mid to high $500s.

Pros

Great sound that can be heard well throughout a stadium
They have that great Zildjian craftsmanship
Come with a really cool finish

Cons

On the expensive side

Meinl Brass Marching Medium Pair

If you are looking for a student level cymbal, the Meinl Brass Marching Cymbals pairs a crisp tone with a quick response.

They are a well-matched pair that has a strong high-end that is powerful. They have controlled feel that is a great option for a serious beginner.

The Meinl Brass cymbals are available in two sizes. These cymbals are pressed into shape and are tonally matched with a medium weight the perfect choice for the ambitious beginner.

Meinl Brass cymbals are available for around $65.

Pros

Great for beginners, good weight
Well-matched and lightweight
Good sound, nice and clear

Cons

May easily dent if you aren’t careful

Sources

http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=74059
http://www.cymbalutopia.com/www.cymbalutopia.com/Lathing.html

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