Crash cymbals are a term that refers to two different instruments. One is a type of cymbal that is used alone in a drum set or drum kit. The other is a pair of cymbals that are commonly used in concerts and marching bands. Both will be discussed here.
Marching Crash Cymbals or Concert Cymbals Crash cymbals are a matched pair of cymbals with straps that are held in the hands, thus the British name hand cymbals. Small (10–14” or 24–36 cm), medium (15–18” or 38–46 cm), and large (19–24” or 48–61 cm) are the only diameters available for crash cymbals.
A pair of crash cymbals can be played in a variety of ways. One method is to smash them together and then hold them over the player’s head as they slowly decompose. If a half-tie symbol was added to the notehead, or the terms let ring or laissez vibrer (l.v.) were used, this would be the approach.
Alternatively, the crash cymbals can be dampened against the player’s chest to make them sound dead. The cymbals are immediately dampened if the term secco or choke indicates that the note is to be played very quickly. It’s also possible to “swish” one cymbal across the other while holding the other still. One of a pair of crash cymbals can also be mounted or simply suspended its strap and used in the same way as a drum set or kit’s play.
Sets or kits of crash cymbals. At the very least, a drum set or drum kit should include a set of hi hat cymbals, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal. A splash cymbal and/or a sizzle cymbal, as well as other specialty cymbals like a China or Chinese cymbal, may be included. Crash cymbal descriptions may include information about the cymbal’s attack, decay, sustain, and release characteristics, as well as the volume it was designed for. Bright, crisp, clean, warm, cutting, explosive, dark, complex, sharp, penetrating, glassy, full, and high or low may be used to describe the sound.
Fast crash, rock crash, power crash, and full crash are just a few of the subtypes. There are also thickness variations, which are labeled as thin crash, medium-thin crash, and medium crash. Some crash cymbals are hammered hand.