with music city mystique:
Cymbal Selection

There are a wide range of choices available when selecting cymbals for your ensemble. Alex Queen talks about size, weight and sound considerations as well as budget options for choosing cymbals.  Be sure to read below for a full description of many of Zildjian’s options!

Music City Mystique Cymbal Instructor Alex Queen talks about cymbal selection for their ensemble:


Selecting cymbals for your marching cymbal line is a matter of personal preference (and budget of course). If you’re purchasing new cymbals for your ensemble, here are a few considerations that you should take into account.

Most cymbal pairs are “weighted” into categories of thickness. A thick cymbal of the same size and profile will have a darker sound with more volume, projection and sustain. A thin cymbal will have a bright, shimmering overall tone quality with a quick attack and short sustain, but much less volume projection (and durability for extreme volumes that marching bands require). Here are the basic categories.

Light, Medium Light / “French” – Thin cymbals which have an immediate response and brilliant sound. Less projection and power at loudest dynamic levels and shorter sustain. Easiest to play quick articulations at lower volume levels.

Medium / “Viennese” – Medium thick which offer a perfect blend of mid-range pitch, brilliant overtones and harmonics in a size and weight that’s manageable for both articulate passages and longer sustain.

Medium Heavy / “German” – The thickest cymbal offers maximum power, projection and sustain with a high pitch. Full bodied, slow response makes fast, articulate passages played at a lower volume more difficult.


When selecting cymbals, you should consider the size and strength of your performers in addition to the tonal characteristics. Small 16″ cymbals are great for younger, smaller students, but may not have the projection that you’re looking for. Large 20″ cymbals are great for large marching ensembles, but are difficult to weld for long periods of time and may be too cumbersome for high velocity visuals such as flips and juggling.

The most popular choice for marching bands and indoor percussion ensembles is the Zildjian Stadium Series, which range in size from 14″-20″ and medium to medium heavy weight. These cymbals have a warm, but shimmering sound with strong projection and bright overtones. The heavy lathing on the bottom can help to create emphatic “zing” effects. For average sized players, the 18″ size is recommended for the balance of weight, projection and visual presentation.

Music City Mystique’s cymbal preference is the 18″ Zildjian A Symphonic Viennese. These cymbals have a mid-range pitch and balanced combination of overtones for a full-bodied sound with great projection, yet are light enough to weld for their highly effective visual repertoire.


If your program has lower budget considerations, Zildjian also offers three lines of non-cast cymbals made from various bronze alloys, each with their own sound characteristic:

S Band Cymbals – This popular non-cast cymbal is made from a B20 bronze alloy, 80% copper and 20% tin. This alloy is known for its warm tone and full-bodied crash sound, but have less projection, sustain and complex overtones than the Zildjian cast cymbals have.

Z MAC Cymbals are made from a B12 alloy with a blend of 92% copper and 8% tin. This cymbal is known for creating a bright, powerful sound with a fast attack, but is only available in 14″ and 16″ sizes.

Planet Z Band Cymbals are the most budget conscious choice. These cymbals are made from a B12 alloy with a blend of 92% copper and 8% tin. This cymbal is known for creating a bright, powerful sound with a fast attack, but is only available in 14″ and 16″ sizes.


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