This article and its accompanying video is the first of a series of cymbal lessons at Free Percussion Lessons that look at playing crash cymbals and using the teachings and lessons of Frank Epstein, Boston Symphony Orchestra Cymbalist (retired).
Mr Epstein played with the Boston Symphony for 40 years and during that time he developed a mastery of playing the cymbals and published his treatise on the subject with his amazing book entitled “Cymbalisms”. This book is a must for every serious percussionist and can be purchased directly from Frank Epstein’s online store.
Playing the Cymbals
Crash cymbals are an extraordinary instrument to play in any orchestra or band and playing them properly involves learning and practicing the right technique. This is the first lesson in a series dedicated to practicing techniques to achieve the best cymbal crash possible.
Body Position and Stance
Playing crash cymbals is a physical activity and as such it’s important that you stand properly and hold the cymbals correctly for the best result.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and with one foot in front of the other so that your weight is evenly distributed over each foot. You want to be stable and it’s important that your knees are slightly bents so that you have some freedom to move.
How to Hold the Cymbals
Cymbals make sound because they vibrate, so when you hold the cymbal by the strap it’s crucial that you don’t choke the sound of the cymbal by holding too close to the bell or dome. Grasp the strap between your thumb and first finger about 1 inch back from the cymbal so that the cymbal can move freely.
The Basic Cymbal Stroke
For cymbal crashes up to the dynamic of forte the left cymbal remains vertical and stationary with the right cymbal making all of the motion. The right cymbal travels downwards and circles back up to the start of the playing position in an elliptical manner.