Fundamentals Of Cymbal Crashes

This is the first in a series of 3 articles addressing the role of cymbal crashes in modern drumming. As the title suggests, this tutorial will cover fundamentals and basic technique. What I’m trying to accomplish here, is to lay the groundwork for future discussion of the intermediate & advanced facets of this topic. The final 2 articles in this series will deal with concepts such as 2-handed crash technique in Crash Cymbal Skills & recommended drills for developing & sharpening skills in Crash Cymbal Drills For Skills.


Crashes, much like rolls, can serve a number of functions in the context of a song. They can:

  1. be utilized to accent, or call attention to a specific count within a measure of drum music
  2. add dynamics to a section of music by boosting both the high-end frequencies & overall volume of that specific section
  3. mark a change in the structure of the song (for example, moving from the verse into the chorus)
  4. be combined with rolls, particularly longer, more elaborate ones.........to break them up, reinforce accents and add color
  5. help define the individual drummer's style, much as rolls do


Typical Use

Generally speaking, cymbal crashes are employed in combination with another drumming element. I don't know of any hard & fast rule prohibiting the use of a crash by itself, but typically they get combined with a lower frequency sound.....either a bass drum or snare drum stroke.

Here are some examples of each in video form. Example #1 demonstrates crashes combined with bass drum and Example #2 combines with snare.

Example 1:

Example 2:

Basic Technique

I do have a preferred technique for performing cymbal crashes. It's simple, but worthwhile.

Hit your crash cymbals with glancing blows. Try to use either a slight side-to-side or front-to-back motion. Whenever possible, try not to hit them dead-on with the stick. I've found that by striking the cymbal at a lesser angle & coming across the edge of it a bit, you produce a cleaner sounding crash, break fewer sticks and crack fewer cymbals. And yes, for any of you who haven't had the pleasure of this experience, you can crack a cymbal...even a Zildjian! Been there, done that!

Once again, thanks for your interest. Please check back soon for the 2nd part of this tutorial.

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About Tom Hoffman

Tom Hoffman currently lives in the Midwestern section of the USA. He started playing drums at the age of 13. That began the first phase of his musical journey. Seven months later he joined his first band. From that moment on, he was hooked! By age 15, he was functioning as both a drummer & a singer. At 16, like many other aspiring musicians, he began teaching in conjunction with local drum shop programs. From age 20 to age 23, he was one of the founding members of a band called "Nickels". During that period, Nickels was a common fixture throughout the local club circuit. The band was also given the opportunity to serve as opening act for a number of national groups appearing at local concert venues. At age 23, for various reasons, he decided to end the first part of his musical journey. He left Nickels, sold all his equipment and stopped playing altogether.

.....anyway, onward & upward into Phase #2. Apparently, Tom never lost the itch to play an active part in music. At age 40, he was looking to scratch that itch. He had something different in mind this time though......not performance.....writing. He'd always wanted to become more involved in the creative end of things, so that was the goal this time. One small problem though.....he lacked all of the skills, knowledge and equipment necessary to make it happen. That didn't turn out to be an insurmountable obstacle though. Over the next 2 years, he went about the task of addressing his musical shortcomings. By age 42 he had achieved a reasonable level of competency as a drummer, guitarist and bass player. He had also managed to acquire a fundamental knowledge of both music theory & home recording.

Tom is now 56. For the past 14 years he's been primarily an amateur singer-songwriter, but has never lost the passion for his first love....drums. He's still an active drummer and intends to continue in that capacity. In recent years, many of his songs have achieved various levels of recognition in international writing contests. He's been a finalist, a 6-time semi-finalist and a runner-up. He has also received a number of honorable mentions, but has yet to win. "Winning" is still a work-in-progress. For anyone interested, the following link contains a detailed breakdown of the award results. Tunesmith Awards.


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