Cymbals: what is it, structure, types, history, playing techniques

Cymbals: what is it, structure, types, history, playing techniques

Cymbals are one of the oldest and most widespread musical instruments in the world.

What is cymbals

Class is a stringed percussion musical instrument. Refers to chordophones.

It is most popular in Eastern Europe. The Hungarian cymbals, which are actively used in the national art of the Hungarians, stand out in particular.

Hungarian dulcimer

The structure is a body with decks. A popular case material is wood, but there are other options.

Strings are stretched between the deck. Steel strings are divided into groups of 3. The strings sound in unison. The bass strings are copper plated. Installed in groups of 3, also tuned in unison.

Features of sound extraction

Dulcimer playing is based on the technique of a special hammer. With it, the strings of the instrument are struck, which causes them to vibrate and sound. If the strings are not muted after being struck, the vibrations spread to neighboring strings, causing a hum. In addition to the hammer, you can use wooden sticks.


Cymbals are divided into concert and folk. They differ in size and method of fixation.

The lower part of the folk is 75-115 cm. The upper one is 51-94 cm. The sides are 25-40 cm. The width is 23.5-38 cm. The height is 3-9 cm. This variety is considered compact and easy to move. The method of fixation is a strap attached to the musician’s shoulder or neck.

The lower part of the concert – 1 meter. Top – 60 cm. Side parts – 53.5 cm. Height – 6.5 cm. Width – 49 cm. Fixation – legs on the back of the case. A distinctive feature of concert models is the presence of a damper. The purpose is to quickly stop the vibration of the strings. The damper is made in the form of a pedal. The harder the cymbalist presses the pedal, the more the sound of the strings is muffled.

History of cymbals

The first prototypes of cymbals were found among the Mesopotamian peoples. The first drawings of similar instruments date back to the XNUMXth millennium BC. e. Affiliation – the people of the Babylonians. Assyrian images were made in the XNUMXth century BC. e. The Sumerian version is depicted in the drawings of the XNUMXth-XNUMXrd centuries BC.

The ancient variants are characterized by a triangular body. The original shape made the instrument look like a modified harp.

A similar invention appeared in ancient Greece. The monochord was built on the same principle as modern cymbals. The design is based on a resonator box. The shape is rectangular. A major difference was the presence of only one string. The monochord has been used in science to study musical intervals.

The route of the cymbals to Europe is unknown. Historians suggest that the Gypsies or Arabs could bring the instrument with them. In Europe, cymbals gained fame among the feudal lords. The XNUMXth-century Book of the Twenty Arts described the newfangled instrument as “having an excellent sweet sound.” The same book mentions that chordophones were used in the performance of court and burgher music.

Initially, Europeans used cymbals in solo compositions. In the 1753th century, the instrument was used as an accompaniment, and later penetrated into ensembles. The first use in opera is XNUMX, Spain.

In the 1700s, the Germans developed their own version called hackbrett. Around the same time, Pantaleon Gebenshtreit modified the cymbals. In his version, there were keys. The model is named pataleon in honor of the name of the creator. In the future, Goebenshtreit’s invention will turn into a modern piano.

In Russia, the instrument is known in the XV-XVI centuries. Written chronicles contain information about its use in the royal court. Famous Russian dulcimer players of those years: Milenty Stepanov, Andrey Petrov, Tomilo Besov. The German version gained popularity in the XNUMXth century among the elites.

The modern version of the cymbals appeared at the end of the XNUMXth century. Inventor – Jozsef and Wenzel Shunda. In the XNUMXth century, minor modifications to the design were carried out. The purpose of the changes is to increase reliability, durability and sound volume.

Reconstruction of the instrument

The first reconstructions of classical cymbals were made in the 20s of the XX century. The authors of the reconstruction are D. Zakharov, K. Sushkevich.

The task of reconstruction is to restore the former shape and structure. The sound produced should be loud, rich and clearly divided into an octave. The type of hammers has been revised. Their length has been reduced. Thus, the musician can independently muffle the ringing strings.

The version reconstructed by Zakharov and Sushkevich began to be used at concerts until the 60s. Then the next design changes were carried out. The task of the changes is to expand the range of sound. The goal was achieved by installing two new stands. The authors of the change are V. Kraiko and I. Zhinovich.

Due to design improvements, the weight of the chordophone has increased significantly. To remove the load from the knees of the performer, 4 legs began to be attached to the lower part of the body. Thus, the tool became possible to install on the table.

Play techniques

When making sound, the musician can use the whole arm or one hand. Tremolo technique may be used. Tremolo is the rapid repetition of one sound.

Modern performers use extended playing techniques. Stick strikes are carried out not only along the strings, but also along the edge of the body. The resulting sound is similar to the sound of a castanet. The technique of playing the flageolet, glissando, vibrato and mute is also used.

Cymbals around the world

An instrument similar in structure and principle of use is a musical bow. Distributed in Africa and South America. Outwardly, it looks like a hunting bow with a string fixed between two peaks. May also look like a curved stick. Production material – wood. Length – 0.5-3 m. A metal bowl, a dried pumpkin or a musician’s mouth is used as a resonator. Each string is responsible for one note. Thus, chords can be played on a musical bow. A variation of the musical bow called “ku” is found in New Zealand.

The Indian version is called santoor. Munja grass is used as santoor strings. The sticks are made from bamboo. Used in folk music.

In Ukraine in 1922, Leonid Gaydamak performed concerts using cymbals. An interesting fact: 2 reduced instruments are involved in the performances. The small size options have been created for ease of transport.

Since 1952, dulcimer lessons have been taught in Moldova at the Chisinau Conservatory.

Notable dulcimer players

Aladar Rac is a Hungarian musician. One of the greatest dulcimer players in history. Among his awards are the Kossuth Prize in 1948, the title of Honored and Outstanding Artist of Hungary.

The musician was from a gypsy family. According to tradition, at the age of three he was offered to learn how to play any musical instrument. Rats decided to learn to play the cymbals.

With his achievements, Aladar Rat popularized cymbals in the first half of the XNUMXth century. The instrument began to be taken seriously and used in concerts.

The XNUMXth-century Austro-Hungarian composer Erkel Ferenc introduced the instrument to an opera orchestra. Among the works of Ferenc are “Ban Bank”, “Bathory Maria”, “Charolta”.

The USSR had its own virtuoso cymbalist – Iosif Zhinovich. Among his awards are the All-Union Competition of Performers, the title of People’s Artist of the USSR, Honored Artist of the BSSR, several Orders of the Badge of Honor and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

Famous compositions for cymbals from Zhinovich: “Belarusian Suite”, “Belarusian lingering and round dance”, “Belarusian song and dance”. Zhinovich also wrote several tutorials on playing the cymbals. For example, in the 1940s, the textbook “School for Belarusian cymbals” was published.

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