Do Cymbals Really Sound Better with Age? – Myth Busting

Cymbals for a fundamental part of any drum kit. However, you might hear lots of different opinions on whether new and clean cymbals sound better or worse than aged and also possibly dirtier cymbals.

This is often down to personal preference, but we will be looking at how age can affect and alter the sound that the cymbal produces and hopefully, this can help you to answer for yourself if a cymbal will really sound better with age!

Of course, older cymbals don’t necessarily mean that they are also not clean. Therefore, we will also be looking at the possible effects on sound that cleaning used cymbals can have!

Do Cymbals Sound Better with Age?

Some drummers find that cymbals sound better as they age because their tone is darker and more mellow. Brand-new cymbals sound brighter and crisper in comparison to older cymbals. It is personal preference as to which of these types of sounds a drummer prefers.

You might now be wondering how and why cymbal sound is altered by aging and also how clean the cymbal is. We will also look at what features of the cymbal are likely to be affected most by age, so keep reading for everything you need to know!

What Happens to Cymbals Over Time?

Over time, cymbals will age in a number of different ways. Firstly, some of the ways that your cymbal can age is down to how you play.

If you tend to play very often or hit cymbals with a lot of force, cymbals may be more likely to undergo wear and tear, and even cracking.

Frequent playing over longer periods of time can also slightly affect the shape of the cymbal which will inevitably alter the sound it produces.

Similarly, more time spent playing your drum kit as well as simply the age of the cymbal can lead to a build-up of dirt on the surface and in the dents. This can further affect the sustain of the cymbal, as well as making the cymbal produce a darker sound.

This can be affected again by cleaning the cymbal, which can help to produce a lighter and ‘chirpier’ sound.

Some Useful Terms!

To start with, it is handy to know what we mean by certain terms which help to describe different sounds made by cymbals. These can seem confusing to beginner drummers (I know I was confused at the start by all of these!) but don’t worry, we’ve made a handy list of terms which we will talk about in this article!

  • Sustain: Sustain refers to the amount of time that the sound of the cymbal can be heard after striking. This is affected by the size, thickness and the presence of holes in the cymbal.
  • Attack (stick sound): This refers to the sound immediately following the strike by the drumstick and can be affected by the sound of the wood itself if using a wooden tip drumstick on the cymbal. The sound can create a distinctive ‘ping’, separate from the rest of the cymbal sound following the stroke, or blend in with this sound (wash/spread).
  • Wash: Wash is the sound that spreads across the cymbal following the initial sound of the stick striking the surface. Where a cymbal has a high amount of wash, this can cover the initial stick ‘ping’ and prevent them from appearing as separate sounds.

The Benefits of New Cymbals

Brand new cymbals which have not had time to become dirty and also have not been struck lots over time can produce a cleaner, bright ‘zing’ sound, compared to the more mellow sound of older cymbals.

Often, this sound is described as lighter and can also have longer sustain. This suits some drummers which prefer this type of sound, but not as suitable for others who are looking for more mellow sounds.

Cleaning your cymbals can help to retain some of the qualities of newer cymbals, but over time, general wear and tear is bound to affect cymbals simply by playing them.

The Benefits of Older Cymbals

Over time and with plenty of playing, cymbals can age and alter in shape a little simply by being struck. The effect that this will have on your individual cymbal can be slightly different, but in general, older cymbals can be more mellow in sound compared to new cymbals.

This can also be described as them sounding ‘darker’ and will less of a bright ‘zing’ compared to new cymbals. This can be a more appealing sound to some drummers who might not want a bright and chirpy sound.

Cleaning Cymbals- Does it Affect the Sound?

Almost regardless of the age of your cymbal, how clean your cymbal is can also affect its sound! The question many drummers have asked is whether or not they should clean their cymbals.

Again, this is usually down to personal preference and the sound you want to make. This change can alter by how dirty or clean the cymbal is and the type of cymbal, so bare in mind that the effects of cleaning or not cleaning can have different effects on your individual cymbal.

But in general, here is what cleaner or dirtier cymbals can sound like and how they might differ!

  • Clean Cymbals: Cleaner cymbals in general can have a lighter, bright and crisp sound. The sustain of these cymbals can also last longer.
  • Dirty Cymbals: Cymbals that have not been cleaned can produce a slightly darker sound which is less crisp than cleaned cymbals and in general with a lower sustain.

Therefore, personal preference plays a heavy role in determining what you should do regarding how frequent you should clean your cymbals. This all depends on the type of sound you want to create, as well as how shiny you want your cymbals to look as well!


Cymbals change in many of their qualities over time and with frequent playing. For example, if the cymbal is struck many times, slight changes in the shape of the cymbal can alter the sound. Striking the cymbal very hard and over long periods of time can also increase the likelihood of the cymbal cracking.

Dirt build up and how frequently the cymbal is cleaned will also affect the sound of the cymbal. This is also more likely to build up with the age of the cymbal and can create a darker and more mellow sound, as well as less sustain compared to frequently cleaned or new cymbals.

The answer to the question about if cymbals sound better with age, or if cleaned or not cleaned cymbals sound better it largely down to personal choice. This really depends on what sound you want to create, as age and how clean the cymbal is can create drastically different sounds!

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out our other blogs about getting the most out of your drum kit, as well as technique and practice tips! Be sure to also keep up to date with our latest posts for all things drumming!


I’m here to share with you my passion for drumming, as well as some tips and tricks for choosing and making the most out of your drum kit and accessories. Whilst I play primarily on electronic drum kits, I love all things drumming and hope to share this with as many people as possible!

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