The foundation of jazz is built upon groove and a groove doesn’t feel right without great-sounding cymbals. Every jazz drummer knows just how important cymbals are in adding an extra flair to their music. Jazz music requires knowing your sound and choosing the right cymbals.
My top pick is the Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Cymbal Set. This is a cymbal set that offers great dynamics to any drummer.
My budget pick is the Paiste 20” PST 7 Light Ride. A modest, lively-sounding ride that is good if you are looking for an inexpensive addition to your drum kit.
The 7 Best Cymbals for Jazz Music (2023)
Let’s look at them in more detail.
1. Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Cymbal Set
Zildjian is a top dog in cymbal production and it shows with the diversity of its series. The Zildjian K Custom Special Dry cymbals are everything dry cymbals aspire to be.
- Offers classic dry tones
- Very raw-sounding
- Great for studio and live sessions
These cymbals have a raw, earthy washiness to them that is almost tied with the classic dry cymbal sound. They give you great control with colorful stick definition and relatively little overtones.
These classic cymbals are made from a single piece of B20 bronze sheet, so you can expect excellent quality. They also look quite rugged with a dark, dirty look. So, whether you are in the studio or playing live, these beauties sound brilliantly dynamic.
|Included||14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes, and 21” ride|
The Zildjian K Custom Special Dry are cymbals made to lock in the groove and elevate the music. They sound brilliant in jazz, funk, and even a rock ‘n’ roll setting. So, if you don’t mind the price tag, you should go for them.
2. Paiste 20” PST 7 Light Ride
Made from the same CuSn8 bronze alloy as Paiste’s iconic 2002 series, the PST 7 light ride is another one of its great-sounding cymbals. It’s quite affordable and works very well with a range of sounds.
- Great value for money
- Can be used for many genres
- Nice-sounding bell and crash
- Doesn’t sound as great as B20 cymbals
The ride is a great buy for beginner drummers who are starting to explore their style. The PST 7 light ride has a classic washy but lively feel to it. And it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, producing a quietish, sweet sound in the background.
The bell is loud and articulate. The crash is powerful, making it ideal for rock music as well. Of course, a ride cymbal is essential for jazz music, plus, this affordable option is durable, good-sounding, and has a nice-sounding bell.
Paiste is a trusted cymbal brand amongst some of the drumming greats. This PST 7 Light Ride is a great buy for new drummers who are looking for nice sounds at a modest price.
3. Zildjian K Custom Dark Set
Dark cymbals with a bright tone and ridiculous stick definition. The Zildjian K Custom Dark cymbals are one of the most popular and perfect all-around cymbals available today. That’s because they fit seamlessly into just about any genre from jazz to funk to even metal.
- Jack of all trades
- Mellow, dark tone
- Look and sound professional
This cymbal set features a pair of 14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes, and a 20” ride. All hand hammered from B20 bronze and finished traditionally.
The Zildjian K Custom balances all aspects of great cymbal craftsmanship to give drummers what they need to produce the tone they intend. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing live or in a studio, these are bound to sound professional.
|Included||14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes, and 20” ride|
If you’re looking for an all-rounder of a cymbal set, the Zildjian K Custom Dark cymbals might just be ideal for your jazz experience.
4. Meinl 16” Byzance Extra Dry Medium Thin Hi-hats
For those of you who are looking for a hi-hat upgrade, have you considered 16” hi-hats? If not, then you might want to think about it because the Meinl 16” Byzance Extra Dry hi-hats are a treat to the ears.
- Incredible dry cymbals
- Great for mellow music
- Very little wash and sustain
- Pricey hi-hats
The cymbals are made of top-quality B20 bronze. Meinl has given these cymbals an earthy, rustic look that sits perfectly with its extra dry and dark sound.
The top hi-hat is light while the bottom one is medium weight. This gives it a nice, crisp ton with next to no washiness. This is a very tight hi-hat, great for locking in jazz, funk, or electronic groove.
|Weight||Light top, heavy bottom|
The Meinl Byzance Extra Dry hi-hat is a professional-sounding and looking cymbal that works brilliantly in a mellow setting. Although it carries a hefty price tag, it’s well worth it.
5. Zildjian 20” K Constantinople Renaissance Ride
A great ride cymbal can change the feel of jazz. Zildjian’s K Constantinople Renaissance Ride is one of those. This ride is a collaboration between the world’s oldest cymbal manufacturer and American jazz drummer Adam Nussbaum. It’s thin, has a pronounced stick definition, and can be crashed as well.
- Good for ride and crash
- Reduced overtones
- Durable construction
- Bell is a bit on the smaller side
The cymbal is made of the classic B20 cast bronze and sports a traditional finish thanks to careful hand hammering. The smaller, integrated bell is extra hammered, helping contain unwanted overtones that tend to take over the music.
Apart from the rather small bell, you will unlikely find anything wrong with this cymbal. It’s durable, has good overtones, and can be used as a crash cymbal in different scenarios.
The thin, dark ride cymbal is an ideal fit for any jazz drummer who likes to crash their ride. I’d say go for it if you’re a gigging drummer.
6. Meinl 22” Byzance Jazz Monophonic Ride
Few cymbals are carefully hand-crafted with a great amount of nuance than the Meinl Byzance Jazz Monophonic 22” Ride. This is a gorgeous ride that jazz cats purr over. It’s got a nice, washy sound and deep stick definition that tends to reward dynamic players. You can hear the lingering resonance emanating from each hit.
- Nice wash, perfect for jazz
- Low sustain but prolonged tone
- Sound shines through other instruments
- Not the most versatile ride if you drum in many different styles
The Byzance Jazz ride is a complex one, delicately made from the traditional B20 bronze. It is rolled very thin and hand-hammered. The finished cymbal, thus, has a very cutting sound to it.
There is an extra washiness to it. Mostly because Meinl has reduced the size of the bell, which means there’s more cymbal area that vibrates. If you like your ride to have more dryness, then this is a plus.
The sound of the Meinl 22” Byzance Jazz Ride is as complex as its name. It’s a great option for players who are primarily focused on jazz or surrounding genres.
7. Zildjian A Custom Set
The Zildjian A Custom is the company’s best-selling series and once you hear their sound, you’ll understand why. Even though these are widely used in rock music, they are used in jazz by players who are looking for that nostalgic heavy ping in their cymbals.
- Hold their own in many different settings
- Soothing, warm tones
- Modestly priced for their caliber
- Might not be suited to mellow music
- A bit pricey
Each stick hit generates a sweet, sophisticated note and there’s just enough warmth to make you sit back and melt. You can hear a well-balanced sound every time you play these.
Zildjian A Custom are medium to thin B20 cymbals with a traditional finish to them. The pack comes with 14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes, and a 20” ride. That’s everything a drummer can ask for.
|Included||14” hi-hats, 16” and 17” crashes, and 20” ride|
|Weight||Medium to thin|
|Sound||Warm and sweet|
Already with two other cymbal packs on the list, you can see why Zildjian is the king of cymbal-making. The A Custom is no exception. They are great for all kinds of jazz and particularly useful if you will be expanding your horizons in the future.
What types of cymbals are best for Jazz music?
When you’re looking for an ideal jazz cymbal, the first thing to look out for is the stick definition and overtones. What stick definition means is how much of the stick’s character is heard with each note. The overtones are the sustain of the cymbals after the hit. The more the sustain, the more coherent a groove is.
After that, good jazz cymbals are generally dark, crispy, and have a certain dryness to them. Also, the best cymbals are made out of B20 bronze, so watch out for those.
How should the cymbals sound to complement Jazz Music?
Drums are backup instruments in a jazz setting. A jazz drummer’s role is to play a tight groove to lock in the entire band and cymbals are an important aspect of it. Since many jazz songs are in an acoustic setting, you don’t want to overpower the rest of the musicians. So your cymbals should be sweet, warm, and light.
What are the best brands for Jazz cymbals?
Modern drummers have the luxury to choose from over a dozen quality cymbal brands. There are your obvious big dogs in Zildjian, Meinl, and Paiste. Then there are Sabian, Istanbul, Stagg, Soultone, Crescent, and Dream.
How many cymbals do Jazz drummers use?
There is no upper limit to how many cymbals a jazz drummer can use. Most drummers have a pair of hi-hats, a ride, and one or two crash cymbals. That being said, you can add as many as you want given the music demands it. There are also gigging drummers who only use hi-hats and a ride/crash.
What size ride cymbal do Jazz drummers use?
Three of the most commonly used ride sizes are 18”, 20”, and 22”. The size a drummer uses depends on the tone they want out of it. Smaller rides have a brighter tone while the bigger ones are dark. Check out this article for more detailed information.
Are cymbal packs cheaper compared to buying cymbals individually?
Cymbal packs are often a cheaper option than buying individual cymbals. But the catch is all of your cymbals will be of the same series. This is not a problem when you’re just starting out building your set. However, some drummers may like to build their cymbal collections individually. In such cases, buying individual cymbals makes better sense.
So, there you have it. I’ve gone through a bunch of cymbals, cymbal packs, and some tips to keep in mind when you’re buying your dream jazz cymbals. The market today has a great variety of cymbals to choose from and that is a blessing.
My top pick is the Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Cymbal Set, a cymbal set that offers great dynamics to any drummer.
My budget pick is the Paiste 20” PST 7 Light Ride, a modest, lively-sounding ride that is good if you are looking for an affordable addition to your drum kit.