The 7 Best Cymbals for Jazz (2021)

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. 

So, it is essential to know your sound and choose the cymbals that will take your jazz music to the next level. That is why I will dive into my top seven cymbals so that you will have an easier time deciding what to buy. 

My top pick would be Zildjian K Custom Special Dry. This is a cymbal set that offers great dynamism to any drummer.

My top budget pick would be Paiste 20 inch 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 (2021)

1. Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Cymbal Set
Editor's Choice - A fantastic dry and washy cymbal set for Jazz
2. Meinl 22” Byzance Jazz Monophonic Ride
Great ride cymbal for jazz - Beautifully crafted dry ride
3. Paiste 20” PST 7 Light Ride
Budget light ride cymbal - Versatile ride at an affordable price
4. Meinl 16” Byzance Extra Dry Medium Thin Hi-hats
Great hi-hats for jazz - A very popular set of hi-hats for Jazz drumming
6. Zildjian K Custom Dark Set
Another very popular and versatile set, which is well suited to Jazz
7. Zildjian A Custom Set
A warm and sweet cymbal set from Zildjian

Let’s look at them in more detail.

1. Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Cymbal Set

Our Top Pick
A fantastic dry and washy cymbal set for Jazz.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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.

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. 

Pros

  • Offers classic dry tones
  • Very raw sounding
  • Great for studio and live sessions

Cons

  • Pricey!

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. 

Included14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes, and 21” ride
WeightNA
SoundDry, washy
Material  B20 Bronze

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 definitely go for them. 

2. Meinl 22” Byzance Jazz Monophonic Ride

Great ride cymbal for jazz
Beautifully crafted dry ride.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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 really hear the lingering resonance emanating from each hit. 

Pros

  • Nice wash, perfect for jazz
  • Low sustain but prolonged tone
  • Sound shines through other instruments

Cons

  • 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. 

Included22” ride
WeightThin
SoundDark, dry
Material  B20 Bronze

The sound of 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.

3. Paiste 20” PST 7 Light Ride

Budget light ride cymbal
Versatile ride at an affordable price.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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. So, the ride is a great buy for beginner drummers who are starting to explore their style. 

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Can be used for many genres
  • Nice-sounding bell and crash

Cons

  • Doesn’t sound as great as B20 cymbals

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. 

Included20” ride
WeightMedium
SoundBright, lively
Material  CuSn8 Bronze

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. 

4. Meinl 16” Byzance Extra Dry Medium Thin Hi-hats

A very popular set of hi-hats for Jazz drumming.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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.

Pros

  • Incredible dry cymbals
  • Great for mellow music
  • Very little wash and sustain

Cons

  • Quite expensive 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 of 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 a jazz, funk, or electronic groove. 

Included16” hi-hats
WeightLight top, heavy bottom
SoundDark
Material  B20 Bronze

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

Sweet ride that’s crashable.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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.

Pros

  • Good for ride and crash
  • Reduced overtones

Cons

  • 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. 

Included20” ride
WeightThin
SoundMedium Dark
Material  B20 Bronze

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. Zildjian K Custom Dark Set

Another very popular and versatile set, which is well suited to Jazz.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

Dark cymbals, bright tone, and ridiculous stick definition. The Zildjian K Custom Dark cymbals are one of the most popular and perfect all-round cymbals available today. That’s because they fit seamlessly into just about any genre from jazz to funk to even metal. 

Pros

  • Jack of all trades
  • Mellow, dark tone
  • Look and sound professional

Cons

  • None

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.

Included14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes, and 20” ride
WeightMedium
SoundDark
Material  B20 Bronze

7. Zildjian A Custom Set

A warm and sweet cymbal set from Zildjian.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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. 

Pros

  • Hold their own in many different settings
  • Soothing, warm tones
  • Modestly priced for their caliber

Cons

  • Might not be suited to mellow music

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. 

Included14” hi-hats, 16” and 17” crashes, and 20” ride
WeightMedium to thin
SoundWarm and sweet
Material  B20 Bronze

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. 

Buyer’s Guide 

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 compliment Jazz Music?

Drums are backup instruments in a jazz setting. A 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 crashes. 

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. 

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. 

Verdict

So, there you have it. We’ve gone through a bunch of cymbals, cymbal packs, and some tips to keep in mind when you’re buying your dream jazz cymbals.

Leave a Comment