Attack / Stick Sound – Range: Pronounced/Pingy to Spread/Washy
This refers to the initial sound immediately following the stroke with the drumstick tip on the surface (“ping”). This sound also incorporates the wood sound of the drumstick hitting the cymbal, which ever so slightly transmits into the cymbal sound. The sound from the tip of the drumstick has the most significance when playing rhythmic figures on a Ride cymbal. It can either be very pronounced or pingy, where the “pings” are clearly separate and distinct from the overall cymbal sound, or spread or washy, where the “pings” are cushioned or even buried in the overall cymbal sound, or in between, providing a balance between rhythmic articulation and response sound (“wash”). Hi-Hats, when played open almost always have a washy sound (unless the top cymbal is quite thick). Playing rhythmic, articulate figures on the closed Hi-Hat with the tip on the surface or with the shaft across the edge will produce a pronounced sound. A balance between the two is achieved by breaking the open, washy response sound through open-closed playing. The tip sound from the stick on a Crash or Splash cymbal is always washy, and usually they are “crashed” with the shaft across the edge anyway. A China or Swish cymbal can be played either way, but the tip sound from the stick will generally tend to be washy.
Response Intensity – Range: Dry to Lively
This refers to the frequencies and harmonics that develop following the stroke that sets the cymbal into vibration. The response sound is the intensity, complexity and speed with which the cymbal opens up as a result of a stroke. There can be less response sound resulting in a dry feeling, or more response sound resulting in a wet or lively feeling. Crash, Splash and China cymbals always tend to be lively, while Ride cymbals can go either way (when played with the tip because their crash sound will almost always be lively). In a Ride cymbal a relative dry character results in a focused, controllable sound, which works well for rhythmic articulation, while a wet or lively character tends to build up a “wash” of sound within which the rhythmic articulation coexists but is still audible. All Hi-Hats tend to be lively played open, because the top cymbal usually has crash character. Hi-Hats with less combined top/bottom weight tend to be drier, faster, and more responsive, and will allow fast, articulate playing. Hi-Hats with thinner top cymbals will have a lively response, and will be more dynamic and controllable in open-closed playing.
Sustain – Range: Short to Long
This refers to the length in time a cymbal can still be heard after striking it. In all cymbals, including Rides, the larger and thicker they are, the longer their sustain will be. A longer sustain makes a cymbal more useful for creating “sound walls” that fill the overall musical “soundscape” (but you can also achieve the same effect by fast rhythmic playing). The smaller and thinner a cymbal is, the shorter and more useful it will be for quick accents. A cymbal with longer sustain but very dry character will subjectively feel shorter.
Bell Character – Range: Integrated to Separated
This refers to whether the bell sound of the cymbal is clearly separated from the rest of the cymbal. In a cymbal with an integrated bell sound, the whole cymbal will also respond easily when you strike just the bell. You can also think of the bell sound as a huge ping sound as in a Ride that’s either pingy or washy. Only Rides and some China cymbals tend to have separated bell sounds.
Hi-Hat Chick Sound – Range: Soft/Tight to Sharp/Pronounced
This refers to the sound of two Hi-Hat cymbals clashing together. This sound is always very short, but can differ very much by ranging from soft, precise, tight to sharp, meaty, pronounced. This character attribute is important to consider in the overall volume setting and style of music played.
Feel – Range: Soft to Heavy
This can be a very important factor, because it is the physical sensation you have interacting with the cymbal, as the response or resistance of the cymbal travels through the stick into your hands. A cymbal with a soft feel has little resistance, and is perceived as buttery or giving. An even feel is neutral, or not particularly giving or resistant. A heavy feel offers noticeable resistance; you can really feel the mass of the cymbal. Feel is a very personal preference; Jazz drummers tend to prefer a soft, buttery feel in a ride while Rock drummers may enjoy the heavy presence of a massive cymbal. In general, a cymbal with less weight will tend towards a softer feel. The relative rigidity of the cymbal surface (which you can test by carefully bending it in your hands) will also determine this parameter, as a more rigid cymbal will feel heavier.