Marching Cymbals

The Garfield* Grip

The Garfield grip is highly recommended since the weight of the cymbal is distributed over the entire surface of the palm. This grip is the most effective means of controlling the cymbals while at the same time reducing hand tension.

The Garfield Grip

Step 1 - Hold the cymbal in a vertical position and put the entire hand through the strap to the wrist.

Step 2 - Turn the hand so the palm is facing away from the pad of the cymbal.

Step 3 - Rotate the entire hand downward and turn the palm toward the cymbal until it touches the pad. The strap should rest at the base of the thumb and forefinger.

Maintain the hand position as shown in the third illustration above. Avoid curling the fingers into the hand in a grip-like maker. This will allow for greater freedom of motion and increase the feeling that the cymbals are just an extension of your hand.

Note: The strap may have to be loosened if the grip is too tight. It is important to keep fingertips off the surface of the cymbal in order to allow the instrument to vibrate freely.

*Garfield refers to the Garfield Cadets, the former name of the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps

How to Tie a Cymbal Knot

Cymbal Straps unfortunately break with enough use, so it's a good idea to know how to tie a cymbal knot. Below is an illustration showing the step-by-step process for tying a cymbal knot.

How to Tie a Cymbal Knot

Cymbal Holding Positions

The hand-cymbalist is not only concerned with sound production but visual effects, rest positions, and instrumental carriage during performance. In each case, the way the Cymbals are held is as important as how they are played. The following section illustrates a variety of cymbal holding positions used at rest, while playing, and for visual effects. These positions were devised for two reasons:

  • To create a means of ensuring visual uniformity.
  • To improve the consistency of sound production by utilizing predetermined starting and stopping points.

Cymbal Rudiments

The Cymbals provide an arranger with a wide variety of sounds with which to choose from. The main cymbal rudiments are crashes, chokes, hi-hats, and fusions.


Crashes are by far the most common cymbal rudiment. With the cymbals held in the up position, the cymbals move slightly away from each other, not away from the body. The inside edges move first, followed by the outside edges. This is known as the prep motion. As the cymbals move towards each other, the inner edge (closest to the body) of the right cymbal should strike the left cymbal slightly before the outer edge in a flam-like effect. Too open of a flam will cause almost two distinct crashes, whereas too tight of a flam causes the crash to pop. Following the crash the cymbals move outward from each other and make the same motion as the prep, only not crashing. Following the rebound, the cymbals return to playing position.


To play a choke, begin with the same prep and motion as a crash. Execute the correct crash, but instead of following through the rebound, the cymbals are pulled into the stomach or the shoulders. The key to playing a good choke is to allow the cymbals to ring long enough to produce enough sound, but to cut them off so they are shorter than crashes. When the cymbals are pulled into the body, it should be down with enough force to completely and immediately stop them from ringing.


This effect is created by bracing one cymbal in a stationary position and playing the second cymbal against it in a "hinged" motion. The sound that is desired is a short, accented popping sound, similar to the hi-hat on a drum set. The cymbals can be held in a horizontal or vertical position, or cradled in one arm at a slight angle, similar to the way the Statue of Liberty holds her tablet. The two cymbals should NOT be exactly aligned, which will produce a choked sound by trapping too much of the air between them. Offset the cymbals slightly to allow air to vent. A louder effect can be created by off-setting the top cymbal a bit more.

Fusions (Sizzle-Suck)

Producing an open hi-hat sound, this is also referred to as a slide. The right cymbal will drive into the left, where the outer edge hits 1/2 way between the bell and the edge of the left cymbal. After the right cymbal slides up on the left, it is brought back straight into the body. The cymbal is stopped by catching the air pocket inside of the cymbals. The cymbals maintain contact at all times. The desired sound is a "sizzle then choke" effect.

Holding for the Snares

Oftentimes, the cymbal players will hold for the snares. Different songs require either a closed hi-hat effect or ride cymbal pattern. All of the different sounds will most likely be used to emulate the sounds of a drum set. For hi-hat effects, hold the cymbals horizontally, with the right hand over the left. Hold the cymbals slightly off-set, to allow for more of a sizzle sound. When holding for a cymbal ride, the cymbals can be held either over or under hand. Always hold the cymbals in a position as to allow the snare drummers to reach them easily without bending or reaching.

Instrument Care

Resting instrument

Carefully rest one cymbal down on a clean, dry and NON-ABRASIVE surface, or on the cymbal bag when possible. Rest the second cymbal directly on top of the first. Lift the instruments straight off of the surface without sliding. Avoid high traffic areas to eliminate the chance of someone stepping on the instruments.

Cleaning the instrument

Before each performance, cymbals should be polished to a high luster so that there is an absence of fingerprints on both sides of the cymbal. To make this easier, use gloves when handling the instruments. Polish the cymbals with a non-abrasive brass cleaner. Follow the directions on the product.

Concert/Orchestral Crash Cymbals

Firmly hold strap between pointer finger and thumb, as one would grasp a mug. Do NOT place hand through straps, grip outside for quick cymbal changes.

Learn to turn wrist over ending with thumb on top, similar to turning a key in the car door.

Always strike cymbals together so one edge strikes the other first. Thus, a "Flam" sound is achieved when the bottom (or top) edges meet before the opposite side. This will avoid an 'airlock'. When playing a cymbal crash, visualize two circles moving in opposite directions.

Make sure that you start with the cymbal edges closely together for soft crashes. For loud crashes, start farther apart. Remember, the louder the crash, the bigger the motion.