The modern drum kit consists of different sized and pitched cymbals and it is common to see drummers with drum kits featuring only a few cymbals to others with over ten cymbals. What was a few bronze shaped discs hit together by players using only their hands in ancient times is now musically complex and commercially driven.
The cymbal is depicted in various religious texts such as the Bible and they were frequently depicted in artworks and paintings of the Egyptians ancient Greeks and Romans. Cymbals were and still are commonly used in the religious ceremonies of both Hindus and Buddhists.
A bronze circular shape with a hole in the middle has been the basic design of cymbals for thousands of years. The cymbal offers very little in pitch variation by itself. However, the variation of the cymbal comes about when it is used with other sized, pitched and shaped cymbals.
Throughout the history of cymbal usage, there have been many different variations at the top of the cymbal. Cymbals are made bell, dome, or cup-shaped to produce various pitches. Cymbals are also of various sizes and weights. The larger and heavier the cymbal the longer sustain and the louder they are.
The biggest contributors to the development of the crash symbol have been the military, composers, orchestras and in modern times Jazz and rock music. The cymbal was used in the military by the Ottoman Empire. the Janissaries were elite Ottoman soldiers that used cymbals. The Janissaries influenced European composers such as Mozart and Beethoven who included cymbals into their compositions from the 17th century.
Early jazz musicians experimented with drum setups and tried to suspend cymbals with ropes or straps. Later, they mounted cymbals with dampeners and screws that are now found on most modern drum kits. The development of the low boy and later on high hats were a significant development and began to be employed by Jazz players. Swing bands increasingly featured more cymbals and styles such as Bebop tried to move away from Swing style of drumming. Bebop players experimented with different cymbals like the China cymbal and the ride cymbal which gained more prominence during the Bebop period.
Rock drummers such as Keith Moon, John Bonham, and many others continued to add different cymbals to their drum kits as cymbals became more commercially available. Companies tried to gain an edge on their competitors by sponsoring drummers with new creations.
The current evolution of cymbals includes traditional hand cymbals that have been used in the same way for thousands of years and modern usage of mounted and suspended cymbals. Contemporary music includes many sizes, weights, thickness and sounds made to the requirements of each modern drummer.