Clash cymbals, also known as concert cymbals are matched pairs of acoustically similar cymbals held in each hand with a strap connected through the hole of each cymbal. The cymbals are played together to produce varying degree of sounds, generally climactic. Clash cymbals can vary in size from smaller 14” models used for chamber, marching or quieter ensembles to very large and heavy 24” pairs which are designed specifically for large orchestral pieces requiring significant sound to cut through heavy and dense orchestration.
Marching cymbals are usually of a small to medium size, 15-16” and on the thicker side which produce a clangier and more cutting sound representative of their role. Orchestral clash cymbals however, have more of vibrant range and provide a far greater range of colour and expressive dynamicity.
The use of clash cymbals is very different to that of other cymbal family members. Their role in life is to provide either a consistent pulse in a similar form to a bass drum within the marching arena or in the orchestral role, moments of climatic explosion and peaks of sound. Clash cymbals can also be used with great sensitivity to provide little pockets of joyful whooshinesh. A few different examples would be the enormous and moving, climactic ending of Mahler Symphony No 2 where 24” models (cymbals not others) would be employed to the very quiet and sensitive section of the 2nd movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto, where the player has to merely place the cymbals together to provide support to the wood wind.
As with orchestral bass drums, there are various translations for clash cymbals such as Piatti – Italian, Cymbales – French, Becken – German, Tarelki – Russian.