Pair of modern hand-held symphonic orchestral cymbals—Courtesy of Avedis Zildjian Company

Percussion instrument consisting of a circular metal plate that is struck with a drumstick or two such plates that are struck together. They were used, often ritually, in Assyria, Israel (from c. 1100 BC), Egypt, and other ancient civilizations, spread to East Asia, and reached Europe by the 13th century AD. Western orchestral cymbals derive from those used in the Turkish military bands in vogue in 18th-century Europe. Though Asian cymbals are often flat, Middle Eastern and Western cymbals usually have a central concave dome, or boss, so that only the edges touch when they are clashed. The finest cymbals have long been manufactured in Turkey by means of closely guarded techniques. In popular music, cymbals are not clashed manually; instead, a cymbal suspended on a sticklike stand may be brushed or struck, and horizontal “hi-hat” cymbals are clashed lightly by use of a pedal mechanism.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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