How To Buy a Used Cymbal

Here’s a question I hear all the time: Judah, how do I buy a used cymbal?

Well, the answer is simple.

When buying a used cymbal, there are four main factors for which you want to evaluate.

CracksA perfectly uncracked cymbal

This is a pretty simple one – if you notice that the cymbal you want to purchase has cracks in it, stay away! The crack is going to significantly affect the sound you get from the cymbal, no matter where the crack is located. However, finding a crack can sometimes be difficult. If the cymbal is lathed, which means the cymbal has “grooves”, you should check the entire cymbal for cracks embedded in the lathing. This has happened to me before and I knew something was wrong but couldn’t even detect it! So be careful.

KeyholesA cymbal with a perfectly round hole, a.k.a. No Keyholing

Keyholes, or “keyholing” as some like to call it, is produced by metal-to-metal contact, must usually from an improperly mounted cymbal. Cymbal sleeves are typically used to protect the hole of the cymbal from rubbing against the metal of the cymbal holder, preventing friction, which erodes and misshapes the cymbal hole. Generally not a big impact on the cymbal’s sound, keyholes can however lead to cracking, which as we now know, is a fatal blow to the cymbal’s sound.

Flea bitesNo fleabites on this cymbal!

Similar to keyholes flea bites, or, “nicks” or “dings” as some like to call it, is usually sonically insignificant to the cymbal’s sound, however, also like keyholes, flea bites can lead to cracks which we desperately want to avoid.


A cymbal out of even is very easy to spot. All you need to do is put the cymbal down on a flat surface and see if the cymbal touches the surface all the way around. If it does – great! You have a perfectly even cymbal. Generally mostly cosmetic, a uneven cymbal will affect the sound too greatly, but as we have learned, any variation or distortion from the cymbal’s original form could lead to later, undesired effects on the cymbal’s sound.

About the author

This post was written by Judah Parness. Judah has been playing drums for over 25 years and is the Founder & CEO of Drum Exchange, a premier online marketplace to buy and sell used, vintage and out of production music gear.

How To Buy a Used Cymbal

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