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Splash cymbals are often overlooked by beginner drummers as a non-essential when building their first kit, and also by listeners who aren’t even aware they exist, or what they sound like. And with fair reasoning – the splash is the smallest in the cymbal family, usually around 8-10 inches, sometimes shrinking all the way down to four, and generally much thinner too.
But what they lack in size and stature, they can make up for in sound. A splash is, in essence, a mini-crash cymbal; one that delivers a quick and cutting attack with a bright blast that comes in fast and then fades. It has an almost mystical, ancient feel to it, and much like a crash, it’s there to enhance and accent your fills, riffs, and solos. It’s also used for special drumming effects too, usually alongside other similar cymbals, such as a China, salsa, bell or sizzle.
“The splash cymbal is my favorite accessory to the drum set,” says Christiana Athena, drummer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for Athena and the Night Owls. “I use them to add personality and flair when I want to make music feel upbeat and playful, and prefer ones with a lower pitch because it gives a more complex sound.”
“I also enjoy a thinner splash that crashes easily and has a quick decay,” she continues. “This way, it adds a nice accent to the end of a roll or fill, but doesn’t conflict with the frequency of other instruments.”
For a small cymbal, the splash was originally designed to be hit pretty hard in order to deliver its effect audibly. Unlike other larger cymbals, there’s not much taper on a splash in order to reinforce its strength, and some of the original ones were the same thickness all the way from the bell to the rim.
The splash was widely used in 1920s and for 1930s jazz, and then, much like its fast-fading effect, seemed to vanish for the next few decades. Stewart Copeland, the legendary drummer for the The Police, began using one in his kit, which helped bring it back to the mainstream, and companies began creating a heavier, slightly-tapered version that’s still used by rock musicians today.
To get you started on the right splash, we’ve selected three from the world’s top cymbal makers below. This short, sharp addition to your kit unlocks new opportunities to build unique combinations in your playing, and to experiment with finding your overall sound as your skill level evolves and progresses.
1. Meinl 10” Splash Cymbal
One of the “Big Four” cymbal companies, Meinl has been in the percussion manufacturing game for more than 70 years – their very first cymbals being cut, hammered, lathed, drilled, and transported (on a bike) by the hardworking founder himself, Ronald Meinl.
The company primarily focused on cymbals for beginners during their first few decades, and were the first to sell cymbals in packs. Though they now cover the whole spectrum of drummers, and have signature series with some great ones, they still craft a solid cymbal for those experimenting with finding their style.
Their 10″ splash shines with a short, shimmering resonance that comes in strong and burns out bright. Add it on to any groove or fill as an immediate accent that cuts through with a controlled and colorful blast of sound. No matter how hard you hit, the Meinl is designed to stand up to any sticks. This solid and durable brass alloy material maintains its tone and can take a beating.
Set it up anywhere in your kit that you’re comfortable with, and start incorporating this small but powerful cymbal into the way you play.
PROS: Strong, stackable with other cymbals, with the same exact look as their higher-end models.
CONS: While this is a great choice for beginners, more experienced drummers will want to seek out one of Meinl’s higher-end, professional-level splash series.
2. WUHAN WUSP 10-Inch Splash Cymbal
While Wuhan isn’t technically considered to be one of the world’s “Big Four” cymbal makers, that doesn’t mean their products can’t offer some serious competition.
The Wuhan 10-inch splash is made of B20 Alloy, just like the higher-end cymbals from Sabian, Zildjian, and Meinl. They’re hand-hammered in China (adhering to a 2,000+ year old tradition), something most other companies don’t offer on beginner-level cymbals, and are known amongst drummers for having a sound described as “beautifully dark.”
This splash can easily be heard in a mix without overpowering it, and Wuhan cymbals have solidified a spot in the kits of percussion legends like Neil Peart and Chad Sexton.
The cymbal itself is thin, crisp and lightweight. It offers a full, quick attack and medium-long decay, with a bright sound that’s less tinny than some other beginner-level splashes. It’s a slight step up from a starter cymbal, and still a great choice for any novice drummer looking to expand their kit and their sound to the next level.
PROS: Holds its own against the competition, even outshining them with a better high-end wash, more clarity, and true splash effect rather than sounding like a crash cymbal that was scaled down.
CONS: While there are benefits to a thin cymbal, and it’s as durable as it can be, some report that it still gets dented after multiple hard hits in the same spots.
3. Zildjian Planet Z 10″ Splash Cymbal
One of the world’s oldest percussion instrument manufacturers (and still run by the same family), Zildjian has been creating cymbals since the early 1600s. Legendary drummer Gene Krupa, while partnering with Zildjian, is the man who actually gave this and many other cymbals the names we refer to them as today – “Splash,” “Crash,” and “Ride,” to name a few.
Zildjian is one of the most trusted and consistently reliable names in drumming, and their beginner’s series, Planet Z, holds up to that same standard. The Planet Z 10-inch Splash is perfect for both practice and performance. Its tone is sharp and focused, fast and cutting, with a colorful and quick decay that won’t overshadow what comes after it. Go ahead and experiment with it at different places in your playing, and in your kit. Its bright sound is meant to shine, and add versatile accents to any setup.
PROS: Durable and tough, with a clean, strong sound. If you’re happy with the Planet Z Splash, there are endless more options and upgrades to stick with Zildjian for a lifetime.
CONS: A few experienced users reported this model gives off a bit of a “ping-y” sound, and chose to go with a higher-end model.