How To Make A Sizzle Cymbal

I remember hanging a dog chain collar on my cymbal when I was a kid to try to get that cool sizzling sound. It didn’t work so well. There are a handful of devices on the market that emulate this classic sound, but for my money, there is nothing that comes close to the sound of real rivets. Rivets can be placed all around the cymbal like numbers on a clock or in small clusters. I prefer a fairly tight, evenly spaced cluster of three rivets. This cluster technique is what I will explain in this installment.

1. Pick a cymbal that sounds good. I know this sounds obvious, but some people think that by adding rivets to a low-quality cymbal it will make it sound good. Unless you are going for some bizarre sound effect, all you end up with is a lousy sounding cymbal that sizzles.

2. Put the cymbal you picked on a tilted cymbal stand and gently spin it. Do this three or four times to determine where the cymbal wants to sit. It should come to rest in pretty much the same spot every time. Play the cymbal to see if it adjusts in either direction.

3. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the cymbal that is farthest away from your playing position. This is where you want to install the rivets so when you play the cymbal you’re not hitting them.

4. Mark the underside of the cymbal. I like to use a divider and a felt marker for this.

The most common spacing is 1.5" in from the edge and 1" apart.

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5. Place the cymbal on an anvil or the flat part of a vise and use a center punch on the marks you made on the underside of the cymbal.

6. Clamp and brace the cymbal underside up on a block of wood and drill the holes where you center-punched. If you are using standard rivets I recommend a 3/16 metal drill bit. Don’t use too much pressure or else you might crack the cymbal.

7. With the underside of the cymbal facing up, put the flat head of the rivet through the cymbal skinny-side up. Clamp the cymbal so the flat head of the rivet is resting on a flat anvil or vise. Hold the rivet in place with vise grips and use a cold chisel to cut the rivet in two or three directions.

Finally, give the rivet a tap with a center punch and you’re done!

One last tip: If you install too many rivets it can actually make the sustain of the cymbal shorter. Start with a few rivets – you can always add more.