Making cymbals and related musical instruments by the Zildjian family with a history of more than 400 years. Avedis Zildjian, an ethnic Armenian metallurgist living in Constantinople, combined copper, tin, and small amounts of silver to create a unique sound when struck. Sultan Mustafa of the Ottoman Empire hired Zildjian to make cymbals for his armies. He is said to have paid handsomely for Zildjian’s work.
Cymbals in History
Cymbals date back thousands of years. The earliest known cymbals were made in China during the Bronze Age, around 3000 BC. These early cymbals were flat, with a simple bell shape and no discernible taper. They were typically made from bronze or brass. The sounds of Cymbals were used in religious ceremonies, military parades, and other cultural events.
Cymbals were also used in ancient Greece and Rome, where they were played in orchestras. They appeared in religious and military ceremonies.
In the New Testament (1st Corinthians 13), the Apostle Paul wrote about love. In verse 1, he says that speaking loudly with empty words without love is like a gong or clanging cymbal.
Later in the Middle Ages, cymbals were popular in Europe. They were often played in conjunction with drums and other percussion instruments. By the Nineteenth Century, cymbals and other percussion instruments played a large role in the concerto grosso and symphonic ensembles.
Coming to America
The Zildjian family can be identified as key European cymbal makers all the way from Avedis Zildjian in 1623 to Twentieth Century Turkey. By the late 1920s it had become clear that the Ottoman Empire was in decline. It had suffered greatly from multiple wars. Avedis Zildjian III decided to move the business to America. He joined other family already in The States and set up shop in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1929.
The American company thrived since the Jazz Age was already well underway in The United States. Cymbals had not been much in use before, and then mostly been imported from Europe. Zildjian has remained dominant in its field ever since.
What made Zildjian cymbals so special? The process of producing Zildjian cymbals begins with the careful selection and blending of raw materials. The secret alloy used by the Zildjian family consists of copper, tin, and small amounts of silver, which are melted together in a crucible at temperatures of around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the alloy has been melted and refined, it is poured into a mold and allowed to cool. The resulting disk-shaped piece of metal is called a “blank.” The blanks are then hammered and lathed by skilled craftsmen, who use a combination of hand tools and automated machinery to shape the metal into the desired form and thickness.
During the hammering and lathing process, the cymbal is given its distinctive shape, as well as its sound characteristics. The hammering process involves striking the metal with various types of hammers to create different types of surface patterns, which affect the cymbal’s tone and response. The lathing process involves spinning the cymbal on a lathe while cutting grooves and ridges into the metal, which further affect the cymbal’s sound.
Once the cymbal has been shaped and lathed, it is subjected to a series of tests to ensure that it meets the high standards of quality that the Zildjian family is known for. The cymbals are played by skilled musicians and evaluated for their sound, responsiveness, and overall performance.
Zildjian cymbals are highly specialized and use a time-consuming process. Their secret alloy and commitment to quality have made Zildjian cymbals some of the most sought-after musical instruments in the world.
Some of their modern cymbals are made using a process called “roll-forming.”
In roll-forming, long coils of extruded metal wire are fed through a series of rollers and other shaping tools to create the desired cymbal shape. This method allows for greater consistency and precision in the manufacturing process, as well as the ability to produce cymbals with more complex shapes and designs.
After the metal has been shaped, it is treated with heat and other processes to create the desired sound characteristics.
While cymbals are the main product line for Zildjian, the company also offers a range of other percussion instruments and accessories. Here are a few examples:
Drumsticks: Zildjian produces a wide range of drumsticks, including models designed for different genres of music and playing styles.
Drumheads: Zildjian manufactures drumheads for both acoustic and electronic drums, using a variety of materials and construction techniques.
Percussion instruments: In addition to cymbals, Zildjian also produces a range of other percussion instruments, including gongs, chimes, and triangles.
Accessories: Zildjian offers a variety of accessories for drummers and percussionists, including hardware, cases and bags, practice pads, and more.
Types of Cymbals
Here are some of the most common types of cymbals:
Ride cymbals: These are typically the largest cymbals in a drum set, and they are played with a stick or mallet. They produce a clear, ringing tone and are often used to keep time in a piece of music.
Hi-hat cymbals: These consist of two cymbals mounted on a stand, and they are played with a pedal-operated mechanism. They produce a sharp, sizzling sound and are often used to keep time or add accents in a piece of music.
Crash cymbals: These are typically smaller than ride cymbals and produce a loud, explosive sound when struck with a stick or mallet. They are often used to accentuate dramatic moments in a piece of music.
Splash cymbals: These are small, thin cymbals that produce a bright, shimmering sound when struck. They are often used for quick accents or to add texture to a piece of music.
China cymbals: These have a unique, trashy sound and are often used to add a distinctive accent to a piece of music.
Sizzle cymbals: These are similar to hi-hat cymbals, but they have small metal beads attached to the underside, which produce a rattling, sizzling sound when the cymbals are played.
Swish cymbals: These are large, thin cymbals that produce a dark, swirling sound. They are often used in jazz and other genres that require a softer, more subtle touch.
Timeline in America
Zildjian is one of the oldest continuously operating companies in history. Here is a brief timeline of the ownership of the company since moving to America:
1928: The Zildjian family officially establishes the Avedis Zildjian Company in Quincy, Massachusetts.
1977: The company is split into two separate entities, with the Zildjian family retaining ownership of the Avedis Zildjian Company and Robert Zildjian (son of Avedis Zildjian) establishing the Sabian Cymbal Company.
1998: Robert Zildjian and his family purchase the Canadian drumstick manufacturer Vic Firth, which becomes a sister company to Sabian.
2010: Robert Zildjian passes away, and ownership of Sabian and Vic Firth passes to his son Craig Zildjian.
2015: The Avedis Zildjian Company and Vic Firth are merged into a single entity, known as Zildjian Company.
2020: Zildjian Company is sold to the investment firm Berkshire Partners, with the Zildjian family retaining a minority stake in the company.
While ownership of the Zildjian Company has changed hands to some degree over the years, the Zildjian family has remained closely involved with the company and has maintained a significant presence within the organization.
- Year Started: 1623
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder / Descriptive
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Zildjian Family
- Owner While In Use: Zildjian Family
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Zildjian Cymbals
- Naics Code: 339992
- Location Headquarters: Quincy, Massachusetts USA