CYMBALS, a modern instrument of percussion of indefinite musical pitch, whereas the small ancient cup-shaped cymbals sounded a definite note. Cymbals consist of two thin round plates of an ally containing eight parts of copper to two of tin, and the sound is obtained by clashing and rubbing them against each other. Although cymbals are not often required they form part of every orchestra. They are specially suited for suggesting frenzy, fury or bacchanalian revels, as in the Venusberg music in Wagner's Tannhiffuser and Grieg's Peer Gynt suite.
The timbre of the ancient cymbals is entirely different, more like that of small hand-bells or of the notes of the keyed har monica. They are not struck full against each other, but by one of their edges, and the note given out by them is higher in propor tion as they are thicker and smaller. Berlioz in Romeo and Juliet scored for two pairs of cymbals, modelled on some an cient Pompeian instruments no larger than the hand.
The origin of the cymbals must be referred to prehistoric times.
The ancient Egyptian cymbals closely resembled our own. The British Museum possesses two pairs, 5-Ain. in diameter, one of which was found in the coffin of the mummy of Ankhhape, a sacred musician. CYMBALUM: see CHIME-BELL.