Finger Cymbal Techniques

by Chris Brower
Finger cymbals are small cymbals that are hit against each other.

Finger cymbals are small cymbals that are hit against each other.

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Finger cymbals are, as the name implies, very small cymbals that are held with your fingers, around 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Finger cymbals are typically used by two performers: dancers and percussionists in a symphony. Likewise, they each have their own playing technique.

How They're Held

Dancers and percussionists hold finger cymbals differently. Percussionists usually grab each finger cymbal by pinching the elastic strip connected between the index finger and thumb, with one finger cymbal for each hand. Dancers, on the other hand, hold two finger cymbals in one hand, weaving their fingers or thumbs into the elastic strip. For dancers, a finger cymbal is attached to the middle finger, with another one attached to the thumb.


Dancers play finger cymbals by pressing the cymbals in one hand together, and by occasionally pressing a finger around the cymbal to make a duller sound. Typically, they either press the cymbals together or press them together and then separate them quickly to make more of a ringing sound. The finger cymbals are played while the dancer, usually a belly dancer, performs a dance.

Dancer Patterns

Dancers also have several patterns they play with the finger cymbals. These patterns include the order of when each hand plays the cymbals ("R" means right hand, "L" means left hand). One pattern is: RLR RLR RLR RLR. Another is to simply alternate: RLRLRLRL. Another pattern involves a combination of the two: RLR RLR RLRLRLR. These patterns help to also add a visual element to the finger-cymbal part the dancer is playing.

Orchestral Percussionists

Finger cymbals are used less often in orchestral percussion, and don't have as many notable patterns and styles as the finger cymbal techniques for dancers. For percussionists, the cymbals are played by lightly hitting the edge of one of the finger cymbals on the edge of the other to give a ringing sound similar to when a triangle is struck. Rhythms and patterns depend on what the music piece calls for, but generally the rhythms are quite simple, as finger cymbals are typically used to accent certain notes and counts, not used for intricate rhythms.

About the Author

Chris Brower is a writer with a B.A. in English. He also spent time studying journalism and utilizes both to deliver well-written content, paying close attention to audience, and knowing one word could determine whether a product is a success or a failure. He has experience writing articles, press releases, radio scripts, novels, short stories, poems and more.

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