Instrument Exploration: Cymbals

CN Instrument Thumbnails

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will be able to identify cymbals by sight and sound.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Cymbals

LEARN. “The crash cymbals are one of many percussion instruments. They are often used to mark very exciting moments in music.” Read a little bit about them and look at a picture here.

WATCH. Watch a professional talk about why he loves the cymbals! Here's Brian Mount from the Minnesota Orchestra.

LISTEN. Listen to the first 30 seconds of the first movement of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. It starts with a trumpet solo, but pretty soon you will hear a very dramatic CRASH.

LISTEN — Symphony No. 5: Trauermarsch
Gustav Mahler


CREATE. Guide students to create their own set of cymbals. Use two paper plates. Cover them in tin foil. Punch two holes in each plate and thread string or yarn through them to make cymbal straps.

PLAY. Let students practice playing their homemade cymbals. If they didn’t make cymbals, they can just use their hands. Listen again to the Mahler piece and help students do the big crash. It’s around 20 seconds. Students may have to try a few times to get it right. Remind them that musicians need to practice. After playing, remind students that musicians need to use a lot of control to wait and wait and then play.

PLAY. Play along with a Sousa March or 'Roman Carnival' by Berlioz. Wait to hear the cymbal, or just play along with any steady beats you want.

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Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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