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The ride cymbal is the heart and soul of any jazz drum kit setup. It’s typically the main focus in jazz swing grooves, so having a great-sounding ride is crucial.
It’s not uncommon for jazz drummers to use more than one ride cymbal in their setup, whereas most drummers who play other styles only ever have one ride around their drums. So, it’s good to look at multiple rides when looking for jazz cymbal options.
A ride cymbal used for jazz needs to be musical and versatile enough to fit well with all the subgenres played within jazz. Cymbals with complex tones work incredibly well.
In this guide, we’ll look at the best jazz ride cymbals for your drum set. I’ve compared performance, quality, sound, and cost to give you my top recommendations.
In a Rush Round-Up
Jazz Ride Cymbals Reviews
The winner of the best jazz ride cymbal is this highly expressive Zildjian K Constantinople Renaissance Ride Cymbal; and it’s a beautiful sounding cymbal with lots of articulation and just the right amount of wash.
This cymbal has so many characteristics that make it a pure joy to play. It has a very wide spectrum of sound and it feels great to play with a nice, balanced rebound.
The Zildjian K Constantinople line is an illustrious range of cymbals. They are made by Zildjian in small batches, and they represent the pinnacle of Zildjian craftsmanship.
Zildjian K Constantinople cymbals are arguably the best jazz cymbals to ever be produced. They are characterized by deep and complex hammer marks and gradual curvatures to produce very rich and highly musical sounds that are irresistibly smooth.
The cymbal is supremely responsive and it performs crashes, accents, and shanks incredibly well. It has such a beautiful and delicate sound and a dark wash that floats underneath the cleanly articulated stick sound.
The 20” Constantinople renaissance ride is one of the finest ride cymbals to ever be produced. If you are looking for a cymbal that possesses a wide range of dynamic and gorgeous sounds, this is the best jazz ride cymbal around.
- Very rich and highly musical sounds
- Best jazz ride cymbal with the perfect wash
- Pinnacle of Zildjian craftsmanship
- Expensive cymbal, but worth every cent
The Meinl 21″ Byzance Transition Ride Cymbal is a premium ride cymbal that possesses delightfully warm and vintage sounds – one of the best cymbals for jazz music.
This stunning ride cymbal is a gorgeous musical instrument. It’s a work of art that has fantastic sonic properties and a controlled overall volume.
This jazz ride cymbal has a beautifully rounded sound that is ultra responsive to the touch. It has a warm and precise stick definition, and the cymbal opens up when comping and crashing on the edge.
Where this cymbal exceeds is its versatility. It has a clean ride sound when played on the bow or the bell with the tip of the stick, and when transitioning to wide open crashing it produces a full, highly musical sound.
With dark, earthy, warm, and musical sounds, the Meinl 21″ Byzance Transition ride cymbal is one of the best jazz ride cymbals available right now.
If you are looking for a gorgeous ride cymbal that has a dark, earthy tone and a beautiful stick definition, this really makes a fantastic choice.
- Perfect as both a ride and crash
- One of a kind appearance
- Dark, earthy tone and woody stick definition
- Very few negatives- besides the price tag!
The Meinl 20” Byzance Extra Dry Medium Ride Cymbal is another gorgeous-sounding cymbal from Meinl that has a very distinctive personality.
This cymbal naturally has a very dry tone. It performs as one of the best jazz ride cymbals on the market and it works perfectly for other various styles of music including pop, blues, fusion and R&B.
The Meinl Byzance Extra Dry ride cymbal produces a particularly dark and dry sound. It produces a highly articulate stick sound that is indeed very impressive.
The cymbal offers a beautifully clean and crisp sound thanks to the large bell that gives it a lot of presence.
The cymbal naturally has a very dry and dark tone and is without a doubt one of the best jazz cymbals to choose from.
- A lot of stick definition
- Beautifully clean and crisp sound
- Wide natural spread makes it incredibly musical
- Does not crash very well
- Too little wash
- Potentially too dry sounding for some
The Paiste 20″ PST 7 Light Ride Cymbal is a stunning, lightweight cymbal that produces rich and musical sounds. It’s an affordable yet premium sounding cymbal,
This cymbal is one of the best ride cymbals for jazz music because it has a responsive and full-bodied sound, and a great balance of wash and stick definition.
The overall sound of the Paiste PST7 light ride is mellow and smooth yet has lots of bright qualities. It’s very light and therefore has a great amount of wash, and it really excels when it bursts into life as a crash cymbal!
The cymbal produces an expressive and musical voice. It’s a fantastic all-around cymbal. It responds supremely well to all different levels of playing dynamics.
The Paiste PST7 light ride cymbal doesn’t simply sound great – it also offers fantastic value for money. It’s a versatile and highly functional ride cymbal with an excellent crash that makes it an excellent choice for working drummers in different musical scenarios.
If you are looking for a versatile and mellow cymbal at a great price, this is one of the best jazz ride cymbals for the money.
- Exceptional value for money
- Versatile jazz crash and ride cymbal
- Expressive, lightweight and musical
- A little on the brighter side
The Meinl Classics Custom Crash Ride Cymbal is a great sounding cymbal that possesses a unique dark finish. This cymbal has an excellent stick definition, and the bell of the cymbal has a clear and definitive ping sound.
This Meinl Classics Custom 22” crash ride cymbal is not specifically designed to be the single best jazz ride cymbal by nature, but it is highly versatile and performs very well in a jazz setting. It has a wide dynamic range and produces complex and musical sounds that exceed its price point.
This cymbal really excels because it offers the best of both worlds. It produces clean and articulate ride sounds from the bell and bow of the cymbal, and it performs brilliantly as a crash cymbal as it explodes with lots of character and volume.
This cymbal is not as warm and mellow as the previous cymbals reviewed, but it does mean it performs better in louder volume scenarios. It is formed from a B10 bronze alloy that means its sound is not as rich as the premium B20 bronze cymbals designed specifically for jazz.
Overall this is a good sounding ride cymbal that is a great choice for both beginners and working drummers. It also offers excellent value for money and this cymbal will perform well across a wide range of musical applications.
- Excellent sounding ride and crash cymbal
- Highly versatile and good value for money
- Bright and clear stick definition
- Lacks warmth and richness
- Suitable for jazz music but not the best option
- Heavy cymbal model
Jazz Ride Cymbal Buying Guide
The main function of a ride cymbal in jazz settings is to provide an open yet articulate sound that you can use to keep time.
Jazz is such a broad term for a wide variety of styles and feels, and your ride cymbal needs to be able to support all of those with its tones.
Depending on the size, weight, bell size, and material makeup of your ride cymbal, you’ll get vastly different sounds from it. So, it’s important to look out for those features when choosing a ride cymbal for jazz.
Features to Look for in a Jazz Ride Cymbal
All cymbals are made from different metal alloys, and those alloys determine the cost of the cymbal, as well as the quality of sound.
The cheapest cymbals are made from brass, and I suggest staying far away from those when looking for a jazz ride.
Budget and inexpensive cymbals are made from either B8, or B10 bronze. Some B10 ride cymbals are surprisingly musical, and they work well for jazz.
The best ride cymbals are made from B20 bronze. These ride cymbals have the most complex tones, along with plenty of musical responsiveness.
The cymbals with the highest costs have also been hand-hammered to get unique sounds. These are the best cymbals that you can get, and a good hand-hammered ride cymbal sounds beautiful in a jazz drum kit setup.
Thin ride cymbals are quicker to speak, and they work brilliantly for playing jazz ride patterns.
Generally speaking, thinner ride cymbals work best for jazz drumming. Thin cymbals also tend to have better crashability.
However, you shouldn’t necesserily rule thicker ride cymbals out. They produce more volume, and they are suitable for louder and more energetic settings. A good example would be playing drums in a big band with 20 other musicians.
Thin ride cymbals are typically more expensive, while thick ride cymbals are more affordable most of the time.
When it comes to jazz, it’s better to have a warm, dark, and complex sound from your ride cymbal. Cymbals with these tonal qualities are more musically expressive, lending better to the types of things played on the drums in jazz setups.
Bright cymbals are quite sharp and stick out in a jazz setup a bit too much. Having one or two bright cymbals may work, but I wouldn’t recommend using a very bright ride cymbal.
The ideal jazz cymbal will have musical sounds from playing on the edge, bow, and bell.
If you get a ride that doesn’t sound as good in one area, you can always use a second ride cymbal in your setup to compensate for that.
Cymbals that have gone through the most in-depth production processes sound the best, yet they’re the most expensive to ride cymbals to buy. Inexpensive cymbals don’t sound as good, so keep that in mind.
Things to Consider When Buying a Jazz Ride Cymbal
Consider the cymbal size:
A good jazz ride cymbal will range from 18” to 24”. The smaller the ride is, the more defined stick articulation it will have.
As rides get bigger, they get more washiness when played on the surface. A bit of washiness is good, but too much washiness will take away the stick definition, which is why 24” rides aren’t very commonly used.
Check the bell sound:
The bell of a ride cymbal is significant in many jazz subgenres. A good example is Latin music. You need a strong bell that cuts enough to be heard when playing with other musicians. If a ride doesn’t have a strong bell sound, it won’t be the best option for many jazz settings.
It’s a big bonus if a ride cymbal can be crashed on. Jazz drumming often has you using ride cymbals interchangeably as crash cymbals as well, so a ride cymbal that can be crashed on is ideal in a jazz drum setup.
Some ride cymbals have better crashing sounds than others, but you don’t want to get too much crashability and lose the stick definition.
Establish your budget:
Quality ride cymbals are some of the most expensive cymbals that you can get for a drum kit. If you want an amazing jazz ride cymbal, be prepared for a premium price tag.
However, you can also find some reasonably good-sounding cymbals at affordable prices. They just won’t be as musical or responsive.
Jazz Ride Cymbal FAQs
How Many Cymbals Does a Jazz Drum Setup Feature?
A basic jazz setup typically has three cymbals. Your hi-hats, a crash cymbal on the left, and a ride cymbal on the right. Many jazz drummers play with two ride cymbals instead of using a crash cymbal.
However, don’t limit yourself to only three cymbals if you’d like to use more. Using more than three cymbals gives you access to a wider array of sounds, which is excellent for jazz drumming.
What Brand of Cymbals is Best for Jazz Drumming?
Meinl, Zildjian, Paiste, and Sabian are the most widely used cymbal brands worldwide, no matter what style of music a drummer plays. However, Meinl and Zildjian have many cymbals in their product lines that cater incredibly well to jazz drumming, so you may see more jazz drummers using those than the other two brands.
Many jazz drummers also love using cymbals from smaller brands, such as Istanbul Agop or Bosphorus.