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DIY 3-zone cymbal (revisited)

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  • DIY 3-zone cymbal (revisited)

    (An updated version of this cymbal can be found here)

    Hi all,

    At last, I have been able to put together a 3-zone piezo/switch/switch cymbal that is relatively easy to make, reliable and (possibly) durable. For some time I'd been fiddling around with DIY membrane switches but in the end I decided that they just wouldn't do - they were too flimsy and were bound to fail somewhere down the line. A few days ago a megadrum user posted a picture of a 2-box cymbal showing how they make their edge switches. I'd seen it before but seeing it again got me thinking. So cheers Privatex for the inspiration!

    - 2 plastic practice cymbals
    - Copper tape
    - A hacksaw
    - Glue
    - 1 mm sheet rubber
    - Carbon fibre car body vinyl
    - Piezos, jacks, etc.

    So, here's how it's done:

    First, I took one of the cymbals (for the top) and cut out a circle at the bell just big enough to clear the felt of the wingnut. You'll see why later. Then, I made a series of cuts down slightly past the bell area. Each of these segments can now be easily bent downwards with little force and will return to their position:

    Then, I made some cuts around the edge, similar to what 2-box does, to achieve the same effect:

    Next I prepared the top of the bottom cymbal. A ring of copper around the edge and another around the top of the bell. It looks pretty terrible because I reused it from a previous experiment and it still has some gunk from the glue on it, but it doesn't matter because it won't be seen:

    Now comes the laborious part. Each segment around the edge has copper under it, but since each segment is separate from the other, I had to run a ring of copper around the cymbal further in and link each segment to it. The bell was a bit easier, just strips going down to the ring that joins them. Last of all, the edge and bell copper each goes to its own wire to go down through the bottom cymbal and into the jack box. To make double sure all connections between the strips of copper work and because I found that even though the sticky side is conductive, sometimes for some reason it isn't, so I applied a very thin layer of solder to every point where the copper strips meet. The white bits are duct tape folded over itself to create the tiny gap needed for the switch. The gunk around the bell on the bottom cymbal did the job there:


    Ideally, the bottom cymbal should be sanded around the edge and the bell to create the gap. I had neither the tools handy, the willpower to do it by hand nor the patience, so I just did without.
    Next, I stuck both cymbals together and waited for the glue to dry. I stuck 3 piezos to the underside of the bottom cymbal for even 360 triggering, wired everything up, covered the bottom with some vinyl and attached a small project box with its jacks (I use rca jacks). The top is covered with 1 mm sheet rubber and then some carbon fibre vinyl for looks. Here is the end result:

    As you can see, if you don't cut out the circle at the top of the bell, the pressure from the felt and washer would close the bell switch. I just need to glue something there to prevent dirt from getting in under the switches.
    I've been playing with it for a couple of days and it works great, better than anything else I've tried until now, and I'm hoping it should last. I'll post a video if I get a chance one of these days so you can see.

    Anyway, that's it. Total cost: around 10 plus about 2 & 1/2 hours putting it together. A bargain!

    Edit: this design has been updated here:
    Last edited by ignotus; 03-02-17, 12:38 PM.

  • #2
    I can only say one thing: WOW.

    Maybe I should quit trying to make good looking real brass cymbals with low stick noise, and go your way.
    Brain: mega drum. 5 toms: DIY mesh head, side-mounted DIY triggers. Snare: 14" 682 head, DIY crossbar trigger. 2xDIY beaterless BD pedal. .Cymbals: Crash: 2x 16" brass: 2 zone. Ride: 20" brass: 2 zone. Hi-Hat: 14" 1 zone DIY Control pedal + Pearl H900 stand. + drum rack:


    • #3
      Well done Ignotus,
      So the bottom cymbal is a normal "conductive" cymbal?




      • #4
        Thanks guys.

        Originally posted by Chrescht View Post
        So the bottom cymbal is a normal "conductive" cymbal?
        No, it's another practice cymbal. You see, you want them to be identical in shape to get the top one to fit snugly over the bottom one and have a tiny gap where the switches are, and I wouldn't waste an acoustic cymbal to do this anyway. Those 14" plastic cymbals cost me 3.40 each. Plus, the one here practically weighs as much as a regular cymbal, so if you use a metal one it would be really heavy.


        • #5
          Hi Ignotus,

          Now i got it :-)
          Sorry, i missed a few lines while reading.
          Does it also register light hits?

          Very nice, well done.




          • #6
            Yes, it also registers light hits - not feather-light hits of course, but more than enough for normal playing. The trick is to have the smallest gap possible without risking the parts making contact when you glue the cymbals together (you don't want to have to tear it apart again), about 0.8 - 1 mm. I think sanding the bell and edge areas of the bottom cymbal by that amount would be the neatest option. The longer the cuts and the narrower the segments the easier they bend, it's just a matter of cutting one segment until you're satisfied with how it bends and then doing the rest.
            I'll make a video when I get the chance so you can get an idea of how it performs.


            • #7
              Ok...i ordered already some practice cymbals :-)
              May i ask what coppertape you used?


              • #8
                I can't remember which seller I bought it from, here's one that sells the same stuff: but there are quite a few that sell it. One thing though - it's cheap, but it can take a long time to arrive (mine took almost a month, delivered to Spain), so don't be in a hurry.


                • #9
                  Here's a video showing the zone separation and stick noise:
                  Last edited by ignotus; 03-11-15, 05:27 AM. Reason: Upoladed video to include stick noise


                  • #10
                    great results. congratulations.
                    TD-25KV Kit + TD-8 Module + SPD6


                    • #11
                      I dig it!
                      TD-20 (non expanded), acoustic look DIY a to e conversion - some cake pan/ some crossbar method. DIY cymbals, VH-12 :-)
                      Psalm 150
                      had the best times with this band
                      YouTube video postings:
                      Vdrums Photo Albums:


                      • #12
                        Hi, I just registered to this forum specifically for this post, lots of other great info on here as well though. I was wondering if the 4th picture you have is the under side of the top cymbal, I'm assuming it is, as it will complete the circuit when they are compressed together. Also, is there a way you can explain the wiring? I'm doing a complete acoustic diy conversion and building my cymbals. The 3 zone ride is what I'm having trouble with, and you are my savior Does this set up use 2 stereo jacks to hook up like the cy15r does? I noticed you mentioned rca which are single channel, there for I'm guessing one 1/4" stereo jack would do the trick.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JSonnier View Post
                          I was wondering if the 4th picture you have is the under side of the top cymbal.
                          Yes, only the outer rim and the top of the bell make contact with the copper on the bottom cymbal, the rest is to connect everything together.

                          Originally posted by JSonnier View Post
                          Also, is there a way you can explain the wiring? I'm doing a complete acoustic diy conversion and building my cymbals. The 3 zone ride is what I'm having trouble with, and you are my savior Does this set up use 2 stereo jacks to hook up like the cy15r does? I noticed you mentioned rca which are single channel, there for I'm guessing one 1/4" stereo jack would do the trick.
                          It's wired "Yamaha-style": Piezo ceramic goes to tip, edge switch (top cymbal) goes to ring through a 10k resistor and the bell switch (top cymbal) also goes to ring, no resistor. The copper on the bottom cymbal goes to sleeve (ground), as does the piezo brass. So yes, for this wiring one stereo jack is enough. I just use RCAs in all my pads because I have a load of female RCA jacks and TRS>RCA cables and because it's handy for splitting stereo inputs. If you have a Roland module, I'm not 100% sure how that's wired, but I do know it uses 2 stereo inputs. Someone else will have to confirm this, but I think that the piezo (tip) and edge switch (ring) go to one jack, and the piezo again and the bell switch go to the other jack. No resistor on the edge switch.


                          • #14
                            Hi ignotus. Some 2box cymbal switches solutions are used there Good job.


                            • #15
                              Here's a 3-zone hi hat I made using the same method with some slight improvements:



                              This time I didn't use any spacing material between the cymbals that are glued together, nor did I sand them. They were 14" but I cut them down to about 12" to keep things in proportion to the rest of the kit. Turns out that after cutting them they were ever so slightly warped - just enough to leave about a 1mm gap at the bell and edge. Perfect!
                              I also made the segments at the bell and edge a bit smaller (cut more of them) for more sensitivity, and made the bottom cymbal of the "sandwich" slightly smaller than the top one. This allowed me to wrap the vinyl over and under the outer edge for better looks and should help prevent dust or dirt from getting in the switch area as easily.
                              I also did a better job with the vinyl - it's very unforgiving. If there are any lumps or imperfections underneath it, they show up twice as visibly when you lay it down. Also (if you use this), a hair dryer is a must to get it to follow the shape of the cymbal and to prevent wrinkles.