cymbals sĭmˈbəlz [key], percussion instruments of ancient Asian origin. They consist of a pair of slightly concave metal plates which produce a vibrant sound of indeterminate pitch. Known in Europe since the Middle Ages, they were introduced into the European orchestra by Nikolaus Adam Strungk in 1680, but were generally used for exotic effects until the 19th cent. In the orchestra, cymbals have leather handles and are clashed by sweeping them past each other sideways or played by means of a foot pedal. A single cymbal may be struck by wooden or felt drumsticks. Small antique cymbals, used in orchestral scores by Debussy, yield a more definite pitch.

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