I have a confession. I love playing finger cymbals (zills, sagat, hellspawn carried on the fingers, whatever you wish to call them). They can be considered a very noisy instrument, but if played well, they are musical and a great addition to a dancer’s tool (prop) kit.
As a dancer and my body is a visualisation of what the musicians are playing. Or more correctly, how I am interpreting what I hear them playing. By playing finger cymbals with my movements, I am also being a part of the band – part of the percussion section specifically. What I play should complement what the band is playing and fit in with the emotional content of the music (aka the feeling).
Meet my collection of finger cymbals
This is my main set, they travel everywhere with me – even if I have no need of cymbals. The set contains everything I need. Like mufflers to keep the peace with my neighbours; earplugs for when I’m drilling movements in class in a room full of cymbals (hearing protection is important!); and a bag to hold it all together. It’s always helpful to have a bag to hold everything together. This one was bought at the M&M shop in Times Square NYC by my kids (who felt mumma needed a green M&M bag!).
I have several other pairs as well. Including a large pair of cymbals that are based on the size musicians use that can feel like you are wearing dinner plates when you first put them on. Two sets of Turkish style zill (one medium sized, one small), and a delicate sounding medium-small pair of cymbals.
I used to think that smaller quieter sounding ones were better. But in time I’ve found that really, all that happens is the sound gets lost in the room of noise. My “work horse” pair can be softer, or louder, depending on what I need them to be and it’s all in my control. Which is nicer than needing to change cymbals if I don’t want to be as noisy or more noisy!
There is such a rich history with finger cymbals and it doesn’t take much to find many videos of dancers playing them on YouTube both with and without music.
Did you know that APB Dance sells mufflers for your finger cymbals as well as teaching classes where you can practise your playing?