Cymbals are typically made from either brass or bronze, with bronze being the preferred, more musical of the two cymbal alloys.
What's the difference between brass and bronze?
BRASS - A mixture of copper and zinc.
BRONZE - A mixture of copper and tin, with trace amounts of silver.
Different cymbal manufacturers have used variations of bronze by adjusting the ratio of copper to tin. The higher the copper content, the harder the cymbal alloys tend to be which limits the amount of cold work that can be done. Here are the more popular bronze alloys:
B8 - 92% copper and 8% tin.
B12 - 88% copper and 12% tin.
B15 - 85% copper and 15% tin.
B20 - 80% copper and 20% tin.
*B20 is the famous Zildjian recipe used on most manufacturer's professional models.
It has been said that Zildjian's alloy formula is a secret that has been handed down to only certain family members over many generations dating back to the early 1600's. In fact, it is not the alloy formula itself that is the secret, but rather the smelting techniques used to produce the magic alloy.
Check out a Modern Drummer Magazine article about cymbal alloys HERE!