I know that finger cymbals are not the most popular prop. There are some that fear that they are a lost art and are dying out. I hope not, because I love them. I will admit that it took me a bit to get confident with them. They are not quiet and if you make a mistake, the audience WILL here it. But I took that as a challenge! I love performing with them and my audiences seem to respond to them really well. So, in the hopes that this might help a few of my readers dare to take them up, here are some of my tools and tricks for your bellydance finger cymbals.
1. Size matters. The size of your finger cymbal matters. It is important to pick a size and weight that feels right in your hand. I started off with a small pair and struggled. When I was encouraged to pick up a larger pair, it became much easier for me. This was because the size of the cymbal didn’t feel “right” in my hand. Once I got used to using them, I was able to use different sizes but I wish I had known that I could go larger at the start. Just because something is marketed as a beginner size cymbal, doesn’t mean you HAVE to use it.
2. Metals make a difference. My first pair were silver and I loved the tone. I noticed however that they didn’t sound right with certain songs. What I didn’t know was that the color wasn’t just for matching my costumes, the metal makes a difference. Different metals have different tones and different weights. And more recently, Nadirah Nasreen taught me that you can mix and match. Why limit yourself to all silver or brass or gold? Combine them in whatever sounds good to you and with your music.
3. Dual slots. Knowing to pay attention to this would have saved me a lot of anguish. There are some dancers who can use a pair of finger cymbals that only have one hole but I am not that dancer. The dual holes allow your finger to lay flat and give more control over the cymbal. At least, this is my experience and have found it to work for my students as well.
4. Attach them how you like. You don’t have to spend hours sewing the elastic perfectly. Heck, it doesn’t have to be sewn perfectly or at all. As long as it doesn’t fly off and hit someone (sadly, this has happened to me but it was because the elastic broke) it’s good. You can use teeny tiny safety pins that fit under the dome underneath if you like. There are also dancers that have found that a certain type of hair tie will work with the dual slotted zills as well!
5. Practice makes perfect. The stronger your hands, forearms and arms become the better you will play and the less awkward they will feel.
6. Don’t harp on yourself for rhythm identification. Focus on being able to recognize that there is one and play it. Even if you’re just doing triplets, that’s a start
7. The whole song is not needed. This one I have heard from clients. They have actually told me it’s not necessarily to play along with the whole song. Accenting a portion of the music is just fine. you don’t have to play the whole song
8. Conversational zills aren’t so easy. This is also referred to as synchopation. The easiest way for me to describe this is playing to the melody or the words and not the drum beat.
9. Play around with them! You can take a regular pattern and jazz it up by changing the way your hands move or which parts you strike or hit it. it engages the audience more and they pay attention.
I know I usually like to have an even 10 but I think these 9 truly cover my top tips and tricks for bellydance finger cymbals. If you have some of your own, feel free to share them below!