The cymbal is both vibration generator and resonator.
The musician strikes the suspended cymbal with a stick, causing mainly the rim to vibrate and it is this that produces sound. The center remains motionless. It is for this reason that the instrument is struck on the rim and hung from the center. The cymbal’s inherent elasticity allows the vibrations to develop and produce the reverberation (sustain), the duration of which is determined by the force and point of impact, the alloy, the thickness and the size of the plate.
The stick is removed from the cymbal immediately after striking it to prevent a second impact on the rebound and the buzzing noise or damping of the tone that could result. The percussionist lets the note reverberate for as long as required in the score before damping the cymbal with his hand. Alternatively he may allow the sound to die out naturally.
The pitch of the cymbal is determined by the alloy and the weight. Larger plates sound lower than smaller ones. Heavier plates sound lower than lighter ones of the same diameter.
Because a struck cymbal produces a large number of inharmonic partials a metallic, noise-like sound results which is also harsh if the oscillation frequency is high. The pitch is indefinite (or cannot easily be determined) and has the character of noise.
Because the struck cymbal produces a large number of inharmonic partials a metallic, dark, exotic, dull, noise-like sound results which is never bright. The pitch is mostly indefinite (or cannot easily be determined).
Chinese cymbals are occasionally also played as a pair.