Zils (finger cymbals)

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zil fingercymbals

Zills commonly have a diameter of about 5 cm (2 in). Accomplished dancers will often have a second slightly larger set for use in noisy situations. A set of zills consists of four cymbals, two for each hand.

Makers of zills commonly use brass rather than the bronze used for larger cymbals, but they may also employ many other alloys. They may plate some zills in order to give a silvery colour or a brighter surface. Dancers speak of silver tone and gold tone, and may have several sets with different tones for different dances, or of different colours to match different costumes. Modern dancers use elastic to secure the zills, one to the thumb and one to the middle finger of each hand. A hole or two slots allow the threading of the elastic through the zill. Performers use a variety of ways to cause the zills to ring, resulting in a wide range of sounds that the instruments can produce.

Zills belong to the standard instruments used in Ottoman military bands and also occasionally appear as part of Western orchestral or other musical performances. In these cases musicians usually just call them finger cymbals and use them to obtain a ringing sound with "Middle Eastern" associations. Percussionists playing finger cymbals sometimes use a less complicated technique than the traditional one used by dancers. The musician holds one cymbal in each hand by gripping the strap between the thumb and the index finger, and plays them by striking the rims together. They use this technique for occasional flourishes in the music rather than for complex rhythms and sounds.

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