Címbala Spanish
Cimbalo Italian
Cimbel German
Cymbal English
Cymbale French
Cymbel German
Zimbala Spanish
Zimbel German
Zymbel German
Cembalo Czech
Cimbale (unknown)
Cimball English
Simbala Portuguese
Resimbala Portuguese

These names denote a mixture of relatively high pitch. It originated, according to Williams, as a high chorus mixture separated from the old Blockwerk. While Sumner states that it originally contained only octave-sounding ranks, or octaves and fifths, Williams reports that some early Zimbels contained a third-sounding rank. It was sometimes synonymous with Scharf. One early form of Zimbel consisted of one or more ranks which repeated the same pitches every octave (Repetirende Cymbel).

The Cymbale of the classical French organ was an important component of the Plein Jeu registration. Along with the Fourniture, it provided brilliance and stability to all ranges. The Cymbale and Fourniture were designed to complement each other, and both were considered indispensible, except in the smallest instruments in which the Cymbale alone was provided. Occasionally, the two mixtures would be combined into a single Mixture. The classical French Cymbale never contained third-sounding ranks, only octave- and fifth-sounding ranks, and always broke every fourth or fifth, that is, twice per octave. In its upper range it included ranks supporting the 16' harmonic series (e.g. 5-1/3'), and in some cases even the 32'. The Cymbale had the same number of ranks as the Fourniture, or perhaps one or two less, but never more.

Outside of France, and even in France after the end of the classical period, the composition of the Cymbal was much less predictable. Wedgwood calls it "practically identical with the Sharp Mixture or Fourniture". Cymbals typically have anywhere from two to six ranks.

While Audsley and Wedgwood claim that this stop was named after the modern unpitched cymbal of the orchestra and drum kit, the organ stop predates that percussion instrument by at least two centuries. More likely is the derivation given by Maclean and Williams, after the tuned, bell-like "antique cymbals" now called "crotales". The term Cymbal has also been used for a percussion stop.


Audsley[1] gives the following atypical example:

Cymbal VII
c3 to c4- 8158121519
c2 to b2 15812151922
c1 to b1 8121519222629
C to B 12151922262933
CC to BB 15192226293336


Cymbale Harmonique
Echo Cymbal
Fourniture Cymbalisée
Grosse Cymbale
Harmonic Cymbal
Rauschende Zimbel
Repetirende Cymbel


Osiris contains 225 examples of Cymbale, 200 of Cymbel, 140 of Zimbel, 75 of Cimbala, 70 of Cimbel, 60 of Cymbal, eleven of Cimbalo, nine of Zymbel (all from the 20th century), seven of Zimbala, three of Simbala (all from the same organ, see below), and one each of Cembalo and Resimbala. No example are known of Cimbale or Cimball (mentioned only by Grove). Contributions welcome.

See also examples of composition.

Cembalo IV 1/2', Hauptwerk; Church of the Virgin Mary Before the Týn; Prague, Czechoslovakia; Mundt 1670-1673, 1682; Gartner 1823. This is the only known example of this name.

Cymbal 3' [sic]; Boskapel, Impde, Belgium; Goltfuss? 1660.

Zímbala IV, Organo mayor, left; Santa María la Real, Xunqueira de Ambía, Orense, Spain; Valdonado 1759.

Resimbala III, Manual II left, Gospel side; Cathedral, Braga, Spain; Fontanes 1737. This is the only known example of this name.

Simbala V, Manual left, Epistle side; Cathedral, Braga, Spain; Fontanes 1739.

Simbala III, Positivo de Costas left, Gospel side; Cathedral, Braga, Spain; Fontanes 1739.

Simbala IV, Manual II left, Gospel side; Cathedral, Braga, Spain; Fontanes 1739.

Sound Clips

Zymbeln II, Hinterwerk Reinhardtsgrimma, Sachsen, Germany Silbermann, 1731 arpeggio
Cymbel III, Great Culver Academies, Indiana, USA Burger & Shafer 1972; Möller pipes arpeggio St. Anne


Adlung[1]: §134 Cymbel. Audsley[1]: Cymbal. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Cymbal. Bedos[1]: § 150, 152, 175-177, 256, 965. Douglass[1]: 76-85, 91-92, 101-102. Grove[1]: Zimbel. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 628, 1138. Irwin[1]: Cymbal. Locher[1]: Cymbal. Maclean[1]: Cymbel. Skinner[1]: 38, 50; XII Cymbal. Sumner[1]: Cymbale; Zymbel. Wedgwood[1]: Cymbal. Williams[1]: Glossary: Zimbel.
Copyright © 2008 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Cymbal.html - Last updated 13 February 2009.
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