When buying zills (also known as sagats), always choose zills that have two slots for elastic, not a single hole.

If you want the very best zills, you're in the wrong place.   You need either Saroyan or Turquoise, which we don't stock.   Go to the Turquoise website, or head to Bellydance.com for Saroyan zills.    While you're on the site, invest in a pair of Raqs Rings (pictured) - they fit around the rim of your cymbals so you can practice without waking the neighbours.  Marvellous invention!

Belly Dance Zills on eBay

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Tribal/ATS Zills

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Choosing and Using Zills

If you're about to buy your first set of zills, which should you buy?

Option #1 - buy cheap zills

If you're not sure whether belly dancing is for you, then there's nothing wrong with buying the cheapest zills you can find. OK, cheap zills may not sound wonderful - but while you're learning, you're probably going to sound awful anyway, so maybe it's a good thing if they're not that loud!

You won't be disadvantaged: expensive zills aren't any easier to play than cheap ones - unless you buy the ones with a single hole in the middle.   I started learning on a pair of single-hole sagats, because my teacher kept a stock of them at the studio for newbies.  They were so uncontrollable, it got frustrating very quickly!  So even if you go cheap, make sure each zill has two proper slots for the elastic.

The main argument for buying a cheap first set is to avoid making an expensive mistake.  When you're starting out, you don't know what may be ahead in your belly dance career. Over time, you may find you like larger zills, or smaller ones, or develop a preference for a particular sound. You may switch to Tribal (in which case you'll need a larger sagat with a lower tone). If you start performing, you'll need a different tone and volume of zill for cabaret than you would if you're doing stage work.

Option 2 – buy professional zills now

A pair of professional zills can last your whole career. They do tarnish, and the sound will eventually deaden - but that will take years, and you'll certainly have got your money's worth by then. So, why waste ten bucks on a cheap pair of zills - why not bite the bullet and buy a decent pair straight off the bat?  After all, if you decide you don't like them, you'll find a ready market for them amongst other students.

Saroyan Afghani zills

For me, the best argument for buying professional zills is how they sound - glorious!   The best zills are a real pleasure to play.  Some are loud enough to be heard over an orchestra, while others are more delicate. Some resonate for a long time after striking, while others have a crisper finish. The pitch can range from high and clear to mellow mid-tones.  They are real musical instruments!  Which one you choose depends on your personal preference.

Saroyan are generally regarded as the best, but that's partly because they ring out clear and loud - and that can be a negative in a small space!   I have a pair of Saroyans which sound gorgeous, but in class they drown out the sound of every other student.   Turquoise zills still have that lovely clear sound without the volume, and are a better choice for class situations.

For Tribal dancers, nothing quite beats Saroyan's Afghan cymbals.

If you really want to master the zills, you can't go past Tobias Roberson's Zills DVD:


Photo by Leslie Duss.

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