Pedralta World Fusion®

Playing Zils

(An article by Lesley Hogg)

Finger cymbals are known by several names, many countries in the Middle East have their own name for them:

  • Zils (Turkish - also means bell)
  • Sagats (Arabic Egyptian)
  • Salasih (Farsi - Persian)
  • Castanets (the wooden version that you find in Flamenco dancing)

Zils come in many various sizes, colours and sound. The size of the zil will determine its pitch and tone. Small sets will be high pitched and the sound will travel only short distance, medium sized Zils will have a lower pitch and the sound will travel further. Large Zils will have a much lower pitch and the sound will travel quite far. These are the best for restaurants where they easily travel over voices. Small Zils are best for practicing.


Generally Zils have two types of holes, circular holes and two slot holes. The one hole zils tend to be a little harder to work since they like to roll around on your fingers. The 2 slot Zils tend to stay in place better, but are more expensive.

Wearing the Zils

Tribal Belly Dance Finger Zills

The Zils are worn by putting one on the middle finger and the thumb of each hand. They usually work and feel best when they are just under the place where your nail starts; it is about comfort, some people wear them higher others lower. It is better if you are able to sew the elastic as knotting tends to interfere with the sound reproduction. They should be tight enough so that they do not slide around your fingers or worse, come flying off into your audience; But not so tight that you get gangrene in the fingertips.

The secret to playing (apart from practice) is to relax, keep the hands and fingers relaxed. Try not to practice sitting still, it becomes habitual and when you finally want to move you may find it more difficult than you thought, just walk around and try simple moves such as hip circles, rib slides and shimmies.


  • Basic, Lighter, Muted (4 fingers on tip clap zils together)
  • Rim (tapping clicking)
  • Clap, Vibrating – hands in v shape, touching zils, one hand still vibrate the other, nice for spinning.

Basic Patterns

  • Singles (one strike on each beat)
  • Doubles 12 12 12
  • Triples 1-2-3-(pause), 1-2-3-(pause), 1-2-3-(pause)
  • Continuous 11111111
  • Beledi – DumDum Tek-aTek Dum Tek-a-Tek

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