This paper presents a modal, time-domain scheme for the nonlinear vibrations of perfect and imperfect plates. The scheme can take into account a large number of degrees-of-freedom and is energy-conserving. The targeted application is the sound synthesis of cymbals and gong-like musical instruments, which are known for displaying a strongly nonlinear vibrating behaviour. This behaviour is typical of a wave turbulence regime, in which the wide-band spectrum of excited modes is observable in the form of an energy cascade. The modal method is selected for its versatility in handling complex damping laws that can be implemented easily by selecting appropriate damping values in each one of the modal equations. In the first part of the paper, the modal method is explained in its generality, and it will be seen that the method is valid for plates with arbitrary geometry and boundary conditions as long as the eigenmodes are known. Secondly, a time-integration, energy-conserving scheme for perfect and imperfect plates is presented, and implementation comments are given in order to treat efficiently the high-dimensionality of the resulting dynamical system. The scheme is run with appropriate parameters in order to produce sound samples. A simple impact law is considered for the excitation, whereas the flexibility of the method is highlighted by showing simulations for free-edge circular plates and simply-supported rectangular plates, together with various damping laws.