Developing Hi Hat Control
The hi hat is a set of cymbals that open and close with a step of a pedal. They are one of the most important voices of the drum set, and in my opinion, one of the best inventions ever for the modern drummer. There is so much you can do with your hi hat to make any song groove. There are techniques for jazz, rock, Latin, metal and more that you can do specifically with your hi hat that truly make the style. Every drummer should take the time to learn how to develop proper hi hat control. Not just with your foot, but also with your sticks.
Learn How to Play your Hi Hat
The hi hat has two uses: the foot control and the stick control. As a drummer, you need to be a master of both these techniques. To really understand the hi hat, you must feel it. The foot pedal gives you the perfect feeling for this. You will notice that the amount of pressure you press on the pedal affects the sound of the hi hats themselves. This is very important to note. Start by getting a feel for the foot pedal alone. Take a few moments just developing your foot control on the hi hat. A good trick is to think of the hi hat like a bass drum pedal, where you can use heel up or heel down. Both work well and an equally effective
Once you have that down, try learning to splash your hi hats. Splashing your hi hats means stomping on the pedals to abruptly close the hats. Instead of keeping them closed, lift your foot off right away, allowing your hi hats to shimmer. This is a great technique to use in all styles of music; it gives the listener the feel of a cymbal crashing without any sticks. This is very useful, as it gives you much more control around the drum set with your sticks. The best way to develop this is by using heel up so you can just bounce your tip of your foot off the pedal. Remember to do quick bounces, or you will drown your hi hats.
Learn How to Use your Sticks With your Feet
The next step in developing hi hat control is to use your sticks together with your feet. There are 2 zones on the hi hats that make totally different sounds. The edge of the cymbal (where you hit the most) will give you a very tight generic sound. The other voice you will get is from the bell of the hi hats. This is right in the middle of the cymbal. Hitting the bell with the hi hats open or closed will give you a higher pitched sound. Great for certain styles. Make sure you practice your control around the hi hats, allowing you to hit each area of the hi hats for a variety of different voices on one cymbal.
Now that you have your stick moving around the hi hats, its time to add pressure to the pedal. The amount of pressure you put on the pedal will affect the sound of the hi hats. This is an obvious conclusion. However, do not skip this part of the article. There is a lot to learn with this. For example, pressing down to close the hats will give you a short sound, but if you press down extra hard on the pedal you will squeeze the hats together so tight that you get an even higher pitched sound. This is a very handy technique that is rarely used! Opening your hi hats will gee you a sloshy sound. Opening them to much and you will lose the feel you are looking for. Most drummers will like to open them just enough to make a controlled sound when hit. This way they don’t lose control of the hi hats and the sound gets too loud and long. Take a few moments to find the right distance for your music style!
Playing your hi hats is a very personal thing. Every drummer will have their own preference to how much a gap there is between the two hats. This is ok, just make sure you have enough distance between them to make a loud enough sound when you use your feet. I know a lot of drummers who ignore the hi hat, do not be like them! Next practice session you have, take the time to develop a control for your hi hats!
By: Dave Atkinson
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