Drum sets are made up of many pieces. While some are optional, hi-hats are found in many kits. But what are hi-hats exactly? Read on to find this out and more.
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What Are Hi-Hats?
Hi-hats are a type of cymbal played by striking it with a drumstick. It comes in two identical pieces and is made of bronze. The two pieces are held together using a stand. It is a popular cymbal in many genres of music, including rock, jazz, and blues.
Hi-Hats: A Brief History
While this piece of drumming kit might sound like a fancy piece of headwear, it is a crucial accessory when assembling a drum set.
The hi-hat cymbal was invented in the late 19th century by Belgian-born drummer and bandleader Joseph Haas. Haas was a member of the New Orleans Jazz Band, one of the first jazz bands ever recorded.
In the early 1900s, the hi-hat cymbal was used primarily in military and brass band music. It was not until the 1920s that the hi-hat cymbal showed in jazz music.
The hi-hat cymbal became essential to the jazz drummer's kit in the 1930s. The cymbal kept time and created rhythms. Jazz drummers such as Chick Webb and Jo Jones used the hi-hat cymbal.
The hi-hat cymbal continued to be a crucial part of the jazz drummer's kit in the 1940s and 1950s. It was also used in other genres of music, such as rock and roll, where it became popularized.
Hi-hats have become crucial in rock and roll music, where they provide a consistent beat easily followed by other instruments. The hi-hat creates a variety of rhythms. Hi-hats are paired with the bass drum to create a driving, pulsing sound.
How Does a Hi-Hat Work?
The modern hi-hat works by setting it up level near your snare drums. You can adjust the height of the hi-hat to a level comfortable to you as the drummer. The pedal’s placement is also crucial to allow for comfort when playing.
Drummers play the hi-hat by one of two methods: open or closed.
An open hi-hat allows drummers to create a clanging sound through the pedal. Drummers can also adjust the space between the two cymbals to create unique sounds. Take your foot off the pedal and adjust the wingnut so the cymbals are about an inch apart. You can also loosen your hi-hat to allow for a spicier sound that you often hear in hard rock or metal songs.
A closed hi-hat creates a more closed-off clang sound. Closed hi-hat sounds also generate stable and steady rhythms that will not mess with your timing.
The modern hi-hat usually gets placed where a drummer feels they can easily access it during sessions. However, many right-handed drummers place their hi-hats on their left side.
Using a hi-hat takes many hours of practice and fine-tuning. If you struggle with keeping rhythm or maintaining timing, hi-hats may take additional time to perfect as part of your drumming routine.
How To Play a Hi-Hat
There are a few different ways to play hi-hat cymbals. How you play the cymbals will depend on your music style. If you are playing rock music, you will generally want to play the hi-hats more aggressively, while if you are playing jazz, you will want to play them with a more laid-back style.
One of the most important things to remember when playing hi-hats is that you need to keep a steady beat. Drummers play the hi-hats on the off-beats and at a consistent volume. If you are having trouble keeping a steady beat, you can practice by playing along with a metronome.
You will want to evaluate your technique to get a good sound out of your hi-hats. When you strike the cymbals, you should use the tips of your sticks to strike them at an angle. If you hit the cymbals too hard, they will start to sound muddy, so you will want to strike them with a light touch.
Key Tips When Playing Hi-Hats
There are several key things to keep in mind to get the best results when using hi-hat cymbals.
First, choose the right size and weight of hi-hat for your playing style and setup. Second, the way you place your hi-hats can impact the sound you get. And finally, it is crucial to experiment with different techniques to find what sounds best for you.
With that said, here are a few examples of hi-hat usage:
1. An effective way to use hi-hats is in a 4/4 beat. Play the hi-hats on the downbeats and the snare drum on the 2 and 4. This method is a great way to keep a solid groove going and is perfect for many genres.
2. Another great way to use hi-hats is to play them in a more syncopated way, such as in a shuffle groove. This method can add a lot of energy and movement to your playing.
3. You can also use the hi-hats to add accents and color to your playing.
Over time, using a hi-hat in conjunction with your regular drum kit should become second nature.
What Are Hi-Hats? Final Thoughts
Hi-hat cymbals are a valuable part of any drummer's arsenal. They provide a versatile range of sounds in any musical situation. From gentle and subtle accents to powerful and explosive crashes, hi-hat cymbals give the drummer a wide range of options for creating the perfect soundscape for any kind of song.