High-Hat Techniques

Hi-hat technique involves learning how to use the foot pedal to play open and closed positions with the hi-hat. The drummer also must know the standard and non-standard hand position. Usually the dominant hand is used to play the hi-hat, while the non-dominant hand plays the snare drum. However, there are exceptions to this type of playing as well. Hi-hats consist of two cymbals that face each other and are controlled by a foot pedal.


When the drummer closes the hi-hat by pressing down on the foot pedal the hi-hat is said to be closed. This creates a muffled sound since the cymbals on the hi-hat are not free to vibrate unimpeded. Closing the hi-hat is often used along with a right hand steady eighth or 16th note rhythm to help provide the back-beat and tempo for a song. The drummer may also choose to turn a cymbal upside down and put it on top of the hi-hat to create an extra timbre.


Open position is the natural position of the hi-hat. It is achieved by leaving the foot pedal all the way up. Often, the drummer will alternate between closed and open position, clanging the lower and top cymbals together. This creates an effect that provides an effective vibration on the main beats when the cymbal is open and a closed muffled sound on the offbeats when the cymbal is closed. A drummer will rarely use a closed position on the first beat and an open on a weak beat. The nature of strong and weak beats, demands the more powerful and penetrating open cymbal on strong beats.


Cooking is a technique when used in jazz music to slightly offset the beat. This type of playing is also known as swing. The note values are not taking literally, and couplets of eighth notes are typically played with the first note longer than the second. With cooking the cymbals are closed and struck for the first part of the pattern and then opened and allowed to ring on the second part of the pattern. Sometimes, the drummer may throw in an additional clicking sound by hitting the side of the snare drum.

Open-Handed Playing

The traditional playing technique is to play the hi-hat with the right hand while the left and crosses under to play the snare. A technique called open-handed playing allows the drummer to play the hi-hat with the left hand since that hand is closer to the cymbal and the left hand plays the snare drum. This prevents the crossing of hands that can be awkward in certain playing conditions. This technique was termed open-handed because the drummer is not crossing his hands to play.


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