Hi-Hat Cymbals Explained

Imagine a pair of cymbals in your hands about to be banged together. Now turn those cymbals horizontally and you have hi-hat cymbals. Hi-hats are heavily used by drummers, both with the drum stick and with the pedal. The pair sits at the top of a stand with a pedal at the foot.

The top cymbal lifts up and down when the pedal is pressed. Specifically, they close when the pedal is pushed and open when released. Depending on which position the cymbals are in when hit with the drum stick determines the sound they made. When closed they make the popularly called ‘chick’ sound, and a more resonating sound when open. The pedal is generally operated with the drummer’s left foot.

Hi-hat cymbals vary in design depending on which company produces them. Zildjian, Paiste and Sabian all produce popular makes of hi-hats. They generally come in thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen inch diameters. Because the sound made by the hi-hats is usually repeated over and over it needs to be accurate. The cymbals need to be of high precision and quality, and the drummer’s actions from with both pedal and drum stick needs to be precise.

The stand is often placed on the left of the drummer just behind the snare drum. It needs to be adjusted high enough to not get in the way hitting the snare, but low enough so the drummer can play both it and the snare at the same time easily. Typically a drummer turns slightly to the left, and with left foot on the hi-hat pedal, right foot on the bass drum, and a drum stick for each of the snare drum and hi-hat set, the drummer creates the song’s beat.