What is a Hi Hat?— A Straightforward Hi Hat Guide for Beginners

A hi hat is an essential cymbal for almost all drumkits. In addition, drummers usually utilize a hi-hat to accentuate the 2nd and 4th beat in a 4/4 count. Thus, making them a crucial component when playing with a band. On the other hand, some drummers such as rock and metal musicians utilize a hi-hat in every hit. Therefore, making good hi hats a must-have in any kit.

Furthermore, whether it’s a standard, compact, or portable drumkit, there will always be a corresponding hat size respectively. However, picking the best hi-hat within an oversaturated market could be a hard task. In this light, we crafted this informative guide about hi-hats, guiding drummers towards the best gear for their drumkit.

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The History of Hi Hats

hi hat

Pre Hi Hat Era

If you look into cymbal sets, you would typically see a hi-hat on the left side of a kit. However, before they became modernized, the first hi-hats were called “clangers”. A clanger is a cymbal attached to a bass drum head. Moreover, drummers utilize a personalized bass beater equipped with a stick to hit the clanger simultaneously with the bass drum.  Subsequently, drummers began utilizing pedal-activated low-sock pedals. Typical low-socks come in 10” with optional heavy bells measuring 5” wide. Still, this construction doesn’t allow drummers to play using their hands; thus, limiting the versatility of low-sock cymbals.

The Invention of Hi Hats

In 1926, Walberg and Auge developed the first raised hats. This innovation allowed drummers to play various rhythm combinations using their hands and feet. It was Philly Joe Jones who started the trend of utilizing hi hats during the 2nd and 4th beat within 4/4 time signature. Consequently, this method of 4/4 playing skyrocketed hi hats in the scene of jazz and other genres.

Innovation of Hi Hats through the Decades

Since the invention of hi-hats, the standard size was 14” while other manufacturers offer 13” for children. In the 1970s, legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist John Bonham began incorporating 14” hi-hats on his kit. As a result, John Bonham produced a deep hi-hat sound that helped mold the sound of heavy metal. In the next decade, manufacturers started downsizing hi-hat sizes around 12” down to 8”, shifting the focus to recording. However, during the 1990s, manufacturers brought back the standard hi hat size to 14”. In addition, manufacturers began experimenting with rivets on the hi hat’s bottom to improve hi-hat tones

Today, the hi hat trend leans towards both similar and mismatched hats. Some innovations such as vented mismatched hi-hats, perforated holes, and more have hit the market. Therefore, in a nutshell, the current era of hi-hats allows drummers to explore and search for the appropriate tone they want. However, this also leads to the oversaturation of offerings in the market. Thus, confusing beginners in finding the right hi-hat sound for them.

The Different Parts of A Hi Hat

Before we dive down on what type of hi-hats to buy, we must first look into the nitty-gritty of hi-hats. Typically, hi-hats come in different sizes and materials and their construction features a standard stand, cymbals, and pedal construction. However, the specifics of hi-hats are more than their standard construction. Therefore, let’s dive deeper into the specifics of a modern-day hat.

Hi Hat Stand

DW Drum Workshop CP5500TD 5000 Series Standard Stand

DW Drum Workshop CP5500TD 5000 Series Heavy Duty Delta 2-Leg Hi-Hat Stand

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As we know, the stand serves as the body of a hi-hat set. Similar to a standard cymbal stand, hi-hat stands allow drummers to hit hats using their drum sticks. Usually, a stand consists of solid body construction that combines the foot pedal and steel rod for open-close control. As a result, enabling drummers to produce intricate hand and foot patterns for tasteful or accentuated playing. However, a standard stand may become cumbersome or too much for gigging drummers or musicians with limited space.

The Pros of Using a Standard Stand

  • Stable solid construction.
  • No latency between the pedal and steel rod.
  • Cheaper than remote stands.
  • Easier to assemble and use.

The Cons of Using a Standard Stand

  • Not as portable as remote stands.
  • Not ideal for small spaces.

DW DWCP9502LB8 Remote Stand

DW DWCP9502LB8 Hi-Hat Stand

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Conversely, hi-hat stands come in a compact and portable form dubbed as remote hi hat stands. A remote stand features similar functions as a standard stand, allowing users to control the cymbal sound by foot. However, remote stands feature a cable, allowing drummers to displace their hi-hats for a more compact build.

The Pros of Using Remote Stands

  • Allows users to displace their hi-hats easily for a more compact footprint.
  • Ideal for gigging and touring musicians.
  • Flexible construction in comparison with standard stands.
  • Offers an easier drumkit format customization experience.

The Cons of Using Remote Stands

  • More expensive price point than standard stands.
  • Not suitable for beginners because of their more complicated build and operation.

Hi Hat Cymbals

Zildjian Planet Z HiHat Cymbal Pair

Zildjian Planet Z HiHat Cymbal Pair (ZP13PR)

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A hi-hat set consists of two separate cymbals of the same size but varying thicknesses. Thus, producing a muted sound when closed and a wide “chick” ride sound when open. As stated, drummers oftentimes utilize hi-hats during the 2nd and 4th beat within a common time signature. Moreover, drummers can incorporate various hand and foot patterns on a hat, allowing them to produce intricate time signatures. Therefore, having good quality hi-hats is a must-have for every drumkit. In this article, we’ll discuss the various specifications to look for when buying hi-hats in our buyer’s guide.

Foot Pedal

A hi-hat foot pedal controls the stand’s steel rod. Thus, allowing users to operate the opening and closing of hi-hat cymbals. In addition, by utilizing the foot pedal, drummers can produce a clicking sound perfect for keeping time during soft passages. Typically, standard and remote stands come with built-in pedal hat controllers. However, the stand foot pedal dictates a hat’s overall playability and feel. Therefore, we advise users to find high-quality stands for a better drumming experience.

Hi Hat Clutch and Bottom Cushion

Pearl Rapid Lock Drop Clutch

Pearl Rapid Lock Hi-Hat Drop Clutch (HCL205DQR)

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On a hi-hat stand, the bottom cushion keeps the bottom cymbal in place. In addition, manufacturers sometimes include sound dampening properties on the bottom cushion, minimizing unwanted overtones.

Conversely, the hi-hat clutch allows users to control the tension of their hi-hats, influencing a hi-hat’s final sound. Moreover, a clutch influences the overall action of the hat. Consequently, enabling drummers to customize the height of the upper cymbal for a faster or slower attack.

What Should I Look for When Buying Hi-Hats? — A Buyer’s Guide

hi hat

As stated, the market for hi-hats is filled with tons of manufacturers and products that claim unique features and more. In this light, this market saturation makes finding the best hi-hats daunting and hard. Therefore, we crafted this nifty buyer’s guide to help drummers find the appropriate hi-hats according to their budget and needs.

Stand Style

As stated, there are two types of stand styles— standard and remote stands. Both hi-hat stand styles perform a specific function depending on the player using them.

A standard stand is perfect for drummers who want robust and solid hardware. In addition, standard stands provide users with an easy operation and simple construction excellent for an easy assembly. Standard stands also come within an instantaneous cymbal attack within a budget-friendly price point.

On the other hand, remote stands allow users to conveniently reposition their hats almost anywhere around the kit. Furthermore, remote stands are excellent for touring musicians or drummers with small spaces due to their compact construction. However, these features oftentimes come within a higher price point in comparison with standard drumkits.

Therefore, we recommend beginners and drummers within a budget get standard stands due to their traditional features and cheap tag. Conversely, we advise drummers on the go or musicians with small spaces to utilize remote stands.

Stand Material and Construction

A hi-hat stand’s material and construction affect crucial factors such as weight, stability, and adjustability. In addition, a specific stand’s construction determines its durability against hard-hitting drummers.

In this light, drummers should firstly consider the weight of a stand according to the music they play. A durable and heavyweight stand will surely last longer than a lightweight stand. However, it may be overkill for light players such as jazz drummers since more durable materials and construction costs more. On the other hand, lightweight drumkits may not last a long time in the hands of hard-hitters such as metal and rock drummers. Thus, buyers should pick a stand weight that would fit its intended use.

Furthermore, the product’s stability boils down to the number of legs and the construction style a stand possess. Considering this, a 3 or 4-legged stand would be the ideal product for drummers who want the best stability. Double-braced legs also provide better stability and durability; however, they make the overall stand construction bulky. However, this specific construction style may obstruct a double bass pedal setup or other drum accessories that lies on the stand pedal area.

Lastly, getting hi hat stands that feature incredible adjustability is a must. Usually, manufacturers design and construct stand materials that feature adjustable height capabilities. However, it is still vital for drummers to know the height adjustment capacity of their hi-hats for a comfortable playing experience. An ideal hi hat stand adjustability should be around 39.3” up to 43.4”.

Hi Hat Cymbal Material

The material of hi-hats affects its initial sound before it enters the tone-shaping influenced by clutches. Manufacturers typically utilize three types of hi hat cymbal material— brass, B8 bronze, and B20 bronze.

Firstly, brass cymbals provide users with a decent-sounding chick and ride sound within an affordable price point. Thus, making them excellent materials for drummers looking forward to getting entry-level or budget-friendly hi-hats.

Secondly, the B8 bronze features an 8% tin composition. As a result, B8 cymbals provide bright and clear sound, making them better than brass cymbals in terms of quality and tone.

Lastly, B20 bronze cymbals boast a 20% tin composition, allowing them to produce a soft and warm sound. Because of this sound signature, manufacturers oftentimes utilize B20 bronze on their high-end models.

In conclusion, drummers must consider the hi-hat sound profile that they would want on their kit. However, drummers should also pay attention to the various price points of cymbal materials. Thus, allowing them to make compromises when buying hi hat cymbals for the best balance between tone and budget.

Cymbal Size and Weight

Hi-hat size is a determining factor on a hi-hat’s pitch and sustain. In comparison, small hi-hats can produce a higher pitch with a low sustain. Conversely, larger hi-hats bring out a deeper sound with a higher sustain.

Standard hi-hats feature sizes between 13” or 14”, which is the ideal size for beginners and standard drumkits. Conversely, drummers can still utilize sizes outside the standard size range, such as 12” and 16”.

Furthermore, a hi-hat’s weight contributes to the overall tone and level of a cymbal. The heavier a hi-hat is, the louder it becomes. For instance, jazz and blues musicians would often utilize medium and thin hi-hats due to the light-playing nature of both genres. On the other hand, punk, metal, and rock players would typically utilize heavier hi-hats.

As we know, there are two cymbals on a hi-hat. Typically, the thicker hi-hat goes below the thinner hi-hat within a set. However, drummers may mismatch their cymbal size depending on their preference. Therefore, experimentation is a must especially for drum heads who are searching for a specific hi hat tone.

How to Set Up a Hi Hat Stand?— An Instructional Guide

hi hat

A typical hi-hat stand has 7 or more parts, which makes its assembly a bit more complicated than other drum hardware. The utilization of moving parts such as the pedal and steel rod widens the room for error when adjusting the cymbals. Moreover, this makes hi-hat setups and teardowns harder for beginners trying to explore the world of drumming.

For example, when adjusting the hi-hat tension, beginners may tend to set their hi-hat’s action too low, resulting in a muted and choked tone. On the other hand, drummers may adjust their cymbal way too far from each other. Thus, resulting in an open sound resembling a ride cymbal instead of a hi-hat. Therefore, we created the perfect hi-hat assembly installation guide for both beginners and experienced drummers alike. Consequently, guiding them to a perfect hi-hat setup for the best tone possible.

Laying Down the Stand’s Base

In the first step, users must ensure that their hi hat stand has a stable base. To do so, drummers should find a flat ground where they can open their cymbal stand’s legs. In addition, the utilization of a drum carpet is a plus, allowing users to protect their floor from scratches caused by a stand’s spurs.

Subsequently, we can now begin with laying down the stand’s pedal and spreading out its legs evenly. Next, drummers can start unlocking the stand’s double bracing if they have double-braced legs.

Then, users must ensure that the stand’s spurs are firm on the carpet, reducing pressure and stress to the pedal for a stable playing experience. Failure to do the following steps could lead to pedal instability which may cause the stand to move around when playing. However, if your stand only has rubber feet, drummers must plant them firmly on the carpet to avoid accidental slips.

Rod Assembly

The hi hat rod is one of the fragile components of a hi hat stand, especially when screwing the rod on the tube. Without paying attention to the stand’s rod when assembling a stand, drummers may accidentally bend the rod.

Furthermore, when screwed without care, the rod may be damaged by the screw, shortening its usability in the long run. As a result, affecting the stand’s durability and overall sound. Therefore, we advise drummers to be careful when assembling the rod into the stand.

Cymbal Insertion

After assembling the rod, the next step would be cymbal insertion. Although it’s easy, drummers should still follow a specific set of steps to do this properly. Firstly, users must ensure that the washer and felt goes in order.

Subsequently, drummers can now insert the bottom cymbal. Typically, the bottom cymbal is thicker than the top hi hat. Beginners can use this difference to identify which goes above and below the stand.

Afterward, follow suit with the top hi hat; which is the thinner one in comparison with the bottom hi hat. However, users may mix it up by experimenting with different cymbal arrangements and matching to find the tone that fits their taste.

Clutch Tightening

Now that we have both hi-hats on the stand, drummers must proceed to tighten the clutch. If a drummer accidentally leaves the clutch unlocked, it may loosen the nut. As a result, the hi hat’s stability when used may degrade over time.

Drummers should also pay attention to a clutch’s tightness. A tight clutch will provide a tighter sound, stable construction, and a faster response. On the other hand, a loose clutch will provide the opposite. However, a clutch’s tightness boils down to buyer preference on how they want their hi-hat to sound when playing.

Cymbal Height Adjustment

Drummers can adjust their hi-hat’s height through a bolt under the bottom cymbal and above the top cymbal. These bolts allow drummers to adjust their hi-hat’s height within a comfortable height, reducing straining for a relaxed drumming session.

A good cymbal height varies per user. However, drummers should be able to comfortably play a hi-hat’s top with a stick’s tip. In addition, drummers must be able to hit the cymbal’s edges with a stick’s shoulder without a problem.

Angle Adjustment

One common misconception around hi-hats is they should be level when played. However, this specific assembly minimizes a hi-hat’s well-known “chick” sound. A leveled hi-hat does this because the symmetrical construction of both hi-hats pushes air out quickly. To avoid this, we recommend drummers angle their bottom hi-hat slightly for a prominent “chick” sound.

Optional Instruments

Now we have our hi-hat set all set up, we can now focus on improving its sound. Drummers may utilize various percussive instruments such as shakers and tambourines. Consequently, adding more character to the hi-hat’s sound. But, drummers must be cautious about where they put the instrument on their hi-hat. Generally, it’s better if users situate additional instruments and accessories on the center of the hi-hat. By doing so, owners can protect their hi-hat’s edges from chipping.


In a nutshell, a hi hat is an essential part of a drumkit. It is rare to see a drumkit without hi-hats within its cymbal sets. In addition, it’s one of the most used parts of the kit, especially when keeping the time of a band. However, finding a good hi hat is not a walk in the park. Similarly, assembling one isn’t easy due to various moving parts that should work coherently for a smooth performance.

In this light, drummers should look into the various things to consider such as stand material, cymbal material, weight, size, and construction. Furthermore, buyers should also know how to properly assemble their hi-hats. Thus, ensuring seamless performance during gigs and practice sessions.

Hopefully, this informative guide has helped you find the best hi hat suitable for your playing style and needs.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hi-Hats

Q: Why is it called hi-hat?

The early predecessors to hi-hats were called clangers. These “clangers” were attached to bass drum heads which enable drummers to play the bass drum and clanger in unison. After some time, drummers switched to using low-sock hats, which were only operated using a foot pedal.

In 1926, the first version of a raised low-sock hat appeared. Due to its higher construction than low-sock hats, drummers dubbed the instrument as a “high-hat”, which transformed to “hi-hat” over time.

Q: What is a hi-hat in music?

Hi-hats are two cymbals clashed together and mounted on a stand, allowing users to utilize their hands and foot when playing. Typically, a hi hat set comes with a stand, clutch, rod, pedal, and cymbals.

Furthermore, these specific materials provide users with the ability to provide a “chick” sound. In addition, users can also open and close the hi-hats to modify their sound signature, complimenting all drumming styles.

Q: Can you use a hi-hat as a crash?

As stated, drummers are free to pick the cymbal combination they will utilize in a hi-hat stand. For instance, users can utilize a double crash hi hat setup, allowing users to achieve a fuller crash sound.

Q: Why are hi-hats important?

Hi-hats help drummers accentuate the beat of their songs with various chick sounds and tones. Thus, enabling them to modify the timbre and rhythm of a specific time signature.

For instance, drummers play the hi-hat during the 2nd and 4th notes in a 4/4 time signature. Consequently, helping a band keep time. Moreover, drummers also use hi-hats to accent upbeats and downbeats, modifying the overall timbre of a time signature.

Q: What is a hi-hat chick?

Hi-hats utilize two clashing cymbals that provide a “chick” sound. In addition, this “chick” sound. Drumheads describe this “chick” sound like a crisp, short, and muted sound. This sound is prominent in genres such as jazz, blues, and rock.

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