A hi-hat is one of the must-haves or even a standard in all drumkits. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’ll have at least one in your cymbal collection.
If you’re reading this, you might be encountering problems setting up your hi-hat to get the best performance possible. Don’t fret because you’re in the right place! In this guide, we’ll look into ways to make your hi-hat better without breaking the bank.
Things to Look into Before Setting Up Your Hi-Hats
When setting up your hi-hats, there are things we should look into to ensure that we’re on the same page. The factors that I’ll mention are supplementary to make your hi-hat better. Therefore, it’s imperative to consider the following before making drastic changes to your setup.
Cymbal positioning is one of the most often overlooked things when it comes to setting up a drumkit. This can impact its playing feel— resulting in improvements to its overall sound and playability. Two factors that surround positioning are hi-hat stand height and distance.
Firstly, stand height determines the height you’ll have to elevate your playing arm without straining it or obstructing your snare arm. Ideally, you’d want to set this around 5-6 inches from your snare drum. However, you can also change this according to what’s comfortable for you.
Secondly, the hat’s playing distance determines how far or near it’ll be from the snare drum. Too close and your hats will surely overlap with the surface of your snare, making it too cramped to play. Too far and you’ll strain your arm too much just to reach your hi-hat.
In summary, it’s crucial to find the best balance between distance and height before changing anything on your hi-hat. If you have a double bass pedal, it’s better to invest in remote stands to get the optimum playing distance for yourself.
Drummers should also keep in mind the quality of their hi-hat stands to have better playability. A stand with bad parts would have inconsistent performance. Therefore, you must get a good stand for the best playing experience.
Defining the Hi-hat Sound
Before making changes to your hi-hat, let’s first define the sound we’re aiming for. Typically, we’re chasing a “chick” closed and shimmering open sound. To provide you with an example, here’s a playthrough video of a hi-hat under a mix:
6 Ways to Make your Hi-hat Better– An Informative Guide
Hi-hat Cymbal Distance
When setting up, take a glance at how far your top hi-hat cymbal is from the bottom hi-hat cymbal. The wider the distance between these two, the louder your projection would be. However, a caveat would be the range of motion required to close the cymbal.
On the other hand, top and bottom hats that are too close to each other can lessen your projection. This can be ideal for people within a home setup that doesn’t have access to low-volume cymbals. Still, it would be best to experiment with which works excellent for you.
The hi-hat clutch is a crucial element to make your sound better in terms of responsiveness. That said, paying attention to how tight or loose you’re setting up a hi-hat’s clutch is also important.
If you set it too tight, the top hat becomes more responsive but stiff. This in turn diminishes your sound’s sizzle and sustain. Conversely, setting your top hat loosely will make it harder to control– lessening your hat’s responsiveness.
Bottom hi-hat angle
In my experience, most beginners would ask me why is their hi-hat crooked as if it’s a bad thing. However, contrary to popular belief, hi-hats shouldn’t be set up parallel to each other. This will produce less volume since air between the two cymbals is compressed instead of released. A workaround to this problem is slightly slanting your bottom hat for a louder projection.
Invest in decent drum microphones
Whether you’re playing a huge event or just recording your favorite tracks at home, the best drum overhead mics can help make your hi-hat better. When getting overhead mics, it’s best to look for matched studio condensers to capture your cymbal sounds. You could also isolate your hi-hat’s sound by using a separate microphone according to your taste.
Use a good interface and DAW
Your hi-hat’s dry signal will only be a signal unless you have a good DAW and interface for recording drums. Without these two, you won’t be able to send your signal to a mixer or computer to process your sound. Furthermore, a good DAW can help you tune your hi-hat sound according to your preference.
Clean your cymbals
Most cymbals have grooves where gunk and dirt can easily fill up. A dirty hi-hat cymbal can have a muddy sound while providing less resonance. You might want to check if your cymbal has too much gunk all over it that affects its sound.
On the other hand, if your cymbal is too harsh for your liking, maybe a bit of dirt can help. You can artificially replicate this effect by sticking tapes on the surface or sides of your hi-hat.
Sometimes, it’s us who limits our gear. Try experimenting with different playing strokes and rudiments like barks and chokes to find the sound you’re looking for. There are numerous ways how to play the hi-hat in a drum set but you can always find your style by practicing.
You’re due for an upgrade
When all is said and done, maybe there’s no more way to make your hi-hat better. Don’t worry, all gear is prone to wear and tear. If you’re looking for an upgrade to your current kit, it might be best to look for the best brands like Meinl and Paiste hi-hats.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hi-hat Setups
How can I improve my cymbals?
Here are some things you can look at and upgrade to make your hi-hat better:
- Top and bottom cymbal distance
- Clutch setup
- Bottom hat angle
- Hi-hat height and position
- Cymbal cleanliness
- Stand quality
Why do my hi-hats sound so bad?
Numerous factors can affect your sound. If your hi-hat has low sustain and resonance, it might be due to a tight clutch. Moreover, if your hi-hat’s volume is inaudible, you can give the bottom cymbal a slight slant. You can also check if your top and bottom cymbal are too close or too far from each other.
How can I make my cheap hi-hat sound better?
One tip to make your hi-hat better regardless if it’s cheap or expensive is by setting it up properly. As we know, hi-hats are an extremely versatile part of a drumkit. There are so many ways you can set it up according to your play style. Various factors like top and bottom hi-hat distance and clutch setup can affect how your final sound will be.
However, setting up your hats can only do so much when it comes to improving its sound. Years down the line, you’ll still have to upgrade your cymbals to explore more sounds.
Does cleaning cymbals improve sound?
Yes, cleaning can make your hi-hats better. Having a clean hi-hat can provide you with better resonance and a brighter sound. If you have a brand-new cymbal and find it too bright-sounding, you can reverse this effect by utilizing drum dampeners and tapes.
How do you make a hi-hat tighter?
You can make your hi-hat tighter by tightening the clutch located on top of the hi-hat. This results in a tighter sound by sacrificing your sound’s sizzle. This can also lessen your hi-hat’s sustain and resonance.
Enjoy your Newly Improved Hi-hat Cymbal!
Although it can be quite intimidating, it doesn’t require a lot of technical know-how to set up your hi-hats. You can even use easily-available tools in your home to elevate your sound to a whole new level.
Always remember that this guide aims to help you improve your cymbal sound and performance. Still, what’s good will always boil down to your preference and playstyle. That said, take everything here with a grain of salt and trust what sounds good to your ears. At the end of the day, it is you who’ll be able to say if a certain setup and sound will work for you or not.