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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A hi-hat, or hihat, is a type of cymbal and stand used as a typical part of a drum kit by percussionists in R&B, hip-hop, disco, jazz, metal, rock and roll, house, reggae and other forms of contemporary popular music. It is a standard part of the modern drum kit. The hi-hat consists of two cymbals that are mounted on a stand, one on top of the other, and a pedal which can be used to clash and hold the cymbals together.


When struck closed or played with the pedal, the hi-hat gives a short, crisp, muted percussive sound, sounding like and referred to as a "chick". Adjusting the gap between the cymbals can alter the sound of the open hi-hat from a shimmering, sustained tone to something similar to a ride cymbal. When struck with a drumstick, the cymbals make either a short, snappy sound or a longer sustaining sandy sound depending on the position of the pedal.

It can also be played just by lifting and lowering the foot to clash the cymbals together, a style commonly used to accent beats 2 and 4 in jazz music. In rock music, the hi-hats are commonly struck every beat or on beats 1 and 3, while the cymbals are held together. The drummer can control the sound by foot pressure. Less pressure allows the cymbals to rub together more freely, giving both greater sustain and greater volume for accent or crescendo. In shuffle time, a rhythm known as "cooking" is often employed. To produce this the cymbals are struck twice in rapid succession, being held closed on the first stroke and allowed to open just before the second, then allowed to ring before being closed with a chick to complete the pattern (the cymbals may or may not be struck on the chick).

A right-handed drummer will normally play the hi-hat pedal with his left foot, and may use one or both drumsticks. The traditional hi-hat rhythms of rock and jazz were produced by crossing the hands over, so the right stick would play the hi-hat while the left played the snare drum below it, but this is not universal. Some top modern drummers like Billy Cobham, Carter Beauford, and Simon Phillips do not cross their hands over at all, playing the hi-hat mounted on the left with the left stick rather than the right. This is called open handed playing. Some drummers, such as Kenny Aronoff, and Jason Finn of The Presidents of the United States of America employ both open handed and cross-handed playing. Some trap sets may also include an extra hi-hat on the right for right-handed players, where it would be awkward to play crossed over. This is shown when drums or cymbals in the middle of the set are played with the hi-hat rhythm. The technique is common with metal genres, such as Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Mike Portnoy formerly of Dream Theater. In both rock and jazz, often the drummer will move the same stick pattern between the hi-hat cymbal and the ride cymbal, for example using the hi-hat in the verses and the ride in the chorus of a song, or using the ride to accompany a lead break or other instrumental solo.

Roger Taylor, drummer for the band Queen, plays with many unique hi-hat techniques, including involuntary opening of the hi-hat on every backbeat for a rhythm emphasis and leaving the hi-hat slightly open when hitting the snare. His trademark hi-hat beat is opening the hi-hat on first and third before hitting the snare.

Phil Rudd of AC/DC also uses distinct hi-hat techniques, which include very heavily accentuating the hi-hat hit on each beat and softer in between.

Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones uses a technique in which he does not play the hi-hat in unison with the snare drum at all. If playing a standard 8th note pattern, he will play the hi-hat on 1 and 3 and not playing it on 2 and 4 where the snare drum is played.

In much hip-hop, the hi-hat is hit with drumsticks in a simple eighth-note pattern, although this playing is usually done by a drum machine or from an old recording from which the sound of a hi-hat is recorded and loaded into a sampler or similar recording-enabled equipment from which it is triggered. Pioneer Kurtis Mantronik was one of the first to program hi-hat patterns that employed thirty-second notes , although these can be played by a drummer using a technique similar to a drum roll.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hi-hat" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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