A hi-hat, or hihat, is a type of cymbal
Cymbals are a common percussion instrument. Cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys; see cymbal making for a discussion of their manufacture. The greater majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch, although small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound a...

 and stand used as a typical part of a drum kit
Drum kit
A drum kit is a collection of drums, cymbals and often other percussion instruments, such as cowbells, wood blocks, triangles, chimes, or tambourines, arranged for convenient playing by a single person ....

 by percussionists in R&B
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

, hip-hop, disco
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

, jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

, house
House music
House music is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago, Illinois, United States in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino American, and gay communities; first in Chicago circa 1984, then in other...

, reggae
Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady.Reggae is based...

 and other forms of contemporary popular music.


The hi-hat consists of two cymbal
Cymbals are a common percussion instrument. Cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys; see cymbal making for a discussion of their manufacture. The greater majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch, although small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound a...

s that are mounted on a stand, one on top of the other, and clashed together using a pedal on the stand. A narrow metal shaft or rod runs through both cymbals into a hollow tube and connects to the pedal. The top cymbal is connected to the rod with a clutch, while the bottom cymbal remains stationary resting on the hollow tube. The height of the top-cymbal (open position) is adjustable.

When the foot plate of the pedal is pressed, the top cymbal crashes onto the bottom cymbal (closed hi-hat). When released, the top cymbal returns to its original position above the bottom cymbal (open hi-hat). A tension unit controls the amount of pressure required to lower the top cymbal, and how fast it returns to its open position.

History of development

Initial versions of the hi-hat were called clangers, which were small cymbals mounted onto a bass drum rim
Drum hardware
Drum hardware refers to the parts of a drum or drum kit that are used to tension, position, and otherwise support the instruments themselves. Occasionally, the hardware is used percussively as well .-Drum head:...

 and struck with an arm on the bass drum pedal. Then came shoes, which were two hinged boards with cymbals on the ends that were clashed together. Next was the low-boy or low-hat, similar to a modern hi-hat stand, only with cymbals close to the ground. Hi-hats that were raised and could be played by hand as well as foot may have been developed around 1926 by Barney Walberg of the drum accessory company Walberg and Auge.
Up until the late 1960s, the standard hi-hats were 14 inches (35.6 cm), with 13 inches (33 cm) available as a less-common alternative in professional cymbal ranges and smaller sizes down to 12 inches (30.5 cm) restricted to children's kits. In the early 1970s, hard rock
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

 drummers (including Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

's John Bonham
John Bonham
John Henry Bonham was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of Led Zeppelin. Bonham was esteemed for his speed, power, fast right foot, distinctive sound, and "feel" for the groove...

) began to use 15-inch hi-hats. In the late 1980s, Zildjian
Avedis Zildjian Company
The Avedis Zildjian Company is a cymbal manufacturer founded in Istanbul by Armenian Avedis Zildjian in the 17th century during the Ottoman Empire. At nearly 400 years old, Zildjian is one of the oldest companies in the world...

 released its revolutionary 12 inch Special Recording hats, which were small, heavy hi-hat cymbals intended for close micing either live or recording, and other manufacturers quickly followed suit. However, in the early to mid-1990s, Paiste
Paiste, a Swiss manufacturer and designer, is the world's third largest manufacturer of cymbals, gongs, and metal percussion. Paiste is an Estonian/Finnish word which means "shine"...

 offered 8 inches (20.3 cm) mini hi-hats as part of its Visions series; these were among the world's smallest hi-hats. Starting in the 1980s, a number of manufacturers also experimented with rivet
A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite the head is called the buck-tail. On installation the rivet is placed in a punched or pre-drilled hole, and the tail is upset, or bucked A rivet...

s in the lower cymbal. But by the end of the 1990s, the standard size was again 14 inches, with 13 inches a less-common alternative, and smaller hats mainly used for special sounds. Rivets in hi-hats failed to catch on.

Modern hi-hat cymbals are much heavier than modern crash cymbals, reflecting the trend to lighter and thinner crash cymbals as well as to heavier hi-hats. The other change has been that a pair of hi-hat cymbals is no longer necessarily similar. More typically the bottom is now heavier than the top (but in some cases like the K Zildjian Steve Gadd Session Hats the pattern is reversed for a cleaner chick and cleaner sticking), and may also be vented, this being one innovation to have caught on. Some examples are Sabian
Sabian (company)
Sabian is a Canadian cymbal designer and manufacturer. It is a leading manufacturer of cymbals along with other top companies such as Zildjian, Paiste, and Meinl.-History:...

's Fusion Hats with holes in the bottom of the hi-hat, and the Sabian X-cellerator, Zildjian Master Sound and Zildjian Quick Beats, Paiste Sound Edge, and Meinl Soundwave. Some drummers even use completely mismatched hi-hats from different cymbal ranges (Zildjian's K/Z hats), of different manufacturers, and even of different sizes (similar to the K Custom Session Hats where the top hat is a sixteenth of an inch smaller than the bottom). Max Roach
Max Roach
Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history...

 was particularly known for using a 14 inch top with a 15 inch bottom.

Other recent developments include the X-hat (fixed, closed, or half-open hi-hats) and cable-controlled or remote hi-hats. Sabian introduced the Triple Hi-Hat, designed by Peter Kuppers. In this variation of the hi-hat, the top cymbal moves down and the bottom cymbal moves up simultaneously while the middle cymbal remains stationary.

Drop-clutches are also used to lock and release hi-hats while both feet are in use playing double bass drums. The drop clutch was invented by ragtime drummer Graig Cortelyou. Drop clutches are commercially available from DW Drums, Gibraltar Hardware, The Coady Clutch from Billdidit, and Tama.

Playing techniques

Audio samples
Component Content Audio (Ogg Vorbis)
Hi-hat Closed hi-hat
Open hi-hat
Hi-hat being opened and closed by its foot pedal
See the Drums page at Wikipedia Commons for more

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
Ride cymbal
The ride cymbal is a standard cymbal in most drum kits. It maintains a steady rhythmic pattern, sometimes called a ride pattern, rather than the accent of a crash...

. 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
Snare drum
The snare drum or side drum is a melodic percussion instrument with strands of snares made of curled metal wire, metal cable, plastic cable, or gut cords stretched across the drumhead, typically the bottom. Pipe and tabor and some military snare drums often have a second set of snares on the bottom...

 below it, but this is not universal. Some top modern drummers like Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
William C. Cobham is a Panamanian American jazz drummer, composer and bandleader, who has called Switzerland home since the late 1970s....

, Carter Beauford
Carter Beauford
Carter Anthony Beauford is an American drummer, percussionist, and founding member of Dave Matthews Band. He is known for his ability to adapt to a variety of genres, and both his ambidextrous and his open hand drumming styles. He plays the drums and sings backing vocals in the band...

, and Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips is an English jazz, pop and rock drummer.-Career:Phillips began to play professionally at the age of twelve in his father's Dixieland band for four years. He was then offered the chance to play in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar...

 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
Open handed playing
Open-handed playing refers to a method of playing drumset without crossing the hands when playing the hi-hat and snare drum simultaneously as opposed to the more traditional way of playing drums which features crossed hands as the basic playing position...

. 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
Lars Ulrich
Lars Ulrich is a Danish drummer, and one of the founding members of the American thrash metal band Metallica. He was born in Gentofte, Denmark to an upper-middle class family. A tennis player in his youth, Ulrich moved to Los Angeles, California at age sixteen to pursue his training; though rather...

 of Metallica
Metallica is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1981 when James Hetfield responded to an advertisement that drummer Lars Ulrich had posted in a local newspaper. The current line-up features long-time lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo ...

 and Mike Portnoy
Mike Portnoy
Michael Stephen "Mike" Portnoy is an American drummer primarily known as the former drummer, backing vocalist, and a co-founder of the progressive metal band Dream Theater, as well as the temporary drummer for the hard rock band Avenged Sevenfold. Known for his drumming prowess and technical...

 formerly of Dream Theater
Dream Theater
Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung, and Mike Portnoy while they attended Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. They subsequently dropped out of their studies to further concentrate on the band that would...

. 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
Roger Meddows-Taylor
Roger Meddows Taylor , known as Roger Taylor, is a British musician, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known as the drummer, backing vocalist and occasional lead vocalist of British rock band Queen. As a drummer he is known for his "big" unique sound and is considered one of...

, drummer for the band Queen
Queen (band)
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

, 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
Phil Rudd
Phillip Hugh Norman Rudd is an Australian drummer. He is best known for his membership of rock band AC/DC from 1975 until 1983, and again from 1994 to present. After the 1977 departure of bass guitarist Mark Evans, he became the only Australian-born member of the band...

 of AC/DC
AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Commonly classified as hard rock, they are considered pioneers of heavy metal, though they themselves have always classified their music as simply "rock and roll"...

 also uses distinct hi-hat techniques, which include very heavily accentuating the hi-hat hit on each beat and softer in between.

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts
Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts is an English drummer, best known as a member of The Rolling Stones. He is also the leader of a jazz band, a record producer, commercial artist, and horse breeder.-Early life:...

 of The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

 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. This technique is also used by Levon Helm
Levon Helm
Mark Lavon "Levon" Helm , is an American rock multi-instrumentalist and actor who achieved fame as the drummer and frequent lead and backing vocalist for The Band....

 and Jim Keltner
Jim Keltner
James Lee "Jim" Keltner is an American drummer known primarily for his session work. He has contributed to the work of many well-known artists...

 but not as often as Watts employs it.

Those playing double bass drums have also developed special techniques for using the hi-hat.

In much hip-hop
Hip hop music
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop, rap music or hip-hop music, is a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted...

, the hi-hat is hit with drumsticks in a simple eighth-note
Eighth note
thumb|180px|right|Figure 1. An eighth note with stem facing up, an eighth note with stem facing down, and an eighth rest.thumb|right|180px|Figure 2. Four eighth notes beamed together....

 pattern, although this playing is usually done by a drum machine
Drum machine
A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums or other percussion instruments. They are used in a variety of musical genres, not just purely electronic music...

 or from an old recording from which the sound of a hi-hat is recorded and loaded into a sampler
Sampler (musical instrument)
A sampler is an electronic musical instrument similar in some respects to a synthesizer but, instead of generating sounds, it uses recordings of sounds that are loaded or recorded into it by the user and then played back by means of a keyboard, sequencer or other triggering device to perform or...

 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 note
Thirty-second note
In music, a thirty-second note or demisemiquaver is a note played for 1/32 of the duration of a whole note...

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