Hi-hat cymbals offer a brighter sound compared to other 14-inch hi-hat options. Pedal work is pleasing to the ear without requiring a lot of effort to produce high volume.
Sound quality is more appropriate for student and beginning players instead of professional settings.
Offers a great deal of durability to survive the abuse that comes with aggressive play styles found in rock, metal, and more. Can handle heavier wood and metal sticks.
Sound can come across as dull or lacking great volume and presence.
Bright sound is easy to manipulate with different sticking styles. Smooth finish retains its shine longer than other professional-level hi-hat pairs.
Greater sensitivity requires a higher drumming skill level to get the best results.
Handmade construction uses heavier metals to produce a much darker tone than average hi-hat sets. Smooth finish produces better articulation and sensitivity.
Cymbals are extremely heavy compared to sets made of traditional materials.
Decent amount of durability from a budget set of hi-hats. Can produce a good variety of percussive sounds and dynamics with the right technique and drum sticks.
Requires more effort to get good volume and dynamics out of the metal.
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Hi-hat cymbals aren’t the flashiest parts of a drum kit, but they’re arguably the stars of the show. Arranged as a pair on a foot-controlled stand, hi-hats serve as a drummer’s personal metronome, keeping the beat while fills and accents are played. They’re also among the most dynamic elements of the kit, producing a wide range of sounds depending on how much space exists between them.
That space is controlled through the aforementioned foot pedal. When pressed, the hi-hats are closed tightly and produce a short, quiet “chk.” When the pedal is not pressed, the cymbals come open, producing a louder “tss” with increased sustain.
Hi-hats can be used in any genre of music in countless ways, making them an integral section of any drum set. They’re generally fashioned from brass or bronze alloy and are sold in several sizes and shapes. So whether you’re a veteran percussionist or just starting out, the hi-hat is a tool you should familiarize yourself with. Let us help with that.
With few exceptions, hi-hat cymbals are made from brass or bronze, the latter being an alloy of tin, copper, silver, nickel, and other metals. There are various nuances within those categories.
Brass: A hallmark of entry-level and starter drum kits, brass hi-hats are inexpensive and easy to find. They have a softer attack and lower volume output than other options as well as a less complex sound.
B8 bronze: B8 cymbals contain 8% tin and project a crisp, bright sound that cuts through other music well.
B10 bronze: B10 hi-hats contain 10% tin and have high volume output as well as bell-like warmth.
B12 bronze: B12 cymbals contain 12% tin and boast a nice balance of crisp control and warmth. They are shimmery and glassy in tone.
B20 bronze: Reserved for top-of-the-line cymbals, B20 bronze contains 20% tin and produces a dark, complex sound.
Outside of the material itself, cymbal thickness is one of the primary factors that affect overall tone. Generally, thicker cymbals produce higher-frequency sound, which gives them a volume output advantage as well as a bright timbre. Thinner cymbals vibrate with a lower frequency and take more effort to create the same amount of volume. The tone is lower as well, which could be positive or negative, depending on your style.
The diameter of a hi-hat helps determine pitch. Assuming the materials and overall design are the same, cymbals with smaller diameters generate higher pitches and brighter tones. Larger versions do the opposite, providing darker, warmer sounds.
Hi-hats in the 13- to 14-inch range are the go-to. They’re highly versatile, sitting in a safe tonal space for different music types. Several sizes are available, with the majority measuring 12 to 16 inches wide.
Once a hi-hat cymbal is created, whether it be stamped or cast, it receives a treatment to give it a unique sonic profile. Among the most common is hammering. Hammering can be done uniformly across the cymbal for a pure, consistent tone or more irregularly for a dynamic, “musical” result. If you’re itching to hammer your own, however, be warned — excessive deformation of the surface can lead to excessive noise and “dirty” responses.
Lathing offers another way to add nuance to a hi-hat. The lathe allows the cymbal to spin in place, enabling the operator to put record-like grooves into the surface. This affects the way the cymbal vibrates, and it also physically removes material for a difference in pitch. Generally, the wider the grooves in the cymbal, the darker and warmer the tone.
Adding rivets or holes to a cymbal isn’t as common as hammering or lathing, but it is done. Rivets are a particularly unique inclusion, as they add a metallic “sizzle” to the base tone. Rivet cymbals are commonly used in swing music. Holes are broader in their application, as they can help eliminate air lock, reduce volume, and even add a harsh, thrashy profile to the sound.
Drummers often utilize multiple hi-hat setups to produce different tones. Assuming all things are equal, larger, thinner cymbals produce lower pitches than smaller, thicker ones. Experiment with different setups, and if you have room, use multiple hi-hats to serve different roles in your music.
Inexpensive: Hi-hats start at $65 to $100. This entry-level price usually yields brass cymbals with less character and less sustain than bronze equivalents. They’re great for practice kits or new drummers.
Mid-range: Spend $100 to $250, and you’re well into the range of quality bronze alloy hi-hats. These materials have deeper character than straight brass and are usually louder and more dynamic. High-end brands start to make their appearance in this segment as well.
Expensive: Budget $400 and up to access the best materials and designs available. Expect to see unique B20 bronze hi-hats here with clever lathing, hammering, and anti-air lock designs with picture-perfect tone.
A. Cymbals have a tendency to collect dust and oil from handling over time. There are myriad cleaners available that can remove unsightly marks and grime, with some leaving a protective coating behind to protect the cymbal.
That said, many drummers don’t clean their cymbals at all, preferring the look of a nicely aged patina. The tone difference between clean and “dirty” cymbals is negligible, leaving it down to personal preference whether you use these products or not. If you enjoy clean, brightly shining cymbals for a huge stage presence, go for it! If you like the aged look, have no fear: your instrument will sound no different. With that in mind, there are a couple other ways to help keep your cymbals in healthy condition for the long haul.
First, put some thought into how you place your hi-hats on the hi-hat stand, confirming you have quality felt or neoprene washers on the top and bottom of each cymbal. Doing so prevents abrasive damage between the metal pieces. Take care not to overly tighten the nuts around these pieces, as it will restrict motion and affect durability. In addition, we highly recommend investing in a padded cymbal bag with internal dividers for safe transport.
A. The core elements of a drum kit are hi-hats, a snare drum, and a bass drum. In this simple setup, the hi-hat keeps the beat constant, while the bass and snare punctuate upbeats and downbeats. We recommend at least one crash or ride cymbal to round out the kit, as it opens up the possibilities for accent work.
Of course, drummers often go above and beyond with fleshed-out kits that expand in all directions. A common example of a “big” kit would be the hi-hat, snare, and bass drum along with multiple toms of different sizes and various cymbals arrays. Some drummers even utilize xylophones, double bass drums, and electronically programmed elements to fully realize their sound.
A. Traditionally, hi-hat cymbals are the same diameter and sit flush atop one another. This is not always the case, however. In some cases, drummers use a smaller top hi-hat over a larger bottom one, as this produces a unique tone and prevents the dreaded “air lock.”
What is air lock, exactly? It occurs when your hi-hat cymbals come together so tightly that the air inside cannot escape, killing your volume as well as your tone. Using different-sized pieces eliminates this issue; there are also hi-hats with ridges specifically designed to let air escape.