I've always admired and worked hard to acquire good (and fast) hi-hat foot technique. My early attempts at rapid foot-close work were met with disappointment. It didn't take me long to realize why. Quick footwork requires quick equipment. One of my oldest, original pieces of gear is a set of Zildjian A Series Quick Beat Hi-Hats hi-hats. I've had these for nearly 15 years as of this writing.
I also own a set of Sabian Fusion Hi-Hats . The common denominator in these two hi-hat sets is an array of holes in the bottom cymbal to prevent air-lock. Since the air can quickly escape through the bottom, these make for quicker foot work with a tight foot-close sound. Other manufacturers have approached this unique challenge in different ways. Paiste utilized rippled edges on their Sound Edge cymbals. While this allows the air to escape, the closing sound is less clean as a result of the rippled surface.
My original Quick Beat purchase soon revealed the weakness in my hi-hat stand. The puny spring combined with inefficient action and heavier cymbals resulted in a hi-hat set-up that was too easy to outrun. I've been through many stands in the last 20 years. I settled on a basic double spring, chain-drive set-up for many of them. My recent experience with the Pearl H2000 Eliminator Hi-Hat Stand from Pearl has now led me to purchase my first remote set-up, Pearl's Pearl Eliminator Remote. In the past, remote set-ups have been too much of a feel and speed compromise, but Pearl seems to have nailed it with this one. Only time will tell how well it holds up to my finicky foot.
I've also recently discovered an inexpensive improvement to almost any hi-hat set-up. Pearl's UGK-1 Upgrade Kit contains a set of rubber hi-hat clutch washers and rubber cymbal seat. These small items do a surprising job of opening up the tone of smaller hi-hats while allowing you to control the amount of play in the top cymbal without the muting effects. While noticeable on a 14" or 13" set, this application on my Sabian AA Mini Hi-Hats makes me wonder how I ever liked their sound without this upgrade. For about $20, the UGK-1 upgrade kit is a must have if your hi-hat stand isn't already equipped with these features. The upgrade kit also includes some isolating floor-tom leg tips and their 4 way kick pedal beater which opens up the options for your kick drum sound, which we'll discuss in a later column.
When you decide to define your signature hi-hat, look beyond the cymbals themselves. Look at the style of music you play. Do your cymbals fit both musically, and mechanically? Are you able to outplay your hi-hat stand? Is your speed being impeded by air-lock? Does your clutch stay in place? If not, it's time to eliminate this frustration. Have you isolated and addressed any unwanted mechanical noises from your stand? When we get around to the Kick Drum, we'll talk about some of the ways you can rid your kit of unwanted noises. Does your stand work well to support and balance your chosen cymbal set-up? Are the stand's legs strong enough to support the movement of your leg? Have you adjusted the tension of the upper cymbal and angle of the lower to achieve the reaction you are looking for? Can these items be easily addressed, or is it time for a new stand and/or cymbals? Once you've answered these questions and dealt with the shortcomings of your current hi-hats, get out a Sharpie and sign 'it. You've just found your signature hi-hat set-up.
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