Defining Your 'Signature' Hi-Hat

by William Reeves

May/June 2002


Editor's Note: ESP has moved to a bi-monthly format to better facilitate our vision for more detailed, in-depth articles on featured topics. Eric Scot Porter is in the process of renovating his studio, so the duty of his column for the next few months is being handled by William Reeves, who is usually found moderating the forum at ElectronicDRUMS.com. This column is the second in a series designed to help you define and create your 'signature' sound.

Defining Your 'Signature' Hi-Hat

As we discovered in the last column, the hi-hat probably gets the greatest workout of any item in your instrument. Is your current hi-hat equipment preventing you from getting the most out of it? As an acoustic drummer I am constantly annoyed at the implementation of hi-hat by electronic drum manufacturers. Unfortunately, their hands are somewhat tied. Although improvements have been made over the years, it is doubtful that most consumers would be willing to pay the cost of a truly realistic electronic hi-hat. Today's options allow for variable levels of open and close, fairly realistic velocity sensitive foot-close and foot splash sounds, though the playing surface rarely mimics the real thing. The relaxed tension feel of a partly-open set of cymbals. The sound of a side-sticked bell in various stages between open and closed. These are among the items that have yet to be accurately emulated by the electronic community, yet we take them for granted as acoustic drummers. If you've ever watched Roy Burns' Basic Drumset Tuning video, you will see a great number of things that can't be done with electronic hi-hat. Why am I so particular about this one item that is often mixed into oblivion by most producers anyway?

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.

Zildjian A Series Quick Beat Hi-Hat Pair 14 Inches

Zildjian A Series Quick Beat Hi-Hat Pair 14 Inches

The Quick Beats have an especially fast response with 4 holes in the bottom that allow quick air release. Symmetrically machine hammered and lathed with a traditional wide groove. The result is an exuberant cymbal that bursts with a classic voice that is pure, bright, and expressive.


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.

Sabian AA Series Fusion Hi Hats 13 Inches

Sabian AA Series Fusion Hi Hats 13 Inches

Extremely clean, crisp and cutting response is powered by heavy, air-vented bottom.


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.

Pearl RH-2000 Eliminator Remote Hi-Hat Stand

Pearl RH-2000 Eliminator Remote Hi-Hat Stand

The Pearl RH-2000 cymbal stand combines the H-2000 Eliminator Hi-Hat's PosiLink Twin Cam drive system with a third-generation low-friction cable to produce the smoothest, lightning-fast, natural-feeling remote hat in the world.


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.

Pearl UGK-1 Upgrade Kit

Pearl UGK-1 Upgrade Kit

Designed to be a sound-enhancing upgrade for ELX/EX and FX, the UGK-1 Upgrade Kit includes 3 R-40 floor tom feet, a B-200QB QuadBeater, a NP-208 cymbal seat washer, and 2 NP-210 hi-hat clutch washers.


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.


LOGIZTIX™ is not responsible for any and all injuries or other claims that may arise from your use or attempted use of these instructions. Certain skills are a prerequisite for following these plans successfully. The use of manufacturers and/or other companies' names does NOT constitute an endorsement... All trademarks are property of their respective owners.


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