Drumming Details Part 1: The Hi-Hat

By Charlie Waymire Published April 12, 2010

Welcome to part one of “Drumming Details,” a three-part series that explores very common elements of our everyday playing and how they affect our sound, feel, and ultimately, the song. While this first episode focuses on the hi-hat, it isn’t a lesson in hi-hat licks (although I do love cool hat licks). Instead, it’s a lesson in how important the hi-hat is to the overall feel of the song and how simple changes to the hi-hat can have a huge impact on how the song feels.

Okay, let’s start with three very common eighth-note note hi-hat patterns. The first pattern has an accent on the quarter-note.

The second pattern moves the accent to the upbeat.

And for our third pattern, we’ll play all the notes at the same medium-loud volume.

Now let’s apply these three hi-hat patterns to the same groove. Remember the lesson here is how different hi-hat patterns can affect the same groove, so keep the kick and snare pattern the same.

DRUM! Notation Guide

Notice how the quarter-note accents gives the groove a more laid-back feel, the upbeat accent gives the groove a bounce, and playing all the notes at an even medium loud volume gives the groove some energy and excitement.

Practice these patterns with a click. When you’re comfortable download the practice loop and play each of these grooves along with it. Also be sure to check out the accompanying video lesson, as I demonstrate each groove with and without the loop.

Now I know we use these patterns all the time. But I think we often overlook the affect they have on the grooves we choose to play. There is a tendency to play the hi-hat without any regard to what it’s actually playing and what affect it has on your groove.

No matter which pattern you choose to play, just be sure you’re aware of what affect it has on your groove. You might find the perfect kick and snare pattern, but for some reason the groove just isn’t sitting right. Before abandoning the entire groove try a different hi-hat pattern. I can’t tell you how many times this simple concept has worked for me. It’s all in the details.

See you in part two of “Drumming Details,” where we’ll take a look at the snare drum.

Charlie Waymire studied music at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota and Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California where he graduated with “Rock Drummer Of The Year” honors. Following graduation, he was signed to Universal Records with the hard rock act, Speak No Evil and toured extensively throughout the United States. He has since toured Europe with his band JKB and has achieved critical acclaim through his work with his Rock-Fusion trio, EGH, with the CD releases Live At MI and It’s About Time. Waymire also stays busy writing, producing, and mixing for artists and various TV shows including at his studio, Ultimate Rhythm Studios, in Hollywood, California. For PIT, Waymire teaches private lessons, Live Playing Workshops, Contemporary Drumming Concepts, and Rhythm Section Workshops. For more lessons and information about Charlie Waymire check out charliewaymire.com