Play the Hi-Hat

10.08.2017 |

Episode #3 of the course How to play the drums to (almost) every song you’ve ever heard by Dylan DePice


In Lessons #1 and #2, you learned to count four and play the snare. By the end of the course, you’ll know how to play a beat using all four limbs. It’s gonna take patience and time to do it right. But you can do it. Today, you’re going to learn to play the hi-hat with your right hand.

Hi-hats looks like this:

For our purposes, we’re going to say your hi-hat is your left thigh; you’ll tap it with your right hand.

Start by counting fours with 8th notes.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(“One and two and three and four and”)

Repeat a few times to get comfortable.

Next, use your right hand to tap your left thigh on every eighth note:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(*tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap*)

That’s a tap for every word you say.

Try it in rhythm, with each 8th note exactly as far away from the one before it as the one after it. “The and of one” should be just as close to 1 as it is to 2 and so on. When musicians refer to “the and of” any number, they’re talking about the 8th note right after it. So, in the above example, “the and of one” is the + right after 1.

The next step is to combine this hi-hat pattern with the snare pattern you already learned. But don’t try it yet. A few warnings first:

1. This is going to be hard.

2. You may not get it right away.

3. That’s okay.

4. You will get it.

Get into starting position with each hand on the opposite thigh, arms crossed over your lap. You’ll play hi-hat with your right hand on your left thigh and the snare with your left hand on your right thigh. Your right arm should be on top because, on a real drumset, the snare is lower to the ground than the hi-hat.

There’s another reason too: you’ll play the hi-hat with your right hand on every single 8th note but only play snare on 2 and 4, so you should never need to lift your left hand to play snare without also lifting your right hand to play the hi-hat.

Now we’re ready to try combining our hi-hat pattern (8th notes) with our snare pattern (2 and 4). Here’s the gist:

• Count.

• Continue counting; add hi-hat.

• Continue counting with hi-hat; add snare.

Step 1. Count at least one bar of four without tapping. Repeat until you feel comfortable.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(“One and two and three and four and”)

Step 2. Play the hi-hat on every 8th note and repeat until you feel confident.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Step 3. When you’re ready, try adding the snare pattern with your left hand. That means hitting your thighs with both hands whenever you say “two” and whenever you say “four.” I think of these moments as little checkpoints within the measure, emphasizing the way you say 2 and 4. I suggest shouting (if you can do it without getting on anyone else’s nerves)

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(“One and TWO and three and FOUR and”)

Take this extremely slow. Every time you make a mistake—and you will—start over with just the hi-hat. If you feel frustrated and even the easier stuff gets difficult, you may be speeding up as you count. Slow down and take it from the top. Focus on getting through one bar.

The goal is to train your body to physically be capable of completing these motions; you’re building muscle memory. Don’t feel pressure to accomplish that goal by the time you finish reading this. Set aside a separate moment when you feel safe to focus solely on this exercise.

Once you’ve done one bar successfully, try doing four in a row. Once you get it, keep practicing so it sinks in. Then, if you’re feeling really ready, try to do it in rhythm.



Recommended book

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Drums by Michael Miller


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