The Drumming Basics – How To Set Up A Hi-Hat – Cymbal And Hardware Do’s And Don’ts Made Easy

If you want to be a professional drummer, then it is essential that you know how to set up drum gear.

Namely, a hi-hat. It can be difficult to play your drums properly if this is not set up correctly, which can affect both your practices and live performances.

How To Set Up A Hi-Hat - The Do's And Don'ts Of Cymbal And Hardware

Luckily, it is not too difficult to set up a hi-hat, and in this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know to ensure a simple and smooth installation process, even for a beginner drummer!

What Is A Hi-Hat?

A hi-hat is a drum kit accessory that sits on top of the bass drum pedal and allows you to play different sounds by hitting the cymbals with the sticks.

There are two types of hi-hats: single and double.

Single hi-hats have one cymbal mounted above the other, while double hi-hats have two cymbals mounted side by side.

There are also many variations of hi-hats available, including ones with three or four cymbals. However, for our purposes here, we will only focus on the most common versions.

The most popular version of the hi-hat has two cymbals – an upper and lower cymbal. These two cymbals are held together by a spring-tensioned arm.

When you strike the cymbals together, they make a loud noise due to the way the cymbals are connected. The cymbals are usually made from metal, although some modern hi-hats use plastic instead.

They come in various sizes but typically range between 18” and 24” in diameter.

You can also buy hi-hats with more than two cymbals, such as those with three or four cymbals. This type of hi-hat is called a triple hi-hat or quad hi-hat.

In addition to the cymbals, there are several other components inside a hi-hat. Some include a footswitch, a lever, a rod, and a spring.

The footswitch is used to control when the cymbals are struck. You can choose whether you want them to be struck at the same time or separately.

The lever controls the amount of force applied to the cymbals. The rod connects the cymbals so that they do not move around.

Finally, the spring keeps the cymbals in place and helps to keep them quiet.

How To Set-Up A Hi-Hat

Here is everything you will need to do to set up your hi-hat.

  • First, take out the old hi-hat and put away any tools you may have been using.
  • Then, remove the screws holding the hi-hat onto the bass drum pedal.
  • Next, lift off the hi-hat and lay it down flat on a table.
  • Now, check all the parts of the hi-hat and make sure they are in good condition. Replace any broken or worn parts immediately.
  • It is advisable that you make sure the cymbals are clean and free of debris. If necessary, wipe them down with a damp cloth.
  • Finally, attach the hi-hat to the bass drum pedal using the screws provided. Make sure you tighten these screws securely.

Now that your hi-hat is installed, you should test it to see if it works well. Start by striking the cymbals simultaneously.

If you hear a loud sound, then the cymbals are working properly.

If you don’t hear anything, then the cymbal springs might be damaged. In this case, replace them.

If you like what you see, then congratulations! Your new hi-hat is ready to go.

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Cymbals And Hardware

How To Set Up A Hi-Hat

Let’s take a look at the do’s and don’ts of installing a hi-hat in more detail!

DO Adjust The Legs

You will need to ensure that the pedal anchor is not forced onto the ground. Additionally, the pedal anchor must not be supporting a lot of weight.

This is because when the pedal anchor is on the ground, it becomes very unstable and moves around in different directions.

For this reason, the legs need to be adjusted perfectly. Ideally, the spurs should dig into your carpet or rug a little, while the anchor takes less downward pressure and weight.

DON’T Adjust The Legs In A Way That Makes The Anchor Pedal Too High

Just like how the pedal anchor cannot be pushed onto the floor with too much pressure, it also can’t touch the floor, either.

This is an overcompensation that puts a strain on the pedal anchor, which can lead to damage.

DO Utilize The Spurs

To support the hi-hat pedal, you should use the spurs to grip the carpet.

Once you have determined the correct height of the anchor pedal, you can go ahead and adjust the spurs so that they stick to the floor. This will help with the overall stability of the hi-hat.

DON’T Ruin Your Floor With The Spurs

Yes, spurs can actually damage your floor. This is thanks to how sharp they are. To avoid this, you should try to find a softer material for your floor, like a carpet or a rug.

If you’re worried about damaging your floor, then you could always use rubber spacers instead.

DO Handle The Rod Gently

You must protect the rod from bending, and this is especially true when you’re transporting it to and from places.

The best thing to do to prevent damage to the rod is to unscrew it and slide the upper tube out.

Not only will this protect the rod, but it will also protect the bottom cymbal of the hi-hat from damage.

Now, you should leave the clutch at the top of the rod, which allows most of the rod protection via the tube.

DON’T Damage The Threads

If you cross or strip the threads that connect the internal mechanism and the rod, then this will damage the threads.

These threads are essential for the longevity of the hi-hat stand, so it is best to keep them in as good condition as possible.

DO Find The Right Cymbals

When it comes to assembling the hi-hat, then the bottom cymbal must be placed on first.

Some people will get confused as to which is the top cymbal, and which is the bottom.

The confusion is caused by some cymbal models being of the same thickness, causing players to buy two bottoms or two tops.

Try to find a bottom cymbal that is thicker than the top cymbal to avoid this confusion.

DON’T Limit Yourself

You don’t need to limit yourself to just hi-hat cymbals! You can use any cymbals you like and still get a great sound. Why not try experimenting with stacks or crash cymbals?

DO Make Sure The Clutch Nuts Are Installed Correctly

It is important to ensure that the clutch nuts are installed the way you like them. Here, you have room to experiment with the movement of the top hi-hat cymbal.

The amount a cymbal moves can add a lot to the sound, so experiment and see what works for you.

DON’T Leave The Nuts Unlocked

If the two nuts placed above the top cymbal are unlocked, then the cymbal will move around with total freedom.

While this seems like a nice idea to some, it will eventually loosen a different nut, and cause you to lose control of the cymbals and disrupt your playing.

DO Set The Upper Height Adjustment Tube

To do this, you should use the memory lock system. This will help to maintain consistency, which is very important at this stage.

How To Set Up A Hi-Hat Cymbal

Once you have adjusted the height, use the memory lock to ensure it stays in place. If you don’t have access to a memory lock, then you can use hose clamps instead.

DON’T Set The Hi-Hat Too Low

If you do this, then you will not be able to access the necessary playing surfaces. It is better to set the hi-hat higher than you think you need it to be.

Ideally, you want to be able to play the hi-hat at the top of the cymbal with the tip of the stick, as well as using the shoulder of the stick to play the edge of the cymbal.

DO Make Sure You Use The Angle Screw

You should use the angle screw to make sure the bottom cymbal is angled in the best way to achieve the desired “chick” sound.

This is an extremely important aspect of the hi-hat stand.

If the bottom cymbal is angled incorrectly, then the air will get pushed out too evenly and quickly from the cymbals, which causes some of the sound to be canceled out.

DON’T Lose The Washer

The washer is a component that is needed to make contact with the angle screw. While the hi-hat can work without it, it is far more efficient with it, so it’s best kept safe.

DO Use Percussion As Part Of The Set-Up

Using percussion will expand the range of sounds.

This is great because you can now create a wider variety of sounds, such as crashes, rolls, etc, which sounds great live and will help with the creative process.

DON’T Add Any Instruments That Will Damage The Stand

Some instruments, like certain tambourines that clamp to the edge of the stand, will damage the rod.

So, it is best to avoid these instruments and try to find ones that will clamp in the middle.

DO Use A Snare Drum

You should clamp on a snare to your stand. This will give you a much larger range of sounds when compared to using only the hi-hat. In fact, you could even use multiple snares if you wanted to.

However, you should make sure that the snare drum is not too heavy if you have a lightweight stand.

DON’T Purchase Cheap Clamps

Cheap clamps may seem convenient, but they will actually damage your stand. Cheap clamps have the tendency to wander, which makes them difficult to tighten.

Hi-Hat Maintenance Tips

While setting up your hi-hat was pretty easy, maintaining it can sometimes be a little difficult.

Here are some tips to help you avoid problems later on.

  • Make sure you always store your hi-hat upright. Otherwise, the cymbals could get bent or twisted.
  • Try not to let water get into the hi-hat. Water can cause rusting of the cymbals, which can lead to their eventual failure.
  • Finally, make sure you maintain your hi-hat regularly. It can become rusty over time, especially if it gets wet. Clean it every few months to prevent this problem.

Final Thoughts

Hi-hats are a vital piece of drum gear. So, it is important that they are set up correctly and maintained to a good standard.

Luckily, our tips make setting up a hi-hat simple and fun, no matter if you’re an experienced drummer or a total beginner!

With our tips, you’ll be back to playing the drums in no time!