Don't Forget About Your Friend, The Hi-Hat Foot!
By: Sean Reinert - September 2009
For most hard rock and metal drummers, the heart of the groove is in the kick and snare. In jazz, the hi-hat and ride cymbal are paramount. So if you are like me, and play a big mix of styles in an extreme fashion (and then some), you know the hi-hat foot is a vital organ!
So now the question: why would I keep time with my hi-hat foot? Well, for many reasons: First off, keeping a quarter note or eighth note pulse going on the hat while playing will help you to keep a more grounded feel in your groove, as well as help the other musicians keep their place in the music. This is, after all, the primary function of the drummer (to keep time). The pulse generated by the hi-hat can also give the listener a "feel" for, or "reference point" to, the groove if, for instance, you are playing in an odd meter or if you are playing odd groupings inside of a common time signature. Keeping time with the hi-hat is also useful to fill the rhythm out, for instance, if you do not have a percussionist and need "another weapon" to propel the music.
That's if you want to make the beat obvious -- you can of course put the hi-hat part on the off/up beat and create uneasy feelings, as well.
So in the first section of this article, we will look at a basic example of how we can keep time with the hi-hat foot supporting the beat with quarter notes and eighth note rhythms, and then we flip the tables and look at a small example of how to approach off/up beat hi-hat patterns with the foot.
So let's scratch the surface here and go through some basic examples of how you can "beef up" your hi-hat foot and gain better balance behind the kit. First off are the "groove examples" page (see hyperlink1). These are basic one measure grooves that you play over and over while you read the kick drum part from the "basic reading" page (see hyperlink2). The "basic reading" page is twelve bars of quarter note, eighth note, and sixteenth note figures to be played by the bass drum against the fixed pattern of the "groove example" you are working on.
Now let's take a quick look at displacing the feel with the hi-hat foot. We can use the same "basic reading" page as we did for for the first example, but shift where the hi-hat is played (see hyperlink3). Notice how this shifts the feel of the groove, sometimes giving a lop-sided feeling. When used appropriately, this technique can be a handy method for creating an interesting groove.
There other ways of exploiting the left foot. For instance, I've explored a technique where I play the hi-hat and double pedal at the same time, leading with the left foot. I position my hi hat on the inside of the double pedal (see hyperlink4) to maximize the position of the pedal better. This allows me to play eighth notes with the hi-hat foot while maintaining sixteenth note double bass patterns at the same time. If you do it just right, you can get a swish from the hi-hats by hitting your heel just the right way on the pedal and letting it ring free. The list goes on. The point is, get creative and explore your possibilities. And by all means, have fun! I've included two videos (Cynic - "Adam's Murmur" and Cynic - "Evolutionary Sleeper") of me playing to illustrate how I have integrated the hi-hat foot into my playing. Happy drumming --
Click & Download these files for your reference!