What is a hi-hat?

The hi-hat sound is one of the most recognizable rhythm elements. That goes for most of the musical genres of today. By definition, the term hi-hat refers to a set of two cymbals mounted on a metal stand. The top cymbal can move up and down to open or close the hi-hat via the pedal. One can play it in both open and closed positions. With the help of technology in the past century and after the rise of samplers and drum machines, we were introduced to new and exciting hi-hat sounds that sounded entirely different than the standard cymbal sounds of the acoustic drums.

Hats by AudioThing

Most drum machines include a range of different drum sounds at your disposal, but in the next tutorial, I will show and demonstrate a piece of software that is entirely dedicated to creating and manipulating hi-hats. It is called “Hats” and was created by AudioThing. Hats is a drum synthesizer plugin dedicated to hi-hats and cymbal sounds. It features two independent sources: a synthesized noise and a sample section.

Instead of generic white or pink noise, the noise section features 6 square wave oscillators with different pitches and phases, like the famous TR-808. The result is a noise sound with a controllable metallic character. Both sources can then be processed with four effects: Ring Modulator, Bit Crusher, Filter, and Reverb. The effects can also be arranged in any order with a simple drag and drop. The filter section features a HighPass and BandPass in series; both filters are 12dB/oct with zero delay feedback.

Let’s start

For the purpose of this tutorial, I have created a short Tech-House sequence in SoundBridge which contains some basic elements like a kick drum, bassline, synth chords, and clap sounds. Furthermore, I intentionally left it without a hi-hat since we will make it in the “Hats” plugin. Firstly, let’s hear how the sequence sounds.

~Tech House sequence without hi-hats

Consequently, I will add an instance of “Hats” to a newly created channel within SoundBridge. Let’s check its interface.

As we can see above, the interface is divided into two parts. The upper one contains a noise generator and a sampler. On the left, we can see both short and long envelope controls together with an LFO. The lower part houses the effects. Basically, everything that might come in handy for hi-hat sound processing. There are a vast number of presets, but, of course, you can add external samples of hi-hats and combine them with the noise generator. Let’s hear it in action.

Adding a Hi-Hat sequence

I wrote a standard hi-hat sequence for the new MIDI channel. For this purpose, I combined a noise generator and a  sampled hi-hat sound. Additionally, I processed it more with the effects. Now, let’s hear how the hi-hat sequence sounds without the effects and then with them.

~Hi hat 1 without effects

~Hi hat 1 with effects

Another Hi-Hat sequence to add more groove

Since I think we need another faster hi-hat sequence in order to fulfill the rhythm, I made another channel which contains the “Hats“. Here I made a different hi-hat groove and chose a different color for my hi-hat. Again, let’s heat it without and with effects.

~Hi-hat 2 without effects

~Hi-hat 2 with effects

In the end, let us hear how these two hi-hat loops sound together with the rest of the elements in the mix.

~Full mix

Feel free to download the project here.