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Open HiHats

The following exercises can be found in The Teacher and Student Method Drum Set Studies Exercise - Book One.

Drum fills are often used, quite literally, as something to “fill” in a space between two different pieces of music. For example, you may be at the end of a verse, and want to signify to the listener that things are about to change up and hit the chorus. We’ve looked at some previous ideas using Paradiddle patterns and even Number Cells, but this time I want you to consider using open hi-hats and chokes for drum fills.

Our brothers (and sisters) that play Funk music already know very well how to use these concepts in a fill. It’s a very cool sounding way to break up the music, without having to use busy rolls and heavy crashes. And as for open hi-hat chokes, they are a good way to create some “stabs” or staccato rhythmic patterns.

I’ve seen different ways of writing open hi-hats and chokes, but I choose to use the plus (+) for the closing of the hats, and the letter “o” for the opening. It’s simply easier to spot these subtleties that way, rather than having to locate the hi-hat pedal closings at the bottom... it’s all in one place. However, I do use the hi-hat pedal markings (left foot down on hi-hat pedal) to signify when a hi-hat is closed independently, not at the same time as striking the hats with your stick.

Anyhow, here’s some ideas on how to use open hi-hats as fills:

Open HiHat Fill Concepts

Let’s now focus on open hi-hat chokes. Basically, you’re closing the hi-hats very quickly after opening them, almost like a flam between the stick striking the hi-hat, and then the foot closing it instantly afterwards. It’s best to practice that co-ordination individually at first, so that you get used to the timing. Always make sure that you have the hi-hats fully open all of the way, before using a choke. And let’s not forget that open hi-hat chokes sound best when you hit the bass drum in addition to the initial open hat, which causes a flam pattern between the feet as well.

In my opinion, the best way to denote a choking of any cymbal is to use a Breath Mark, which looks like an apostrophe. The Breath Mark is used to signify the shortening of a musical note (by reducing the sustain), but does not interfere with the tempo of the music. Sometimes, the Breath Mark is placed before the note, but I think that it makes more sense to place it after.

Here are some extra fills that also use open hi-hat chokes:

Chocked HiHat Fill concepts

Owen Liversidge

Owen Liversidge, currently residing in Atlanta, GA, has been an active drummer for 21 years, playing both in the UK and the US. He has a degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Leeds, England. After teaching for 12 years, Owen has recently released two books for teaching drum set method - The Teacher and Student Method Drum Set Studies book 1 & 2, both available on Amazon.

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