Hi-hat Substitutions 1In this article we’ll discuss substitutions where we’re basically using the hi-hat foot to replace either a hand or a bass drum note. The idea is to look at the hi-hat as not just an instrument that plays quarter notes or 8th notes, but rather as an instrument that can be incorporated into any linear-type groove.

I stumbled on the idea of hi-hat substitutions when I was playing a lot of electronica. The beats in that music are usually created by DJs or producers and often have many different hi-hats playing within one groove. In order to replicate these patterns live, I had to figure out how to get as many different sounds out of one hi-hat as I could. I would incorporate the bell of the hi-hat, the edge, and the foot chick.

I started by experimenting with the famous Purdie shuffle heard on the Steely Dan tune “Home at Last.” I practiced replacing the third note of every 16th-note-triplet grouping with a left foot. The challenge was trying to line up my right foot with my left foot just before the backbeat on the last triplet partial.

Example 1 is the “Home at Last” variation. Practice it very slowly, as the normal inclination will be to push the time. Also, try to avoid hi-hat barks (open sounds). Strive for a clean, precise, and tight hi-hat pattern throughout.

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The next thing I did was experiment with a double-paradiddle sticking that starts with the left foot instead of the left hand. Try playing this pattern as a fill at first. Play three bars of the Purdie shuffle with the hi-hat substitutions, and then play the double-paradiddle fill.Hi-hat Substitutions 3

Now let’s put the double paradiddle into a groove. The pattern will start with the left-foot hi-hat playing on the last triplet partial of beat 4, to allow you to hit the snare on beats 2 and 4 with your right hand. You can also play the 16th note following the snare accents on the hi-hat by crossing the left hand under the right.

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Let’s play that same pattern as 16th notes instead of 16thnote triplets. The pattern is now in 6/4, and the snare is accenting every other downbeat. This creates an additional challenge, because the accent appears at different places within the double paradiddle.

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Now try using the double paradiddle as a two-bar fill. Accent beat 3 of the first bar and beats 2 and 4 of the second bar on the snare.Hi-hat Substitutions 6

Let’s return to a single-paradiddle sticking, but instead of playing the third note with the right hand, substitute the left foot.

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The next example is an inverted paradiddle sticking with the fourth 16th note of beats 1 and 3 played by the left foot instead of the right hand.Hi-hat Substitutions 8

Now substitute the hi-hat foot on the “&” of beats 2 and 4.

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The next example shows how a double-paradiddle sticking might work with a hi-hat substitution on the first note of each double stroke.Hi-hat Substitutions 10

In this final example, I’ve thrown in two 32nd notes before the backbeat. Make sure that you hear the hi-hat notes evenly and that there are no barks.Hi-hat Substitutions 11

In the next installment of this series, we’ll explore how broken doubles and hi-hat substitutions can work together. Until then, have fun experimenting!

Tobias Ralph is a New York City–based drummer currently performing with the Adrian Belew Power Trio and Defunkt. He has performed with Lauryn Hill, Tricky, and 24-7 Spyz, among others. Ralph is a faculty member at the Collective in NYC. For more info, visit tobiasralph.com.