We review products independently and our recommendations are genuine. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
When playing jazz on the drums, your hi-hats and your ride are the most important tools compared to other cymbals.
Because the hi-hats are so crucial within jazz, it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality pair to use.
There are some excellent hi-hats out there, but not all of them work well in a jazz setting. Jazz hi-hats typically have warm, dark, or dry sonic characteristics.
In this guide, I’ll be looking at some of the best hi-hats on the market to use for jazz. Each pair that I’ll mention offers something unique, and I’ve compared them according to sound, design, value, and playability.
- What are the Best Jazz Hi Hat Cymbals?
- How I Tested and Selected the Best Jazz Hi-Hat Cymbals
- In-Depth Jazz Hi Hat Cymbal Reviews
- Jazz Hi Hat Cymbals Buying Guide
- Characteristics to Look for in Jazz Hi Hats
- Features to Look Out for in the Best Hi Hats for Jazz
- Hi Hats for Jazz Music FAQs
What are the Best Jazz Hi Hat Cymbals?
How I Tested and Selected the Best Jazz Hi-Hat Cymbals
While I mainly work as a rock/metal drummer, I’ve had to play a few jazz gigs over the years. When compiling this list, I also sought out the help of a few dedicated jazz drummer friends to get their advice on cymbals.
Hi-hats for jazz need to have sharp sounds with plenty of warmth. They should also have a strong chick sound when you press the hi-hat pedal down, as they’re commonly used for timekeeping when playing ride cymbal grooves.
When testing each set of hi-hats out, I mainly looked for playability and musicality. I checked how the cymbals reacted to various kinds of strokes, including hitting the tip, edge, and bell. I also opened them up and played quite aggressively to see how musical they sounded in that area.
After that, I checked for build quality to ensure they were well-weighted and balanced. I also tried hi-hats of different sizes to see which ones would work best in a jazz context.
In-Depth Jazz Hi Hat Cymbal Reviews
Zildjian’s Constantinople cymbals are dream options for many drummers. Out of all the hi-hats that Zildjian offers, these tend to be the most musical and versatile.
These are also some of the best hi-hats that I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. They just sounded so good when mixed with other cymbals in my setup.
Their tones were dark and warm, but you’ll find a bit more brightness and punch coming from these than all the other dark cymbals that Zildjian offers. That makes them excellent for jazz drumming, as a lot of the brightness comes from the chick sound when you close them together.
You get a thin top cymbal over a medium bottom cymbal. This combination of weights allows you to lay into these without worrying about the washy sound being overbearing. The lower tones start to blend into all your other cymbal sounds, which is another quality that works well for jazz drumming.
These hi-hats are most well-known for how well they do in recording studios. They’re incredibly versatile, and their tones transfer very well through microphones. So, they’re one of the best options to go for if you have a few recording sessions planned.
With them being at the top of Zildjian’s product range, they don’t come cheap. In fact, they’re one of the most expensive pairs of 14-inch hi-hats available. However, they’re a pair that you’ll end up using for most settings for years to come.
- Amazing for recording
- Intricate musical detail with every stroke
- Dark and warm tones, but slightly brighter than other dark hi-hats
- Very versatile
- One of the most expensive hi-hat pairs available
The Meinl Byzance Foundry Reserve line has only been around for a few years now, but these hi-hats have quickly become the favorites of many drummers who play Meinl cymbals. I highly recommend these if you’re looking for 15-inch hi-hats to use in jazz groups.
When trying these out, I loved how the combination of a light top and medium-thin bottom made them sound very buttery. The tones were dark at first, but they got more complex as I opened the hats.
When you play them open to create washy tones, the sounds just blend so well with everything you’re playing.
You may be worried that larger hi-hats have a softer foot sound, but I could easily hear the hi-hat chick when playing heavy patterns on the ride cymbal.
This is perhaps one of the most luxuriously packaged cymbals out there, as you’ll always get a pair of Meinl Stick & Brush sticks and a set of cymbal gloves when you order these hi-hats. You’ll also get a certificate of authenticity.
With these additional items, the whole unboxing experience is fantastic.
Meinl also offers 14-inch and 16-inch versions of the Foundry Reserve hats, but I feel that the 15-inch ones are the best of the ones I tested out.
- Highly versatile and musical cymbals
- Packaged in a luxurious box with sticks and gloves
- Very responsive to different levels of dynamics
- Superb tones for every style and genre
- Meinl’s most expensive hi-hats
While the Paiste 14-inch Masters Dark Hi-Hats have fundamentally low-pitched tones with smoky textures, they’re far more explosive than you may think. They’re some of the best hi-hats that you can use for lively jazz settings where you need plenty of volume.
I have a friend who plays weekly in a big band, and he swears by these due to how lively yet musical they sound.
According to him, you need hats that can compete with horns, and these do the trick!
They have an incredible closed hi-hat sound, and you get a very similar sound when you play them with your foot. The liveliness from the foot is great for when you’re playing swing patterns on the ride cymbal.
They get a bit aggressive when you play them with the hats slightly opened, but that’s fantastic for those lively jazz settings.
It’s amazing how you can get these qualities from hi-hats with low-pitched tones, as it’s normally what you’d get from bright cymbals.
It just means that these aren’t the most versatile hi-hats around. There are so many subgenres within jazz, and these hi-hats will perform brilliantly in a few of them. They’ll sound too aggressive when played in the others.
With that being said, they’re a pair of hats that would make a great addition to any jazz drummer’s collection.
- Lively tones that are great for high-energy jazz settings
- Great volume levels
- Strong hi-hat foot sound
- Excellent price to quality ratio
- Tones are a bit intense for softer jazz styles
Dream is a brand that has hit the market flying with its affordable cymbals that have mostly been hand-hammered. With the major brands, you only get handmade cymbals from the priciest ranges, but Dream offers that sense of personal quality with most of their products.
The Bliss line is arguably the most popular one from the brand, and these Dream 14-inch Bliss hi-hats are an excellent option for jazz drummers.
I found these hi-hats to be on the trashier side, which is a sound quality that tends to work quite well in jazz.
This makes them sound quite explosive, yet they’re musically responsive enough to sound amazing at lower volumes.
This is a great pair of hi-hats for drummers who want high-end playability without spending double the price on pristine models from other brands.
I also love how each pair of Bliss hi-hats sounds slightly different due to the hand-hammering process. When you get a pair, they’ll have sounds that are unique to you, and that’s something that a lot of jazz drummers look for.
The pair that you buy may sound very different from the pair that I tested out, but the main qualities will still be there.
That concept comes with a drawback, though. Some pairs of Bliss hi-hats will sound much better than others, and you may just get a worse-sounding pair. However, all of them are epic, and they fit perfectly into jazz settings.
- More affordable than most high-end hi-hats
- Hand-hammered to create unique textures
- Slightly trashy tones
- Some pairs sound better than others
Here’s another pair of Zildjian hi-hats. These Zildjian 12-inch New Beat Hi Hats are my wildcard option for this list. They’re a fantastic option for two distinct reasons. Firstly, they’re the types of hi-hats that fit perfectly within compact drum kit setups.
Jazz music is often played in small club and pub venues where space on stage is limited. You may find yourself backed into a corner, and your favorite pair of 15-inch hi-hats just won’t fit the space you’re in.
Using small hi-hats like these is a fantastic solution, as they’re still high-end cymbals that are musically responsive to various types of playing.
The other reason for getting them would be if you play modern styles of jazz that border into hip-hop and electronic music territory. Those styles really benefit from hi-hats with bright tones that are short and distinct.
When I jammed with these hats, I thought of drummers like Marcus Gilmore and Chris Dave. They just leaned so well into the whole neo-jazz vibe!
You’ll hear 16th notes being played a lot clearer on these than on all the hi-hats that we’ve looked at so far, and that’s just one of the reasons that they work so well.
The downside is that 12-inch hi-hats aren’t versatile at all. I’d recommend getting these as a second pair of hats to use whenever you need them, whereas you should have a main pair of 14 or 15-inch hi-hats to use for your everyday playing.
- Bright and expressive tones
- Great option for compact drum kit setups
- Sound excellent in electronic and hip-hop inspired jazz styles
- Not versatile
- Too small for traditional jazz
Jazz Hi Hat Cymbals Buying Guide
Hi-hats are so important in jazz due to the style being more cymbal-oriented than most others.
It’s one of the only styles of music where you can play full songs with only your cymbals, and it will all sound perfectly normal.
There are countless subgenres within jazz, though, so there isn’t a one size fits all approach when it comes to choosing hi-hats.
However, there are a few key factors to note that will point you in the right direction, and there are definitely hi-hats that will sound completely out of place if you pick the wrong pair.
You can either choose a versatile pair of hi-hats, or you can specialize with certain sounds for a subgenre. I suggest going with both methods, as it’s always good to have multiple pairs of hi-hats to use for various situations.
You could have one pair of versatile hi hat cymbals that you can even play other styles with, and then you can have a special pair to pull out for your gigs with a specialized jazz band.
Characteristics to Look for in Jazz Hi Hats
- Dynamic responsiveness is key with jazz hi-hats. You want the cymbals to sound full and musical when you play them both softly and loudly.
- Hi-hat foot sound is incredibly important. Hi-hats are often used as a timekeeping tool in jazz, so they need to have a solid chick sound when you press your foot down on the pedal.
- A good open hi-hat sound is also vital. When songs open up in jazz, you’ll get more volume when playing washy hi-hats, and having pleasant washy tones will add to the music.
- Great build quality is also essential. Hi-hats are one of the most expensive categories of cymbals, so you want to have a pair that lasts you a very long time.
Features to Look Out for in the Best Hi Hats for Jazz
The first thing to establish when looking for hi-hats is what size you want. Hi-hats range from 10” to 16”, so there is plenty of room to choose a size that affects how the cymbals sound and feel.
14-inch hi-hats are the safest option. That’s the most popular size, and these hi-hats tend to be the most versatile. They combine a tight chick sound with a decent amount of washiness when played open.
A lot of modern drummers have been switching to 15-inch hi-hats, as the added bit of washiness makes them sound a bit more musical.
They also tend to have slightly darker tones. They just don’t feel as tight as 14-inch hats, making them a bit harder to play quick notes on.
16-inch hi-hats are for drummers that want more washiness than anything. But I wouldn’t recommend these for most jazz drummers due to the hi-hat foot sound easily getting lost.
Smaller hi-hats have higher-pitched sounds, and they work well in modern jazz styles that are inspired by hip-hop.
The weight of your hi-hat cymbals is incredibly important. You may not notice what the weights are when looking at other cymbal types, but you need to see what they are for hi-hats to know how the cymbals will interact with each other.
All the best hi-hats for jazz will have bottom hi hat cymbals that are heavier than the top hi hat cymbals.
When the bottom hat is heavier, it boosts the aggressiveness of the tone you get when playing the edge and surface of the hi-hats.
A heavy bottom will also give you a strong and distinct chick sound when you close the hi-hats with your foot.
If the bottom hi-hat is light, you’ll get washier hats that blend more than they cut. However, that’s also a desirable feature for many jazz drummers. It’s often great to have a pair of hi-hats with light cymbals on both the top and bottom.
However, you must always make sure that the bottom hi-hat cymbal is heavier.
Cymbals are made from a variety of different metals and metal alloys. If you want to easily find the best-sounding hi-hats, just look for ones that are made from B20 bronze.
This alloy has 80% copper and 20% tin, and cymbals made from it generally sound the most musical.
They have complex tones that change depending on how you strike them, and that’s exactly what you want with hi-hats for jazz.
You’ll find amazing cymbals made from other alloys, but I’ve found that all the best hi-hats for jazz are made from B20 bronze.
The way these alloys are made differs between cymbal brands, but most end up with very similar results.
Again, there’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to jazz, so the tones you need from your hi-hats will largely depend on your preferences and the type of jazz you’re playing.
You have several main tonal qualities, including bright, warm, dark, and trashy.
Hi-hats with a bright sound are the one type that you may want to avoid for jazz.
They can certainly be used for loud and lively settings, such as playing in a big band, but they’ll sound a bit too aggressive in softer ensemble settings.
Warm and dark hi-hats tend to be the most versatile options, which is why most of the hi-hats I mentioned above have those qualities.
Trashy hi-hats can also sound fantastic in jazz settings, but trashiness is a cymbal quality that not every drummer loves.
It’s best to listen to all the hi-hats that you’re considering. Make sure that they have very strong sounds when played with the foot. After that, just go with the ones that sound the best to you. They’ll work perfectly well in jazz settings.
Hi Hats for Jazz Music FAQs
Why are Hi Hats so Important in Jazz Music?
Hi-hats are played and heard a lot in jazz. Some jazz tunes are centered around hi-hat patterns, while others rely on the hi-hat sound to keep every band member in time.
While hi-hats are important in every style of music, they play a very significant role within jazz drumming, so you need to have a good pair to help you drive the music forward.
What is the Best Hi Hat Cymbals Size for Jazz?
It depends on what subgenre of jazz you’re going to be playing on the drums. The smaller your hi-hats are, the higher their tones will be, and vice versa.
It’s a good idea to start with 14-inch hi-hats. If you’re not happy with those, go bigger or smaller depending on what kind of sound you’re leaning more toward.
Are Dry Cymbals Good for Jazz?
Dry cymbals are excellent for jazz. The best thing about them is that they get out of the way very quickly without sounding overwhelming. So, you can hit them very hard and fast while playing drums in a hectic jazz climax moment, and they’ll never sound too aggressive.