(I am aware of this thread: Snap, Crackle, and Pop (Making Glitches) - this particular one is about hi-hats.)

The goal:

Hi-hat output of VST drum -> / VST FX Madness / -> glitch hi-hat

Reasons and what I have tried

I really hate using only one sample for hihat. It is really-really-really dull (part of the reason I hate listening to "Walk this way" by Run DMC).

I have tried using bit crushers, gates, lowpass, resonating filters and crazy distortions on the hihat output of vst drums (as the more sophisticated ones are alternating samples by an algorithm). I had figured out that setting the ADSR envelope of hihat is essential in taming the sound.

However, I had always ended up strange, snare like sounds, which were obviously not "hihatish".

The goal should be something like this:

(also check out Takamasa's Silicom Two for crazier/aliener tunes).

Has anyone experience with glitch hihats?

Guesses I need to try out:

  • slice up some of the rendered hihats and slice it up, then use a sampler that can control the start of the sample by velocity (question: any nice and small sampler that is capable of that? - and also the length of the attack-release?)
  • any VST that is capable of real time random glitching of an input?

Really cool link:

http://music.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-synthesize-a-glitch-drum-kit-with-operator--audio-10397 - The kit is sounding exactly what I want to achieve!

3 Answers 3


SoundToys Decapitator plug in is good for dirtying up percussive sounds. Also I like Izotope vinyl plugin. Takes away the clean sound of hi hats nicely.


The crucial thing about cymbals is basically that they have no harmonics, as such – i.e. no series of integer-related resonant frequencies. That's why resonant filters are obviously not such a great idea: they introduce precisely the kind of sonic characteristics that sound un-HiHat-ish. In particular if combined with saturation / distortion, which turns a single peak into exactly such an overtone cascade.

Also, especially HiHat is simply very "thin"; it's often useful to emphasise this with a high-pass filter, certainly if lower frequencies were introduced through earlier effects (e.g. distortion does that, via intermodulation, when fed non-harmonic content).

That also means lowpass is a bit problematic. So while you would rightly use that as a primary control of dynamics for most other instruments, in case of Hi-Hat it's actually preferrable to simply use volume.

Effects that can "safely" be used for more special results include:

  • Linears: reverb with unusual setting; any kind of delay; band cuts.
  • As a variation of the last, a phaser can be quite interesting on cymbals. Also other modulation effects, i.e. chorus/flanger.

These are probably a bit to spacey for what you want. Less so:

  • Bit crushers, as you already tried. Actually just a special kind of distortion – both have this intermodulation problem, again you can fix that by adding a high-pass after it. In my experience really effective of Hi-Hat in this combination... perhaps the one you tried also had bandlimiting/aliasing? That's obviously not so clever as it deprives you of those important treble content. Incidentally, same for many distortion plugins: make sure there's not some kind of guitar-speaker simulation, which effectively acts as a lowpass.
  • Stereo effects. The treble content and short transient characteristic of HiHat makes it excellently localisable. Try modifying the stereo channels inconsistently, e.g. with envelope-dependent all-pass. It'll be very hard to tell what's going on, yet you'll have quite a bit of extra scope for subtle modulation with possibly quite eerie subconcious perception.
  • Gating. You've also had that already. Of course, it's crucial that you properly preserve the transients, so very fast (why not zero) opening time, possibly also very fast close.

Finally, you might also ditch those samples alltogether and build you own hi-hat sound, à la analogue drum synth. Basically, you just need short pulses of white noise for something recognisably hi-hat, but with a synth you can of course modify that in loads of subtle ways.

  • Thanks for detailed explanation and nice tips! Also you have reminded me why I had trouble with the bitcrusher: decrease the sampling frequency and you are losing the treble. Now it's time to test all these tips and figure out if I am still missing something.
    – atoth
    Feb 7, 2014 at 12:41

you can automate white noise with a sidechain plugin fired by the actual hi-hat just to give the position , it's a very very similar sound and widely used.

take a channel and put a white noise plugin and leave it open so you hear a static, then put a gate plugin side-chained by the hihat sample. Use very fast settings on the gate.

On the hihat channel just route it to null output, use it only for reference point/key to the Gate plugin.

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