Finding the perfect set of drumsticks is about more than evaluating how they feel in your hands- it’s about finding a well-balanced set of sticks that will help improve your playing comfort while bringing out the best sounds in your drumkit and cymbals. From size and tips to the type of wood, there are plenty of things to pay attention to while shopping for your next pair of drumsticks.
Type of Wood
The most popular woods in drumstick making today are maple, hickory, and oak. Each variation has a slightly different feel, since each type transmits and absorbs vibration in different ways. Maple is the lightest, and is best used in lower-volume situations. Hickory is the most popular wood used in drumstick making, as it is excellent at absorbing shock which, in turn, can help reduce hand and wrist fatigue. Finally, since oak is the heaviest drumstick variation, it’s widely accepted as being reliable and the most likely to hold up to long-term, vigorous drumming. When it comes to choosing a wood, take your drumming style into consideration- if you’re drumming in a marching band, maple may be a perfectly good choice, while it wouldn’t suffice for a heavy metal or punk rock drummer.
An Intro to Tips
Before you can choose a drumstick, you’ll have to understand the different drumstick tips and what they do. Stick tips come in four basic shapes: round, barrel, pointed, and tear-drop. Each tip has its own unique tonal qualities. Round tips deliver a focused sound, while barrel tips have a larger contact area and produce a broader, more diffused tone. Pointed tips, also referred to as triangle-tipped sticks, produce a focused medium tone, while tear-drop tips can produce a wide range of sounds depending on how they’re held.
The thickness, represented by the numbers on the stick, also changes the sound produced. Although higher numbers represent thinner sticks, thickness isn’t completely consistent between brands. Drumsticks labeled with a “7A” are thin and light- perfect for use in marching bands or by beginner jazz students. 5As are slightly thicker than 7As, but not as thick 5Bs. 5As are versatile enough to be used in just about any genre of music, while 5Bs are often used in rock and 2Bs are typically reserved for use in heavy metal. It’s also important to pay attention to the letters- S model sticks are designed for drum corps and marching bands, while B model sticks should be used in brass bands or symphonic orchestras. If you play in a big band or dance orchestra, opt for sticks labeled with an A, which are thinner and lend to softer playing.
Varnished vs. Lacquered
If your hands tend to sweat a lot, you may want to purchase drumsticks that don’t have a slippery varnish or lacquer on them. In fact, drummers who tend to sweat profusely use sandpaper to sand their sticks down to their original form. When it comes to deciding between the different types of varnish or lacquers, it’s purely a matter of personal preference- some drummers prefer the feeling of a highly glossed drumstick in their hands, while others don’t. You should definitely spend some time holding different drumsticks during this part of the process, as it’s something you’ll need to decide on your own.
Choose a Brand
Since there are so many different brands of quality drumsticks on the market, the best place to start when choosing a brand is by asking your music instructor for their advice. If you don’t have a music instructor or are completely new to drumming, think about your drumming style and who your inspiration is. Research their favorite drumstick brands, head to your local music store, and give them a try. Top brands include Zildijian, Vic Firth, and Vater, When testing our drumsticks, get a feel for their weight, springiness, and balance and choose the brand that works best for you.
Interested in purchasing a drum kit? Check out our Drum Kit Buyer’s Guide first!