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drum sticks

From Brushes to Brooms: The Complete Guide to Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

When it comes to choosing a pair of drum sticks, there are a lot of factors that can influence your decision. Knowing what’s out there can help you decide which sticks are best for your drumming style. Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. breaks down the different types of drum sticks…

As drummers, we get to play a wide variety of instruments, and just as a painter uses many different brushes and tools in his or her arsenal, we should employ various types of sticks to achieve different effects. Those of you who venture into the broader world of percussion will have a particular interest in variety.

Here, I will discuss several types of drum sticks and their applications, so get ready to fill up your stick bag!


How Are Drum Sticks Made?

Before we get into the different types of drum sticks, let’s go over some drum stick anatomy.

Wood Type

Drum sticks are generally made of wood, and the type of wood can impact the durability. For example, oak and hickory drum sticks are durable, while maple is lighter, but less durable.

Build

The taper is the grade from the body to the tip of the stick. A thicker taper is best for loud, intense beats; while a more narrow taper is better for a lighter sound.

The tips are made of wood or nylon, and the shape of the tips affects the sound. Try an oval tip for a well-balanced sound, an acorn tip for a rich sound, or a barrel tip for high volume. You can also get drum sticks with a teardrop tip and a round tip.

Size

Have you ever wondered what the numbers on the drum sticks mean? They have to do with drum stick size. The number indicates the drum stick circumference. It may seem counter intuitive, but for the most part, a lower number indicates a higher circumference, so the 7A is smaller than the 5A.

The letters help to identify the application; the most common letters are “A” (orchestra), “B” (band), and “S” (street).

types of drum sticks

5A

The 5A is the most common type of drum stick. While they’re commonly used to play rock, you can use them for just about any type of drumming. The 5A is a middle-of -the-road drum stick, and a general-purpose tool.

7A

7A drum sticks are smaller and thinner. Because they are more lightweight than the 5As, they’re ideal for younger drummers and jazz musicians.

2B and 5B

These sticks are much heavier than the other two types, and as a result, they pack a lot more power!

Want to learn more? Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look at how drum sticks are made.


Types of Drum Sticks

Now that you understand how drum sticks are made, let’s look at the different types of drum sticks!

Looking for something specific? Here’s what you will find in this section:

Cheap Drum Sticks

When you’re just starting out as a drummer, you may be overwhelmed by all the new gear. While a brand new drum set isn’t required for a beginner, you should at least have a decent set of drum sticks to use for practice.

While you may be looking for a pair of cheap drum sticks, I’ve got good news for you: most drum sticks are pretty affordable. In fact, most pairs are less than $8.

If you have a set budget in mind for drum gear, a basic pair of cheap drum sticks will be just fine to help you get started.

Beginner Drum Sticks

Beyond an affordable pair of drum sticks, many new drummers want to know if there are specific beginner drum sticks. Again, here’s where the letters and numbers come in. Many drum experts recommend 7As for beginners, especially kids, who are learning how to hold drum sticks, as well as proper technique and control.

5As are generally recommended for adults and teenagers since they’re ideal for drummers with average-sized hands.

Kids Drum Sticks

These sticks are great for smaller hands, and they’re made by some of the best-known companies.

Vic Firth Kidsticks

kidsticks

Vic Firth’s Kidsticks are 13″ long, designed for players aged three to eight, and come in pink and blue.

ProMark Future Pro Jr.

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Musician’s Friend

ProMark makes the Future Pro Jr. sticks, which are the 5A diameter with a 13″ length.

 


Once you’ve been playing for a while and you’ve experimented with cheap drum sticks and beginner drum sticks, you will have a  better idea of what you like and what feels comfortable. Now you’re ready to look into types of drum sticks that are best suited for the music you want to play.

Jazz drum sticks are usually light, long, and thin for finesse, while rock drum sticks are heavier, for power and volume.

Orchestral Drum Sticks

You can use these sticks on the snare drum in an orchestra or concert band setting, or for snare drum repertoire (not for chopping on hats!). This context requires particular nuance, and the sticks are designed with this in mind.

Some orchestral drum sticks are made with specialty woods, like persimmon, laminated birch, or rosewood. Some orchestral drum sticks I recommend are Cooperman, Malletech’s PhD SeriesProMark, Innovative Percussion, and Vic Firth.

Marching Band Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy taylormusic

These sticks are heavy duty and thicker, with large beads, as they must aid in projection and volume for play in a (primarily outdoor) large band setting—and be used on high-tension marching snare heads (made of kevlar, which is a thicker material than mylar).

Vic Firth, ProMark, and Vater have great marching band drum sticks.

Brushes

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Steve Weiss Music

When it comes to types of drum sticks, don’t forget about brushes. While they’re mostly used in jazz settings, they’re great if you want a softer sound.

They may be drawn across the surface of the snare for a scratchy sound, and they’re also great for a Cajon (an Afro-Cuban wooden box percussion instrument).

Drum set brushes may have either nylon or metal bristles, and may or may not be retractable.

Rutes / Multi-Rods Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image Courtesy AMPCO Musical Products

These deliver a softer attack than sticks and serve well in low-volume situations—or if you just want a different texture, they have a cool “chick” sound.

They’re made from a cluster of dowels of various diameters. Rutes made with thinner dowels will have a lighter sound. (Incidentally, these are fairly easy to make, and I have been doing so for many years).

Timbale Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Stew Weiss Music

You can use these sticks on timbales, blocks, and cymbals. They have a uniform diameter, with no bead.

Brooms / Cajon Brushes

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Interstate Music

These are great to use on Cajons, congas, and the kit. They have movable bands to allow for adjustment toward the handle for a softer attack—or toward the end for a more solid thump.

Swizzles

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Sam Ash

These sticks have a bead (nylon or wood) at one end and a felt mallet tip at the other. They’re great for quick changes if you want to do some cymbal swells or tom work (and hey, it’s a chance to work on some spins).

Brush / Stick Combos

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Interstate Music

These offer some great textural options with quick-change capabilities.

Effects

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Intersate Music

It’s always fun to have some miscellaneous goodies, and here are a few items that can add a bit of seasoning to your groove:

ProMark’s TUBZ have an interesting attack and add a bit of their own tone to the mix.

Vic Firth’s Dreadlocks produce a pronounced attack on the snare, and give you cool options for scraping or striking your cymbals.

Flix products give you the best of both worlds: the sound of rods and the added durability of a built-in tip.

Custom Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Custom Stix

Custom drum sticks can be made with artwork of your choice, or the company’s art (for an art fee).  So, if you’re interested in aesthetics, you may want to venture into custom territory.

Custom Stix is a cool company to check out, as well as West Virginia Wood Arts, which does custom laser engraving (on Vic Firth sticks) of words, your submitted images, or their own artwork.  They also have different color options.


These are just a few of the many tools you can use to expand your tonal spectrum (and they make great stocking-stuffers). Experiment with different types of drum sticks, and find your favorites!

Want to know more about different types of drum sticks? Check out our gear guide to find out which drum sticks are the best!

Which type of drum sticks do you use when you play? Why are these your favorite? Let us know in the comments below! 

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

Featured image courtesy Clint Pollan

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How to Hold Drum Sticks: Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip

How to Hold Drum Sticks Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip

Beginning drummers often have questions about how to hold drum sticks. Traditional grip or matched grip, which one is better? Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. explains the mechanics of each drum grip so you can decide which one is right for you…

There are essentially two different ways to hold drum sticks: traditional grip and matched grip. Both techniques are expressive and fun to use. If you’re wondering how to hold drum sticks, first you should get a better understanding of the difference between the two. Lets look at the mechanics behind traditional grip and matched grip.

Matched Grip

With matched grip, both of your hands hold the sticks the same way. This type of grip has three variations: German, American, and French.

For these grips, your thumb should rest opposite of your index finger on the stick, with approximately two inches of the butt-end extending from the back. This pinching between your thumb and index finger is called a “fulcrum.”

French Grip

The fulcrum rests between your thumb and index finger with the French grip. The fulcrum can (if desired) shift a bit more toward your thumb and middle finger with the German and American grips.

Hold the sticks with your thumbnails facing the ceiling and your palms facing each other. This position allows for maximum finger control, and it’s favored by timpanists for this reason.

German Grip

Hold the sticks with your palms facing down and use the wrists to drive. This position lends power and volume.

American Grip

Turn your hands to a 45-degree angle. This allows you to use both wrists for power and your fingers for control and nuance.

Traditional Grip

This grip was popularized by members of the military battery, who carried their drums slung to the side (hence the name, “side drum”). The angle of the drum made it necessary to turn the left forearm under, so that the stick would comfortably clear the rim. Traditional grip is often used for jazz and drum lines.

Position your left hand as if you’re extending it to shake someone’s hand. The stick should sit in the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and rest on the cuticle of the ring finger. Approximately 2/3 of the stick should face the front.

Rest the tip of your thumb lightly on the first knuckle of your index finger and put your middle finger on top of the stick, slightly in front of the index finger.

The fulcrum (pivot point) will be between your thumb and index finger. Relax your fingers and use them for support, nuance, and control.

Move your forearm in a rotary motion, which is similar to turning a doorknob. Position your right hand the same way you do for the American matched grip.

Traditional grip

It’s important to relax and allow the sticks to float in your hands. Gripping the sticks too hard can lead to fatigue and possible injury, and it will limit the sticks’ mobility. A relaxed grip will also coax a better tone from the drums.

Some like to debate the virtues of their preferred grips, but I don’t think you necessarily have to choose. They each have a different feel, expression, and attitude. For example, matched grip lends itself well to rock, but if the groove is funky, a bit of traditional conveys that feel and attitude quite nicely.

Now you know how to hold drum sticks. Learning both grips will make your playing more versatile and interesting, so I say — give both a try!

Learn more about drum stick grip and drum technique, search here for a private drum instructor near you.

 

how to hold drum sticks

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TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

Photos by Alec Connors, QWEbie

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The Drumming Community Honors Vic Firth

honor vic firth

The drumming community took to Twitter after news broke that Vic Firth, timpanist and drum stick maker passed away in his Boston home Sunday at the age of 85.

Everett “Vic” Firth was a timpanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 46 years prior to starting the Vic Firth percussion equipment company.

Known for his talent and his well-designed drum sticks and percussion equipment, Firth was a beloved, respected member of the drumming world.

vic firth

“For me, it has been an artist in music and in their own inventions as Vic Firth accompanied them on their lost family.”

– drummer, percussionist, and music teacher @samuelmauricioa

 

vic firth

“Vic Firth drumsticks and accessories are my best drumming tools. To this and from this… R.I.P.”

– drummer @ll_bluewind_ll

vic firth

“I was sad to hear the news. I have been testing new carbon fiber drum sticks for him. True man with class.”

– Drummer, producer, and composer @URIT2

vic firth

“It came to me as a shock, but what can we do. His boundless passion for music and musicians. RIP #vicfirth

– drummer @nanacwasis 

vic firth 4

“When I first started drumming, I used Vic Firth. I learned how to play using Vic Firth. The man is a legend and his company will live on. People will remember him, and be grateful when they look in their hands and see his name on their sticks.”

– drummer @lindsaybird44

vic firth

From what I hear, he was an amazing person. Also, he gave us THE drum stick. His influence on the drumming community is unmatched.”

– drummer @beckbeat

vic firth

“I’m a huge fan of Vic Firth because he was a timpanist. Very sad day for drummers, but his sticks will live on!”

– drummer @jynyates

 

vic firth last

“Vic Firth lived a long, prolific, and impactful life. Let’s celebrate him.”

– record producer/recording engineer @stsn

These are just a few of many thoughts, comments, and memories shared by drummers and music enthusiasts.

Share your thoughts and condolences in the comments below.

The drum community lost an important, beloved member.

R.I.P. Mr. Firth.

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drumsticks

Drummer’s Gear Guide: Which Drum Sticks Are the Best?

drumsticks

When you’re learning to play drums there is a lot of new gear to acquire. A drum set or practice pad, and of course drum sticks. Here, Edmond, OK teacher Tracy D. explains the different types of drum sticks, and breaks down which drum sticks are the best… 

Your drum sticks are your tools of the trade, and as time goes on, you will acquire more drum sticks in your arsenal. So which drum sticks are the best? This gear guide will explore drum stick structure and application, and teach you about the most popular drum stick brands.

Materials

Drum sticks are most commonly made of wood, and different types of wood have various levels of durability and response. Oak and hickory are dense, hard woods that are hefty and durable, and they can withstand heavy force. Maple is lighter, but it’s less durable. Laminated birch is particularly dense and heavy (Zildjian’s Mike Mangini signatures), and very pleasing aesthetically (I use these sticks exclusively for the snare). Some specialty sticks are made of rosewood or persimmon, and they are for orchestral applications. AHEAD makes an aluminum stick that is very durable and shock absorbent.

Build

The taper is the grade from the body to the tip of the stick. A long, narrow taper is best for light, articulate play, as this makes the stick more back heavy. A thick taper is better for louder, more intense play, as this makes the stick more front heavy, which also maximizes rebound. A balanced, even taper makes for a good, general-purpose stick.

The tips may be made of wood, which provides a warm sound but less durability, or nylon, which provides a brighter sound with much more durability. The shape of the tips will also affect the sound. A barrel tip will be high volume, a round tip will be articulate and clear, a teardrop tip will sound warmer, an acorn tip will sound rich and thick, and an oval tip will sound well balanced.

Check out this video for a closer look at how drum sticks are made.

Brands

While there are many different brands of drum sticks, let’s take a look at some of the best, most popular brands.

Vic Firth

vic firth

Vic Firth sells a wide variety drum sticks. They have hickory drum sticks which are designed for a fuller, more pronounced sound, and specialty sticks like the Extreme series, which takes the basic diameter and build of the workhorse sticks and adds some length. If you’re shopping for a beginner, try the Vic Firth American Classic 5A Hingestix, which were made as a learning tool to help new drummers learn proper grip.

“From the very beginning, Vic Firth Company has guaranteed drummers The Perfect Pair™ — a straight pair of sticks, perfectly matched in pitch and weight, every time,” a rep from Vic Firth says. “This concept revolutionized the market for drumsticks and catapulted Vic Firth Company into a leadership position in the industry. Outstanding quality control, new product innovations, and industry-leading sales and marketing initiatives have allowed Vic Firth to remain the choice of drummers across all musical genres worldwide.”

ProMark

Promark

ProMark makes stick sets, concert sticks, marching sticks, and marching mallets. They have a huge selection of hickory, maple, and oak drum sticks with wood and nylon tips. ProMark recently introduced their Select Balance series, which allows a drummer to choose the taper, diameter, and tip material.

“As a company comprised of drummers, ProMark by D’Addario is passionate about enhancing our players’ experience through innovation, consistency, and quality,” says ProMark product specialist Elijah Navarro. “The Promark lineup has a width breadth of offerings and is suited for the beginner and expert level player alike. With implements engineered for jazzers, funk players, and heavy metal rockers, the Promark line caters to all players and all styles.”

Vater

Vater

From old-fashioned hickory sticks to bright, color-wrapped sticks, Vater has a huge selection of products for drummers. You can get eye-catching, colorful sticks, or try the Eternal Black line for sticks that can withstand hard, tough playing. Check out the Player’s Design sticks for custom drum sticks that were derived from individual drummers.

AHEAD

AHEAD (2)

AHEAD (Advanced High Efficiency Alloy Drumsticks) sells a wide variety of sticks for every level and style drummer. Whether your goal is to increase speed or maximize your sound, you can definitely find the right pair for you. Browse through the different models and find a pair that complements your aspirations and playing style.

“AHEAD Drumsticks are designed for all types of drummers and musical styles with over 40 different models to choose from,” a rep for AHEAD says. “They last 6-10 times longer than comparable wood drumsticks with 1/2 the shock. It’s one of the only synthetic drumsticks that has superstar endorsee’s.If you play the AHEAD Drumsticks for a week, you may never go back to wood. Try them and feel the difference!”

 

Zildjian

zildjian black

Zildjian also has an artist series, along with a hickory, maple, and laminated birch series. The Anti-Vibe sticks are great to reduce vibration. The Zildjian Dip Series drum sticks are great for kids because they’re easier to grip.

These companies offer an astounding array of sticks, stick/mallet, and stick/brush combos for every conceivable application. Vic Firth and ProMark offer sticks specifically for diminutive hitters (otherwise, I recommend a 7A for younger players). Some companies also have educational sections on their sites, which is great if you want to shop around and compare brands.

Now that you know a bit about drum sticks, you can go in search of your target sound and feel!

Drummers, we want to hear from you! What are some of your favorite products? Which types of sticks do you recommend for a beginner? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Looking for a drum teacher in  your area? Find one here!

 

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.

Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lesson in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums in various bands for more than 13 years and has also played intermittently with the OKC Community Orchestra for the past five years. Learn more about Tracy here! 

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