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.
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.
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.
While there are many different brands of drum sticks, let’s take a look at some of the best, most popular brands.
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 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.”
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 (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 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!
Photo by pochacco20