What is the best drumstick? It’s the ideal blend of balance, response, and feel for you. What is appropriate for one drummer may be completely inappropriate for another, so don’t rely solely on the advice of a friend or teacher. Your ideal drumstick will be determined by a variety of factors, including your musical style and the type of drums or drum kit you use.
Everything that goes into the design of a drumstick – the material, weight, diameter, length, tip, and taper – determines how it feels in your hand. In this article, we’ll go over these factors and offer some advice on how to pick drumsticks that will best help you achieve your drumming goals
A brief overview
There has been speculation about drums being hit by sticks since the dawn of time, but there is actual evidence of a single-headed drum being hit by a stick from 7th-century Asia. Double-headed drums with sticks first appeared in the Middle Ages, and military drummers marching along in battle played an important role in the 18th and 19th centuries. Drums and the tools used to hit those drums have been around for a very long time for things like providing structure for the company to march to and signaling vital orders. They have evolved into precision implements in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and materials.
The modern drumstick has been around for less than a century; the nylon tip was invented in 1958. Drumsticks have evolved into hundreds of different styles and configurations from that time to the present, allowing drummers to find their perfect fit.
Numbering drumsticks the old way
The traditional method of numbering drum sticks, which uses numbers like 3S, 2B, 5B, 5A, and 7A, dates back to the early days of drum stick manufacturing when a number and letter were assigned based on the size and application of the stick. The exact specifications of each model vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, particularly in the taper and tip. This method of specifying basic sizes and shapes has become industry standard and is used by top brands such as Promark, Vater, Vic Firth, Zildjian, and others.
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What the letters and numbers mean
The numerical portion represents the circumference of the stick. In general, the larger the circumference, the lower the number, and the smaller the circumference, the higher the number. A 7A stick, for example, has a smaller circumference than a 5A, which is narrower than a 2B. The 3S is an exception, as it has a larger circumference than a 2B despite the number.
Originally, the letter suffixes “S,” “B,” and “A” indicated the recommended application.
The “S” model stick was created for “street” applications like drum corps and marching bands. These large sticks were created to provide the louder volume and projection required for these applications.
The “B” model was designed for “band” applications such as brass bands and symphonic orchestras. Because they had a smaller circumference than the “S” models, they were easier to control and thus popular among beginning drummers. Drum teachers all over the world continue to recommend 2Bs as ideal starter sticks.
The letter “A” stands for “Orchestra.” The “A” model sticks were created for big bands and dance orchestras. They have a smaller circumference than the “B” series sticks and are better suited to softer play. Many jazz and rock musicians still use these sticks.
Why does “A” stand for Orchestra if “S” stands for Street and “B” stands for Band? The “A” designation was reportedly chosen by Ludwig Drum Company founder William F. Ludwig, Sr. because it printed better, and he preferred the letter A to O. To this day, the designation is still in use.
Materials for drumsticks
Drumsticks are most commonly made of wood, but you can also find ones made of carbon fiber, plastic, or aluminum. Aside from providing more rebound, the main advantage of those alternative materials is durability: those sticks last much longer than wooden ones. Most purists, however, believe that wood is the only way to go.
Resonance, weight, texture, density, and flexibility all differ from one wood to the next. Today’s most popular woods for drumsticks are hickory, maple, and oak, though lancewood, birch, rosewood, ash, and ebony are also used.
Maple is 10% lighter in weight than hickory, allowing drummers to use larger diameter sticks without them becoming too heavy, making them ideal for small playing spaces or subtle musical genres such as jazz or soft rock. Maple sticks have the most flex because of their fine grain pattern, but they also wear out faster than other types of wood.
Hickory sticks are responsive, resilient, and sturdy, and can withstand the shock of a hard-hitting drummer; they are also the most comfortable, making them an excellent choice for the majority of drummers.
Because oak is the densest and heaviest wood option, oak sticks can withstand more aggressive playing styles and last the longest. Drummers who use oak sticks can play louder and more efficiently. Oak, on the other hand, does not absorb shock as well as hickory or maple.
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Length, weight, and diameter
Drumstick lengths range from about 15 to 17 1/2 inches and are classified as small, medium, large, extra large, and double extra large; the latter is mostly used in marching bands where the sound needs to be heard far and wide. The length of the stick you’ll be most comfortable with is determined by the size of your hands and, if you’re playing a drum set (rather than an individual marching or concert drum), the distance between the various components from where you’re sitting.
Weight and diameter
A drumstick’s weight and diameter are indicated by its number and letter — numbers 1 to 9, and letters A to CC. The lighter the stick, the higher the number, so a 7A is lighter than a 5B. The letter represents the diameter of the stick, so a 5B stick is thicker (larger in diameter) than a 5A stick. Of course, a 5B stick of the same length as a 5A stick will be slightly heavier as well. Today’s most popular sticks are 2B (a thick, heavy stick), 5A and 5B (medium diameter/weight), and 7A. (thin and light).
What complicates matters is that these three factors are highly interdependent, so everything is a tradeoff. When the same amount of force is applied, a stick with a larger diameter produces a louder sound than one with a smaller diameter.
A stick with a thinner diameter, on the other hand, is lighter and faster, allowing you to play with greater ease at the expense of volume. It’s also worth noting that a thinner stick will produce a more intense sound from the drum at lower volume levels, whereas a thicker stick will require more velocity to achieve the same sound intensity.
The leverage and reach of the stick around the drum set are affected by its length. Shorter and lighter sticks produce a more delicate sound and necessitate more effort to play loudly. Longer and heavier sticks allow for more volume while exerting less effort.
The taper of a drumstick is the length of the distance between its full diameter and the point where it meets the tip. Taper is an important factor in a stick’s balance as well as how quickly it rebounds (sticks with no taper have almost no rebound).
A stick with a long taper has more “give” and thus provides a faster response, whereas a stick with a short taper is stiffer and thus provides more strength.
Short taper sticks will probably work best for you if you’re a heavy hitter or primarily play rock or metal. Choose long taper sticks if you play jazz or other genres that require more dynamics. Medium taper sticks are the best choice for a versatile stick that can be used in any genre.
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Drumsticks for auditioning
As we stated at the outset of this article, one size does not fit all when it comes to drumsticks. A 7A is ideal for someone with small hands, such as a young student, while a 5A or 5B is ideal for average-sized teenage or adult hands.
A good way to audition drumsticks is to collect a variety of sizes. Then wave around the thinnest, lightest stick, followed by the thickest, heaviest one. Then, try gradually thinner sticks until you find the thickest one that is easiest to wave. Play a few hits on a drum or practice pad with those sticks. If your stroke appears to be off-kilter, experiment with a slightly thicker or thinner model until you find the sticks that give you the most control. Control is everything, especially for beginning drummers, and selecting the proper drumstick is an important step in developing proper technique.
Useful tips for picking drumsticks
Because the tip of the stick comes into direct contact with the drums and cymbals, it has a significant impact on the tone.
Drumstick tips come in a variety of shapes, including round, diamond, teardrop, acorn, arrow, and barrel. Round tips strike the drum or cymbal with the same surface area regardless of stick angle, resulting in consistent sound. Because beginners rarely have a consistent stroke, a round tip helps to smooth out their sound. Because barrel tips are the largest and heaviest tip types, they produce the loudest sound and are therefore appropriate for rock music or when you need to be heard over amplified instruments.
Drummers can create different nuances with other types of tips by varying the angle of the stick and thus the surface area of the tip that contacts the drum head or cymbal. Drumsticks with diamond, teardrop, acorn, or arrow tips are best for musical genres that require a more delicate and varied expression.
The material of a tip, in addition to its shape, influences its tone. The tip of a drumstick is usually made of the same wood as the rest of the stick, but there are also sticks with plastic or nylon tips. Because plastic is harder than wood, the attack is more defined; as a result, using sticks with those tips produces a harder, cleaner tone. Nylon tips are much more durable than wood or plastic tips, but they can produce an unpleasant over-bright sound when used on cymbals.
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- How do I pick the best drumsticks?
For beginners, the general consensus is to use 5A sticks due to their size and oval bead, which allow them to play almost any music style. When practicing, many drummers prefer to use fatter sticks, such as 2B, so that when they return to “regular” or “thinner” sticks, they can play even better.
- Which drumsticks are better, 5A or 5B?
5B. The 5B drum stick is similar to the 5A but slightly thicker. Because the 5B is slightly thicker, hitting the drum produces a more powerful sound, but everything else remains the same. The 5B model is the most common stick size in the classroom.
- What is the distinction between a 5A drumstick and a 7A drumstick?
The number refers to the stick’s circumference or thickness. The lower the number, the thinner the stick. A 7A stick, for example, is thinner than a 5A stick, which is thinner than a 2B stick.
- What is the distinction between nylon and wood drumstick tips?
Nylon tips produce a brighter, more bouncy sound than wood tips. Nylon tips also produce a more aggressive or sharper attack on the drums and cymbals, whereas wood produces softer, warmer tones. Purchase drumsticks with nylon tips for the most cost-effective option.
- Is drumstick size important?
Consider using a lighter, smaller drumstick. The overall weight, projection, and strength of a drumstick are all affected by its thickness. A thicker, heavier stick produces more sound and is more durable. A thinner stick is lighter, faster, and easier to play with.
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In summary, this article demonstrated how to pick drumsticks.
Many drummers use a variety of sticks for different styles of playing. In general, heavier sticks are the obvious choice for R&B and rock styles that require a strong back beat. Lighter sticks are preferred for folk, jazz, and acoustic styles. Experiment with various sticks to find the ones that work best for you. Many drummers prefer to practice with heavier sticks than they do on stage in order to build strength and stamina.
5A sticks with nylon tips are a good choice for playing a wide range of styles and general use. 2B sticks are great for developing precision and technique in beginning drummers. Again, scout the market for a good match for your style, and keep in mind the mantra of all great drummers: practice, practice, practice.