The Best Drumsticks : Top List For Beginners (Guide, Tutorial, Easy)

07/02/2020
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They might not seem as such a big deal, but come to think about it, drumsticks are the DIRECT link between you and the drums.

So, as simple as they are, they’re also FUNDAMENTAL.

The thing is, when you see the huge range of models offered by manufacturers…

Looking at nearly 100 different models can be:

  • Intimidating
  • Confusing, and even…
  • Disheartening…

And that, even for an experienced drummer.

Yet, choosing the right stick can make the difference between a poorly executed performance and a killer one.

So whether you’re looking for drumsticks to practice home on your electronic drumkit, or for an ultra durable pair to last you weeks of gigging…

You’ve come to the right place, as I have in today’s post everything you need to know to choose the right drumstick FOR YOUR PLAYING STYLE.

 

Sounds good? Then let’s get started!

First off..

Anatomy of a drumstick

To better understand what makes a drumstick different from another, let’s take a quick look at its anatomy:

Drumsticks consist of:

  • A tip/bead – which shapes vary
  • A taper – which length vary
  • A shaft – which length AND thickness vary
  • A butt – which in some models has a playable end to offer more versatility to the stick

Sizes

Sizes are identified by numbers and letters.

The lower the number, the thicker the stick – with the exception of 2B sticks which are the thickest drumsticks available.

As for the letters, they were first introduced in the early 1900’s and this is what they stood for:

  • A: Orchestra
  • B: Band
  • D: Dance band

Nowadays though these letters don’t mean much and they’re just part of the model they designate, so don’t rely only on them to make your choice.

For the image above I chose not to include each and every size because by looking at them you can’t really tell the difference.

Instead, I put the most common size (5A), one of the thinnest (7A) and the thickest(2B) which should give you an idea of how different they are.

Now, even though drumsticks measurments vary from one brand to the other, sizes are still considered standards…

Meaning a 7A will always be thinner than a 5A, and a 2B will always be the thickestetc, no matter the brand. But for example, Vic Firth’s 7A are slightly thicker than Regal Tip’s.

Here are the main sizes you can expect to find in most brands:

  • 7A – Thin, ideal for jazz
  • 8D – Same as 7A but a bit longer
  • 1A – The longest stick
  • 5A – The “standard” drumstick
  • 3A – Slighlty longer and thicker than 5A
  • 5B – Shorter but thicker than 3A
  • 2B – The thickest of all, ideal for rock/metal and practicing.

So…

Which model should I choose?

Well, for beginners, the general consensus is to go with 5A sticks, because of their size and oval bead which allow for playing almost any music style.

As for practicing, many drummers choose to use fatter sticks, such as 2B so that when they go back to “regular” or “thinner” sticks, they have it even easier to play.

Next up…

Types of beads

The shape and the material of the tip define the sound you will get, and the only rule you need to know here is:

The bigger the surface that comes into contact with the drums, the less defined the sound.

So for example a round bead will produce a much more defined sound than an arrow bead.

Also keep in mind that you’ll mostly hear a difference on cymbals, but not so much on the rest of the kit.

Beads can be made out of:

  • Wood – which is the most widespread material. It’s not as durable as the next two BUT it’s the one that offers the largest range of sounds
  • Nylon – which has a much brighter sound on cymbals. The main advantage of nylon is that it is a lot more durable, though many people dislike its sound.

Choosing one type of bead over another is obviously very subjective but one fact is universal:

Wooden beads are used in ALL music genres whereas you will almost NEVER see nylon beads in jazz, for example.

You can compare the sound of wood and nylon beads in this video:

Taper

The size of the taper influences the amount of rebound you’ll get off the drums and cymbals:

  • A long taper – offers more rebound and a faster response
  • A short taper – offers less rebound, more power and increased durability
  • A medium taper – offers a balanced stick

So if you’re a heavy hitter or mainly play rock/metal, go for short taper sticks.

If you play jazz or other genres that require more dynamics, go for long taper sticks.

And if you want a more versatile stick to be able to play any genre, medium taper sticks are the best choice.

Next up…

Materials

Drumsticks can be made out of either:

  • Wood
  • Carbonfiber
  • Aluminium and polyurethane (plastic)

Now, the vast majority of drumsticks is made out of wood, which includes, from most common to least common:

  • Hickory – which offers the most balanced mixture of density, weight and strength.
  • Maple – which is the lightest wood of all, it is mostly used for low volume and fast playing.
  • Oak – which is the heaviest and densest wood of the three, it produces very durable sticks and is ideal for “heavy hitters”.

As for other materials, such as carbon fiber and aluminium, their main advantage is durability: these sticks will last you A LOT longer than wood sticks.

The brand Ahead makes aluminium and polyurethane sticks, and they claim their sticks will last between 6 to 10 times longer than regular wood sticks, which also seems to be in line with their type of endorsers, who are mainly metal drummers.

Now, some people say that regular drumsticks break because they’re SUPPOSED TO, and that drums weren’t made to be played with anything else than wood, and the truth is…

Drumsticks absorb the vibrations produced when they hit the drum and eventually break, making sure these vibrations go into the actual stick, and not into your hands/arms…

And by making “unbreakable” drumsticks, not only do you risk harming your drumset and cymbals, but also your body.

Having said that, keep in mind that most drumhead companies and cymbalsmanufacturers offer a special range for you heavy-hitters.

Watch this guy play and review Vic Firth’s carbon fiber sticks – you’ll also notice he hits pretty hard:

Due to material costs, Ahead drumsticks and carbon fiber sticks are much more expensive than wood ones.

Here are my recommended Carbon fiber and Aluminium drumsticks:

Up next…

Other features

Among a bunch of relatively gimmicky innovations, 2 of them stand out from the rest. These are:

  1. ProMark Active Grip
  2. Zildjian Anti Vibe

So let’s start by looking at…

1. ProMark Active Grip

Some drumsticks model have a thin layer of rubber coating applied to them, which is supposed to give you a better grip on the drumstick…

However, one recurrent problem drummers get with these coatings is that the more they sweat, the LESS their hands actually adhere to the stick.

To address this issue, ProMark developped a new kind of “heat-activated” coating, called Active Grip. The way this technology works is that the more you sweat, the “tackier” the coating gets, to quote the brand…

Which is supposed to make the stick less prone to grip slip.

And from all the rave reviews these models got, it’s safe to assume this technology does work.

So if you’re interested in trying one of these, check out these models:

2. Zildjian Anti-Vibe drumsticks

By inserting a little piece of rubber in a hole drilled in the lower end of the stick, Zildjian created a way to reduce vibrations caused by impacts when playing.

Now, the brand itself particularly recommends these sticks for electronic drumkits…

And the reason they do is because, unlike acoustic shells which have a natural rebound to them, electronic rubber pads and practice pads are much harder, creating more vibrations when hit.

And the truth is the reviews confirm that these sticks significantly decrease the amount of vibrations while playing on electronic drums, thus increasing comfort.

Check them out:

Recommended drumsticks

For this list I chose to order the sticks by sizes, from most common to least common:

5A

7A

2B

8D

1A

3A

5B

Extra Thin Sticks

Other sticks

Regular drumsticks aren’t the only sticks you can use to play  drums.

In order to have a wider range of sounds, consider the following sticks, which purpose is essentially to lower your playing volume.

The three main other types of drumsticks are:

  1. Brushes
  2. Rods
  3. Mallets

So let’s now see each one of them in more detail.

Starting with…

1. Brushes 

Brushes are made of many wires which can be made out of:

  • metal – which produces the typical “swishing” sound used in jazz ballads, for example.
  • nylon – which produces a duller and warmer sound. The advantage is that the wires don’t bend as much as the metal ones.

By adjusting the length of the wires, you can modify the tightness of the sound.

Check out my recommended brushes:

2. Rods

These are the perfect middle ground between the very low volumed brushes and the high volumed regular drumsticks.

They are made of several little wooden/plastic sticks tied together which slap each other when you play, so that you still get some impact, while maintaining a low volume.

Here are the models I recommend:

3. Mallets

The tip of this drumstick is covered in felt, producing a very muffled sound.

Now, some models are regular drumstick that have a felt-covered butt, so you basically get a 2 in 1 drumstick/mallets stick. These models are marked as “double stick” on the list below.

Check out the video below to compare all these drumsticks:

Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk can seem appealing at first glance, since you can end up paying as low as $1.40 a pair…

But it also basically means one thing:

You’re buying crappy sticks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, major brands also sell 6 or 12 pairs packs for some drumsticks models, but you won’t get any discount for buying these.

So what EXACTLY is the difference between brands like Vic FirthProMarkVater, and low-cost or off brands?

It’s the testing.

Big companies test the hell out of their drumsticks. But when buying from an unknown brand, you’re buying a stick that hasn’t gone through almost any testing and, as a result…

Sticks from the same pair can have different densities, and therefore different weights.

By playing with non identical sticks you won’t be developing each hand equally, which you definitely want to avoid.

So these low-cost packs might be a practicable option if you’re only planning on using them to practice home on your electronic kit…

But they’re definitely not for gigging, let alone touring.

If you’d still like to check some options out, here they are:

Note: I included low-cost off brands AS WELL as major brands packs, which do notoffer discounts for buying in bulk.

5A

2B

  • On Stage 12 pairs Hickory (nylon bead) (Amazon)
  • Off-brand 24 pairs Maple (Amazon)

5B

7A

  • Off brand 24 pairs Maple  (Amazon)

That’s it

So that’s what you need to know about drumsticks, hopefully this article has answered all your questions and you’ll be able to choose the best model for your needs.

‘Til next time.