Drumsticks are an essential part of playing the drums. They are the bridge between the hands and the instrument so it is important to make sure a drummer chooses the right kind of drumstick for the best playing experience.
This article will help clarify what you need to know about drumsticks to make sure you make an informed decision. We will also add a section about buying a set of drumsticks for kids and teens to help you choose a pair that works best for smaller hands!
The first drumsticks were crafted thousands of years ago and haven’t changed much in design since. There are many different types of drumstick, much like there are many different types of drum. In this article we will discuss all the different types, their uses and applications, their strengths and weaknesses, and which drumstick will suit any given situation.
There will be a heavy emphasis which drumstick to choose for beginners as quite often this can be a confusing area for drumming newbies. Let’s crack on with the details.
The majority of drumsticks are made from a type of wood but they can really be made from any suitable material. You have metal, bone, plastic and even carbon drumsticks along with countless wooden varieties. Choosing the right stick for you or your child depends on a number of important factors.
The most important factor in selecting an appropriate stick is the length of the drumstick. A drumstick should effectively act as an extension of your arm and for this reason it is important to choose wisely. Playing with a stick that is too long or heavy will make playing the drums extremely difficulty. Likewise playing with too light a stick can lead to injury and stick breakage.
The most common sizes of stick are 5A and 5B. The difference here is down to the thickness of the stick shaft. Both sticks are usually in or around 16 inches in length. 5A is a lighter stick with a thinner shaft while 5B sticks are slightly but noticeably thicker. Both sticks are extremely popular with beginners and professionals alike as they are a nice length to play with.
5A could feasibly be suitable to some kids from the age of 8 upwards. This is entirely dependent on a case by case basis, as not all 8 year olds are the same height and have the same length arms. 5B is a popular stick with some kids who like to play hard and heavy. The fact that the 5B is a thicker and heavier stick means it can withstand more abuse and is better suited to hard hitters.
Both sticks are equally priced and usually around the $5 to $15 price range depending on brand.
Different drumstick manufacturers have different pricing for their products. Big brands like Vic Firth, Promark, Zildjian and Vater use celebrity endorsement to make their sticks appeal to drummers all over the world. With this astute marketing, these brands can charge more for their sticks than the smaller brands.
An average top-end stick costs from $12 to $15 while some cheaper brands can be bought for less than $7.
The difference between cheap and expensive sticks can be considerable. With the higher-end sticks like Vic Firth, Promark, Zildjian and Vater, there is extra quality control done on each pair. One such quality control is the assurance that each stick matches its pairing in height, length and weight, along with being perfectly straight, with no warping. An unmatched pair will be jarring to an experienced drummer while a stick with a warped shaft will make playing a chore. Younger, more inexperienced drummers might save a few dollars on a cheaper pair but these stick usually don’t last as long.
For younger kids there is another popular sized stick called the 7A which is even lighter than the 5A. The 7A is a lightweight stick that is often favored by jazz drummers and fans of alternative music styles. Most professionals will keep a pair of 7A sticks in their bag even if they are not their first choice stick. The 7A is shorter than both the 5A and the 5B. This makes it ideally suited to younger drummers you haven’t fully developed yet. The benefit of smaller sticks like this is that if you have a drummer in the house they can play with less volume, so everyone wins!
Another option, if you need to keep the volume down to a minimum, is to purchase a pair of ‘rods’. Rods consist of numerous thin strips of wood taped together to produce a type of soft attack drumstick. They are available by pretty much every major drumstick brand and are great for playing softly. You can use rods on drums and cymbals and they even appear on famous songs now and then.
Jazz brushes are kind of like rods but they produce even less sound from the drum set. The first jazz brush was thought to be a fly-swatter which was cleverly used to drum with back in the early 20th century. Since then the modern jazz brush has become an important component of most drummers’ arsenal. It’s possible to substitute wooden drumsticks for brushes should you need to keep the volume down while practicing.
If durability is a priority and you want to purchase one pair of sticks that will last a long, long time, then you might be more interested in carbon sticks. These sticks are strong and built to last. They are also favored by some professional drummers who are prone to breaking sticks during live performances. The price of a carbon stick is about 5 or 6 times the price of an average high-end wooden stick but they can really last a lifetime in some cases.
Tip of the Drumstick
Finally, another thing to consider is the tip of the drumstick which creates the various sounds a drummer can make.
Below is a list of the common shapes of a drumstick tip – each bringing its own unique characteristics to the sound it can make.
One option is for a wooden tip and the other is a plastic or Nylon tip.
The difference between the two can seem trivial but there is a marked contrast. Wooden tips give a slightly softer and more organic response from both drums and cymbals, while Nylon tips offer more attack. Attack is a term for the sound that we hear on impact.
You can have a sharp attack or a dull attack. The plastic or Nylon variety of drum tip produces more attack and more definition. Also Nylon tips rarely, if ever, break, whereas wooden tips will eventually crack and give in. It should be said that even with Nylon tips, the wooden shaft of the stick can break, so they don’t come with a lifetime guarantee.
Good luck in your search!