Drumsticks. They all do the same thing but there are SO MANY choices! It’s impossible to know sometimes which is the best for you. Everyone has something different they look for in a drumstick, whether it’s weight, tip style or length. Whether you are picking your first pair of drumsticks or deciding to choose something new, it can be a daunting task. I’ve been playing for over 10 YEARS and I still have trouble picking a stick. In this guide I’M NOT going to tell you which stick you should be playing but I AM going to help break down your options and explain a few tips for picking the perfect pair.
So let me set the scene, you walk into a local drum shop or you are sat home watching countless YouTube videos trying to understand the difference between all the different models from different manufactures and what they mean… STOP! You are wasting your time. The best piece of advice I can give is just try them. Don’t be afraid of trying tens or even hundreds of pairs before you find one you’re comfortable with. Even then, you might find ‘the one’ but after a few months or so, you might fall out of love with your choice. Like I say, it all comes down to personal preference and trying what works for you and what you like.
So a question I get asked occasionally is: what do all the different numbers and letters on sticks stand for? I mean rightly so, out of context, it appears all the manufacturers have clubbed together to make their own drum morse code. So, numbers…
The Sizing chart for drumsticks consists of 2’s, 5’s, 7’s, 8’s and then the occasional 55 or 85 amongst some other numbers thrown in for good luck. Here’s the confusing bit… The LOWER the number, the HEAVIER AND THICKER the stick and then the HIGHER the number (you guessed it) the LIGHTER AND THINNER the stick. Why did they make it more confusing than they needed to I hear you ask? I have no idea, but one good thing is it’s pretty universal throughout all the different manufactures. I’ll give you an example, following the sizing chart, a Vic Firth 2B is heavier and thicker than a Promark 7A.
So what are the letters all about? Well you eager beaver, the letter dictates a thicker or thinner stick within that number. Take a Vic Firth 5A and a 5B. Both of them are within the ‘5’ category but there is a lighter and a heavier stick. In this instance, the 5A is the slightly lighter and thinner stick as apposed to the 5B which (you guessed it) is slightly heavier and thicker.
Then comes the matter of picking a tip style. Sticking with the 5A as my example you can buy the stick with three different tip choices. Wood (Acorn), Nylon or Wood (Barrel). Ultimately, It comes down to what you prefer. Recently, I have switched from playing with a Wood (Acorn) tip to a Wood (Barrel) tip. It really made me re-evaluate how I play and has changed my approach to the kit.
I bet you’re now wondering what the difference is, well let me tell you… A Nylon Tip generally has a more defined and consistent sound, especially on Cymbals. With a Wood tip (Acorn or Barrel) they sound a lot better on drums but can be not as articulate as a Nylon Tip when it comes to Cymbals. Ultimately, it’s up to you! Consider the music you are playing and what works for you in your situation. Just because I play a wood tip doesn’t mean that’s right for you.
The quest to find the best stick for you is nearly over! We’ve made it so far but there is one final thing that is always good to know; when it comes to sticks, the best pair are the ones that are matched in weight. Manufacturers have much better ways of weighing sticks to make sure each pair are as close as possible in weight. However, you might want to double check. Personally, along as they feel close to each other in weight then I’m happy.
Another thing to check is to roll them on a flat service and see if they ‘hop up’. If they roll flat then they are perfectly straight and don’t have any slight curves. Looking down them doesn’t always give you the best answer as the sticks are too short to see any bends in the wood.
Finally, make sure you always take the sticks from the top of the brick. If there are some sticks in the same slot with an old sleeve on them they could be old stock and quite likely they have been there a while. Sticks that are older and don’t get used often dry out and then become more brittle. Brittle sticks ultimately mean they break quicker and nobody wants that!
And just like that, we have completed the quest to help you find your perfect stick! If you’re reading this and you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me @rockinrobinsdrumservices and I’ll be more than happy to help!