Your drumstick selection plays a significant role in your playing feel and sound. Whether you like thicker, heavier sticks, or prefer lighter, thinner ones in your hands, knowing some fundamental information about drumsticks is really beneficial.
Drummers who are just starting out might not realize the difference in feel and sound between drumsticks. For example, heavier and thicker drumsticks are louder and usually used for rock and metal, while lighter and thin drumsticks allow you to play much quieter and give you a brighter sound, which is why they are very popular in jazz and similar genres.
Aside from their weight, size, tip, and material play a huge role in the sound and feel of a drumstick. We’ll talk more about this later, but just remember that there are three most common types of wood material for drumsticks: hickory, maple, and oak. There are also drumsticks made from aluminum, and these have plastic tips.
How To Choose A Drumstick Size
You most certainly noticed a lettering and numbering system on every drumstick and wondered what they meant. These letters and numbers represent the size and weight of a drumstick. The most common drumstick sizes are 7A, 5A, 5B, and 2B.
The number represents the diameter of the stick, and the smaller the number is, the bigger the diameter is. For example, 7 is the thinnest, followed by 5, which is considered a middle ground, and 2 is the thickest. There are other numbers, such as 6 and 8, but they are not that common.
The letters represent the style of music the drumstick could be used for. The two most common letters are A and B, where A stands for orchestral music, and B stands for a louder music style such as big band. There are also drumsticks labeled with S, which are not that common these days, and the S is typically for drum corps and marching band players.
This system of lettering and numbering the drumsticks was created way back in the 20th century, and since then, a lot of things have changed, but the core principles have stayed the same.
If you are a beginner, most people would recommend either 5A or 5B, as those are the most common ones, and they are good middle-ground drumsticks.
Different Types of Materials Used For Drumsticks
The three most common types of wood used for manufacturing drumsticks are hickory, maple, and oak. Knowing the difference between the three can help you decide which one is best for you.
By far, hickory is the most common and widely used type of wood for drumsticks. It’s dense and durable and has a really good feel when you hit the drums. Drumsticks made from hickory absorb a lot of the impact of your strokes, reducing hand and wrist strains.
The second type of wood used in drumsticks is maple. Maple drumsticks are around 15% lighter than hickory, and they are a good option if you want a lighter drumstick but the same diameter as some drumsticks made from hickory. Being the lightest type of wood used in drumstick production, it has its benefits but also drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that they are not as durable as hickory.
Oak drumsticks are the least popular of the three but, at the same time, the most expensive. Oak is the most durable of the three, and it’s recommended that you try oak if you are playing heavy and loud music.
Apart from these, there are also non-wood drumsticks made from aluminum, and these are also recommended for heavier and louder music. Aluminum drumsticks are extremely durable and have bigger rebounds than drumsticks made of wood.
Anatomy Of A Drumstick
Every drumstick can be divided into four parts. The tip, the taper or shoulder, the shaft, and the butt.
The tip is the front end of the stick, and it’s designed to hit the drum heads. There are different shapes and materials from which the tips are made. Tips can be either wood or nylon. Wood is what you find in a normal drumstick, but if you want more attack and a brighter sound, you can go for the nylon drumsticks.
Nylon drumsticks are recommended drumsticks for e-drum kits. There are also different shapes of tips, including standard teardrop tips, barrel tips, and round tips. All of these provide different sounds, most noticeable on the ride cymbal.
The taper can be divided into three separate parts. The neck is where the taper connects to the tip, the shoulder is where the drumstick reaches its largest diameter, and the taper is the part between the shoulder and the neck which hits the cymbals.
The third and biggest part is the shaft, often referred to as the body. This is the section where the drumstick has a constant diameter, and with this part, you hit the rim on the snare when you play rimshots.
The last part is the butt. This part doesn’t have some important role to play, but it’s the part that you hold in hand and must be comfortable.
There is a lot of information about drumsticks, and finding the perfect drumstick for you can take a long time, but you must experiment and try out different ones until you find the right one for you. Many brands also offer signature edition drumsticks, so maybe try out a drumstick that your favorite drummer developed with that brand and see what you think about it.