All You Need to Know About Drumsticks

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 might not realize the difference in feel and sound between drumsticks. With different weight, size, tip, and material, there are different kinds of drumsticks out there, even ones made from aluminum with plastic tips.

  • The lettering and numbering system represents the size and weight of a drumstick. The number represents the diameter and the smaller the number, the bigger the diameter. The letter represents the style of music for which it’s used.
  • A sticks are for orchestras, B sticks are for marching bands, S sticks are for street bands, and D sticks are for dance bands.
  • The most commonly used drumsticks sizes for drummers are 7A, 5A, 5B, and 2B.
  • The three most common types of wood used for making drumsticks are Hickory, Maple, and Oak. Hickory are the most used ones, they’re durable and dense. Maple sticks are more lightweight than Hickory. Oak sticks are the most expensive but the most durable as well.
  • Every drumstick has four parts – the tip, the taper, the shaft, and the butt.
  • Depending on the tip shape, Oval, Teardrop, Round, Acorn, or Barrel, the sound output will be different.

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.

Hickory

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.

Maple

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

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, oval, round, and acorn. 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 that 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.

How Does Tip Shape Affect The Sound?

Depending on the shape of the tip, the sound output will vary in feel and tone. Teardrop tips offer a warm output with an emphasis on low tones. Barrel tips are louder and more punchy, used for heavier genres of music. Oval tips bring out a large spectrum of sound that is suitable for many settings. Round or ball tips offer a clean, bright, and crisp sound. Lastly, acorn tips produce a full and rich sound.

What are Other Types of Drumsticks?

In addition to the classic drumstick pair, you’ll also see brushes, mallets, and rods. Brushes are used for that quiet scratch sound and mellow genres like jazz. Mallets can be seen in orchestras and marching bands on several percussion instruments and can produce big sounds. Rods take the sweet spot between conventional drumsticks and brushes. They’re not too loud and not too soft, excellent for low-volume/unplugged acoustic performances.

Conclusion

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.

Mike O'Connor
Mike O'Connor

I've been playing drums for over 18 years. I work as both a session drummer and a drum teacher, and I love to share my knowledge and tips on this site. You can also find me on the Electronic Drum Advisor YouTube channel.

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