Finding Your Best Pair of Drumsticks – How to Tell the Difference

drumsticks
Drumsticks come in many different sizes and shapes. A quality set of drumsticks is one of your most important assets as a drummer.

Junk drumsticks can be unbalanced, made from poor materials, and break easily. They can also be inconsistent across even the same models, which means that you may not get the same playability from different pairs.

I’m going to start by recommending some of the best all-round drumsticks. After that, I’m going to go in-depth to help you understand what different drum stick sizes mean.

Recommended drum sticks

Vic Firth American Classic Extreme 5AN with nylon tips

One of the most renowned producers of drumsticks, Vic Firth created the Classic Extreme 5AN type with nylon tips.

The Vic Firth 5A has become a very popular choice for drummers. The Extreme 5A sticks are a bit longer, and add a bit of extra reach to your playing.

These sticks are made of hickory, so their density mixed with a pinch of flex provide an articulated sound, appropriate for different drumming styles. Hickory is a well-known shock absorber, so they have a healing effect on drummer’s hands.

Note: On electronic drum sets I prefer to use this model. On acoustic kits I personally prefer the wood tip (Extreme 5A)

Zildjian 5B Nylon Black Drumsticks

The Zildjian 5B Nylon Black drumsticks are made of hickory. Similarly to the previously mentioned ones, these are a very good model for beginners.

The nylon teardrop beads on the tips of these sticks are also very useful for electronic drumming.

Also, its color and ornaments make give this model a pretty cool look.

Promark Select Balance Rebound Balance Drumsticks 535, Wood Tip

The third member of the holy trinity of drum producers, Promark brings to us the Rebound Balance 535 drumsticks.

Made from hickory and additionally adjusted to have the same weight, these sticks offer a consistent drumming feel that doesn’t wear out the player.

Drumstick sizes

In a nutshell, there are four main types of drumsticks that I recommend rookie drummers should choose from: 5A, 5B, 7A, and 2B.

The numerical part

As you’ve noticed, each of these types contains a letter and a number in its name.

The number in the type of a drumstick represents its thickness. The lower the number, the thicker the drum stick is and vice versa. For example, a 7A drumstick is much thinner than a 2B drumstick.

Further, there’s also the letter part in drum stick types. These letters originate from the period when drums entered the mainstream.

The letter part

The letter ‘A’ originally stood for orchestra drumming. These A-drumsticks were used by big band and large orchestra drummers, due to their thinness and softness, which recommended them for lighter drumming sessions.

However, they are now commonly used across many different styles. In fact, 5A is generally still my preferred stick size.

The letter ‘B’ comes from the word band. Logically, these drumsticks were meant to be used by band players, which is still the case today. They’re generally larger than the ‘A’ size drumsticks, and are used by players that want more power in their playing.

Finally, there’s another sort of drumsticks – the ‘S’ type. Their first application was in street bands, which is where the initial letter comes from. Since playing in the street requires loudness and power, they’re the thickest and bulkiest of all these three types.

Choosing sticks by materials

Drumsticks are made from a variety of materials. Each of them has some special features regarding different drumming styles and sounds. Here are the most widespread drum stick types based on materials they’re made from.

Wood

The most popular drum stick material with the longest tradition, wood is perfect for drummers who need to play it fast.

As for the types of wood for drumsticks, oak, maple, persimmon, and hickory are the most wanted ones, each for different purposes.

Oak is a dense and hard wood meant for powerful, ‘heavy’ drumming.

Maple, on the other hand, is the lightest type of wood with low density, which is why it’s a great choice for fast playing needs.

Hickory is harder and heavier than maple, but softer than oak. Being such a middle-of-the-road wood type, it’s the most widespread wood in drumsticks. Also, its elasticity plays an important role in reducing the level of hand fatigue. Because of that, it’s a reasonable option for drumming beginners.

Finally, persimmon is the most exquisite of all the drum stick materials, and it’s usually produced for special drum stick uses, like concert stick sets for snares. It’s a durable, heavy, and dense wood that produces deep, dark sounds. As such, it’s different from other presented woods for drumsticks.

Carbon fiber

The greatest advantage of carbon fiber drumsticks over the wood ones is their durability. They usually last much longer than their wooden counterparts.

However, you might want to leave this drum stick type for later stages of your playing, since they’re more costly than wooden sticks. Plus, there are a more limited number of models.

The types of drum stick tips

In addition to the density of the material and length of drumsticks, their tips are of great importance when it comes to the quality and type of sound.

Nylon drum stick tips are the best choice for drummers who need a bright, resonating tone. Compared to wooden tips, they can be less harsh on playing surfaces (as the tips don’t splinter), which is why they’re a great option for drummers that play on electronic drum sets. Another plus on their side is long durability and wear-out resistance.

Wood tips are the most widespread type of tips. They usually provide a neutral combo of proper articulation and rich sounds on different elements of drum sets. Still, different types of wood tips will produce different sounds, which we’ve talked about in the previous paragraph.

Swizzle drumsticks have a dual tip. On one side there’s a regular drum stick tip, while the other side of the tips is enriched with a small synthetic ball. This combination enables you to get a smooth and warm mallet sound on tom drums or cymbals.

On Stage DA100 Drum Stick Holder

It’s always awkward dropping a drumstick on stage. Though it doesn’t have to be the end of the world!

When you’re on stage, you might need more than one pair of sticks by your side. Since it’s important to store your sticks properly after the gig, you should get a drum stick holder.

The DA100 drum stick holder can hold 8 pairs of sticks. Thanks to its C-shape clamp, you can place it easily on any drum stand, or other pieces of drum sets.

Also, you can easily take your sticks from it or leave them inside thanks to the extension part as you’re playing, due to the 45° angle at which it’s mounted. The cup can be easily taken off and cleaned so that your drums are always kept in a clean holder.

Conclusion

The type of drumsticks you use will depend on your drumming skills and playing preferences. Starting out with more neutral sticks and moving onto more unique ones that provide some special features sound like the most reasonable option.

It’s also important to learn more about the tips of sticks and whether they match with your drum set.

If you’re unsure, I’d recommend starting with a 5A model drumstick and working from there. It’s important to note that the information in this article about drumstick sizes should be taken as a guide. The actual implementation of these sizes varies based on the drumstick manufacturer. Therefore I recommend that you try numerous different drumsticks to help you figure out the best pairs for you.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some valuable information that will help you choose the best drumsticks for your needs.

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