This article is going to be on how to choose a drum stick, what different types of sticks are on the market and what do the numbers on drum sticks mean? Whether you're just starting out or have been playing a few years, this article is useful to all drummers.
Q. Who makes the best stick?
The short answer is no one. The longer answer is, as with anything there are plenty of manufacturers who all make great drumsticks. It's really just a case of find ing one that suits YOUR hands and playing style. Just because Travis Barker has an endorsement with Zildjian, and has his own branded sticks, but that doesn't mean that they will suit your hands.
Q. Should I choose nylon or wooden tipped?
Again, this is very much up to the individual. Nylon tips give a brighter sound on your cymbals so that should dictate which tip style you use. Neither style lasts longer than the other, so it really comes down to what kind of sound you want.
Q. What do the numbers on drumsticks mean?
They are generally there to tell you about the length and thickness of the stick. Generally speaking the higher the number, the thinner the stick. So a 5B is thicker than a 7A. However, manufacturers seem to have trouble agreeing on standards so a Zildjian 5B is slightly different to a Pro-Mark 5B.
Q. What are drum sticks made out of?
A variety of woods and composite materials are used to make drum sticks. The most common woods are Hickory, Oak and Maple whilst you can also get metal and carbon fibre sticks. We'd recommend starting out with a Hickory or Maple stick and then try out different styles and makes until you find one you're happy with in the long run.
Q. Are the metal ones the best?
I used the Ahead metal sticks for a few years and they have advantages and disadvantages. They cut out a lot of vibrations that you get through wooden sticks which can lessen hand fatigue. They are also extremely durable and I had one set last 4 years before they needed the sleeves changing.
However, be aware that you're hitting your cymbals with metal drumsticks. Pay attention to the plastic sleeves that protect your cymbals from metal on metal contact. If the sleeve splits and you're hitting cymbals with the hard metal core of the stick, you're likely to do some serious damage. Don't be surprised if drum stores won't let you use them on cymbals you're auditioning. If you have the opportunity to try some give them a whirl, you might like them.
Q. Do you have any recommendations for drumsticks to try?
If you're just starting out, check out something like a 5B or 7A stick from Pro Mark, Zildjian, Vater or Vic Firth, they all make great sticks. I personally use Pro Mark "Shira Kashi Oak" 5B nylon tipped sticks. The oak tends not to splinter as much as Hickory or Maple and is a little more durable in my experience. A great choice for me, but they don't suit everyone as they're also a little heavier than your typical 5B drumstick.
Every year there are new innovations like Zildjians shock absorbing rubber core, Aheads metal sticks and many more, I'd always recommend trying out new stick technologies if given the chance, sometimes they're great, sometimes not. The most important thing is to get a stick that feels right in your hand.
When you have chosen a set of sticks, try to roll them along a flat surface to check that they are perfectly straight. If they wobble, put them back and try another pair. You'll always find the odd pair that has bowed and whilst this isn't a massive problem, it helps to have two well balanced sticks.
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