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A Quick Guide to Help You Pick the Correct Pair of Drumsticks

Dhanashree Patane Jun 30, 2019
Picking the right set of drums is a priority for most players, but did you know that choosing the right pair of drumsticks is also equally important. Here is a quick guide to help you pick the right set that suits your playing style too.

Quick Fact

The nylon tip drumstick was invented by drummer Joe Calato, in 1958.
A great drumming experience begins with the right set of drumsticks that suit the drummer's playing style. Today, when you go to buy a set of sticks, you will have a variety to choose from.
There were times when drumsticks were classified into three major categories―'A' for 'Orchestra/ Jazz/Acoustic, 'B' for band, and 'S' for street play and marching. But now, choosing drumsticks is no longer restricted to these 3 categories only.
Different varieties are suited to produce different effects and sounds. So, choosing sticks that match your playing style and comfort can be tricky. Though the opinion, 'choose drumsticks that you feel comfortable with', still rules, there are certain technical aspects to choosing a suitable pair that one must know.

How to Choose the Right Drumsticks

Know the Anatomy

The base end of the stick provides the counterweight. The long part of the stick, in the middle, is called the shaft. The area of the stick where the circumference starts getting narrower is called the taper. At the end of the drumstick is the bead-like structure, called the tip.

Thickness of the Drumstick

Let us begin with the size of the drumsticks, which is the most important factor. Some players are comfortable playing all types of music with one size, but most prefer different sizes for playing different music styles.
◾ Drumsticks are classified in 3 categories, primarily to guide all drummers. The alphabet or category letter defined the purpose of the stick for a set style of play. 'A' for orchestra, 'B' for bands, and 'S' for street play (marching bands). 'S' model sticks were bigger than 'A' or 'B' type of sticks.
◾ As far as the labeling system for drumsticks goes, you will find that drumsticks have an alpha numeric code at the base. These classify the size and also the shape of the drumstick. The number along with the alphabet represents the thickness. The higher the number, the thinner is the size of the stick. For example: A 5B stick is thinner than a 2B stick.
◾ Drumsticks labeled with 'A' are usually thin, with smaller circumference. They are meant for softer drum playing accompanying big bands. They are lighter and produce soft sounds, and enable faster playing. They are an excellent choice for playing lighter genres of jazz and rock-pop.
◾ The 'B' category sticks have a smaller circumference than 'S' model. They provide good grip. These sticks are mostly recommended for beginners because they are easy to handle and manipulate. They are more suitable for playing rock music. Usually, beginners opt for 2B sticks, which help develop technique and accuracy in playing.
◾ 'S' sticks are thicker and project louder sounds, hence, are more appropriate for styles that require heavy and strong beat drumming, like heavy metal and rock.


◾ The length of the sticks determines the reach of the player around the drum set. Sticks with the same thickness can be of different lengths. The length also affects the ease of playing for the drummer.

Tip Selection

◾ The tip of drumsticks also come in many shapes and sizes. There are available in two major types of material: nylon and wood.
The material of the tip is one of the most important factor which determines the sound and tone that is produced upon use. Choosing sticks with different tips depends entirely on what type of sound and tone you desire. We have listed the basic types of drumstick tips:
◾ Barrel tip produces a broad sound, as it has a larger area of contact.
◾ Large round tip, generates a heavier and focused sound, while a small, round tip generally produces a bright sound of the cymbals.
◾ A full teardrop tip generates a rich focused sound and a diffused tone.
◾ Nylon tips are excellent in terms of durability, and produce some of the brightest and distinct sounds.
◾ In comparison, wooden tips do not produce bright sounds, but are good at producing traditional sounds played in jazz styles.

Taper Selection

◾ The area of the stick where the circumference gets narrower, from the shoulder (the start of the circumference narrowing) to the tip, is called the taper. The length of this taper determines the feel and effect of playing with a particular drumstick. The longer the area of taper, the easier will be the movement of play and flex.

Material of the Drumstick

◾ The sticks are made from many materials, and each material defines the absorption, vibration, and flexes. Wooden sticks are the best options. Most wooden sticks are made up of maple, oak, and hickory.
◾ Maple sticks will give you a good flex, as they are made with fine grain, and have lower density. These sticks are generally lighter in weight, so if you want a fast playing, soft stick, maple is a good choice.
◾ Sticks made with hickory have a dense grain. They are rigid as compared to maple wood sticks, and produce a more pronounced sound with lesser flex. These sticks reduce the pressure exerted on the hands and the wrists as, they have a good capacity to absorb shock produced when playing.
◾ Drumsticks made from oak wood are extremely durable, as oak is fairly dense. They are more rigid and heavier than hickory.
The most important thing is to try the sticks before you buy them. While choosing a set, remember that the comfort and ease of playing is also important. Check their weight, ease of movement, and springiness, and whether the stick suits your style of playing. Many players use a combination of sticks.
Most beginners go for heavy sticks to build flexibility, muscle control, and stamina when playing. You could also experiment, and go through the different sizes, shapes, and material of the stick. Check which ones suit your playing style and give you the desired beat and sound.