Stick-y Situation

Posted: 1 December 2020

There is a lot of variety in drumsticks that lead to a wide range of sounds. From light and delicate brushes to hard hitting aluminium sticks, we help you to pick the best tools for the job.

Read time - 4 mins

Depending upon the music you’re playing you will want to adapt your drum kit to suit. That could be integrating a double bass pedal for some hammering heavy rock, switching up your snare or even incorporating some electronic pads and samples, but how often do you change your sticks to suit the music? They can take you from over the top blast beats to gentle percussive sounds in the middle of a song without missing a beat. So we wanted to share some stick set ups to inspire you next time you’re looking to mix up your sound.

Stick types

There’s a range of drumstick types and the most suitable is dependent upon the music, and how much noise, you want to produce.

Sticks – Old faithful. Reliable and most regularly used. Typically wooden and shaped like, well… a drumstick.

Brushes – These are soft and quiet, and often used in jazz, pop, and Latin music. They are a bunch of metal or plastic wires held together at one end and produce different tones depending on whether they strike a drum/cymbal or brush against it.

Rods – These are the best of both worlds – quieter than a stick but louder than a brush. They are a bunch of thin wooden sticks bound together to form one stick.

Mallets – These are sticks with a rubber, cotton or cloth ball attached to the end. These are often used for playing percussion or for building sounds, such as an elongated cymbal roll.

Materials

Wood is the most commonly used material for crafting drumsticks. In particular, hickory offers a balanced mixture of density, weight and strength, making it ideal for all players and all music styles. Another popular wood for sticks is maple due to it being very light. This means maple sticks excel at fast playing but at the cost of volume as they are quieter than hickory sticks. At the other end of the spectrum there are also oak sticks, which are the heaviest and densest wood of the three. Oak sticks are usually very durable and pack plenty of punch.

Less commonly, wooden sticks can also be constructed with birch, which has similar properties to oak. They may also be made from persimmon, known for it’s rigidity and for producing dark tones, or even Japanese white oak, which is another heavy and long lasting wood.

Drumsticks, like the pair above, may also be made from aluminium or carbon fibre that has been coated in polyurethane. These sticks last for a very long time (much, much longer than wooden sticks), and usually feature replaceable tips, but some drummers balk at the cost or variance in sound when using metal sticks. Usually metal sticks are used by metal drummers. Well, if the shoe fits.

Thickness

Stick sizes are displayed by a number and a letter. Typically the lower the number, the thicker the stick. The letter originally referred to what the stick was designed to be used for, with A being orchestra, B being for band, D being for dance band, and S being for street band (think marching bands, not gangster drummers).

Simple right? Well this is where it gets confusing. Not all sticks follow the same rules, so one brand’s 8D will not necessarily be the same size and thickness as another brands’ 8D.

The most common sticks you will find are:

2B – thick and chunky. Durable and great for rock and heavy hitting.

5A – The most common, and versatile. Medium thickness, reliable in any scenario.

7A – Thin and easily broken, but perfect for genres with lots of dynamic shifts.

Tips

The shape and the material of the tip define the sound you will get. The bigger the contact point with the drums, the less defined the sound. So a perfectly round tip will produce a more defined sound than an oval tip, or one shaped like a tear drop. You will notice the difference a lot more on the cymbals than on the drums themselves.

Drumstick tips are usually made from wood or nylon. Nylon tips are more durable and sound brighter when used on cymbals, where as wood tips are more of an all-rounder.