When starting drum lessons, whether they be online drum lessons or with a teacher; it can be somewhat confusing perusing through the myriad of drum stick options. Fortunately, Drum Ambition is here to do what we do best - simplify the options, and tell you what you really need to know about drum stick selection for beginner drummers.
There are three main details that concern us here: stick weight, composition and tips.
1) Stick Weight.
For the most part, drum sticks are around the same length. There are certainly some models that extend slightly longer, but it's marginal at best. The real issue for beginner drummers is understanding the seemingly scientific stick weight system. Well, the system, as it turns out, is not really scientific at all. The weight that has always been considered "average" is a 5A, and this is where I recommend that you start.
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Try a few lessons using this weight, and then assess for yourself whether you feel it is just right, too heavy, or too light. This, remember, is different for all of us, given as we have different hand sizes and build. If you feel the 5A is too light, try a 5B. The 5B stick is heavier in weight. Makes sense right? If the 5A is too heavy, then try the lighter weight 7A. This is where the numerical system seems to defy logic, but these are traditional classifications and are unlikely to change. Compounding the confusion, the next heavier stick from a 5B is a 2B.
Artist Signature Sticks (these are sticks that carry the name of the famous drummers that play them) can often be a regular stock drum stick, or a stick with a couple of minor modifications in weight and tip, so it's always best to check the manufacturer's website for full details. Although the number and weight system seems to imply a degree of structure, it is actually a very old method of classification that is a little dated. For example, the letter "A" used to be associated with orchestral playing, while "B" was for marching band. This not relevant in today's playing.
2) Stick Composition.
While most drum sticks are wood (although there was a brief trend towards carbon-fibre sticks), the actual wood type can make a difference. The majority of sticks are made from Hickory, and this is by far the biggest seller, and most popular wood. Other popular woods include Oak and Maple. From a practical standpoint, Hickory is a good durable wood, Oak is the most solid and Maple is the lightest. Since your technique is likely to determine whether you break sticks, the weight of the stick you choose is probably more important than what the stick is made of. If you follow the instructions in the Special Feature Video in relation to Grip, then you shouldn't frequently break drum sticks, regardless of the weight or composition. It's worth going in to your local store and experiencing the difference in feel between Hickory, Oak and Maple sticks as you will no doubt have a personal preference. As with many things in drumming, stick selection is subjective, and you will develop your own personal favorites over time.
There are different types of drum stick tip, and they refer to the shape and profile of the tip. You will see many wonderful descriptions such as teardrop, oval, acorn and round. They do provide different "articulation" on the cymbals (meaning they all produce slightly different tones), but this, in my opinion, is marginal at best, and not something that I believe should concern a beginner drummer. The same applies for whether the tip is made from wood, or nylon. The most practical difference here is that nylon tips will give you a brighter tone when playing the cymbals - but again, marginal at best, and not something to concern yourself with when starting out. I have seen starter drummers losing the nylon tips off the end of their sticks when they make contact with a crash cymbal in the wrong way or through exuberant early playing. That is less of a concern with a wood tip, and as such, I have always recommended the wood top model for beginner drummers.
For me, the feel of a 5A Hickory stick has always been my personal preference. The important thing is to establish what feels best for you. The 5A is a great starting point, and you will probably try many different weights and brands throughout your drumming adventure.