As a beginner drummer, it can be confusing figuring out which drum sticks are the most suitable for you. Although the drum stick classification system looks a little complicated at first glance, it's really just a question of understanding a few key basics, and we are here to help!
Firstly, as a brand-neutral company, we are happy to recommend the drum sticks and associated products of any of the main manufacturers. These include Vic Firth, ProMark, Zildjian, Regal Tip, and Vater. These brands are well established in the music industry, have great products, and a tradition of high-quality in-house manufacturing. Don't be fooled to see Zildjian on this list. Although they are mainly known for their world-class cymbal manufacturing, they have been producing sticks for decades and recently merged with arguably the biggest name in drum sticks - Vic Firth. We also produced a video blog on this popular topic before we dive deeper.
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Are all drum sticks the same weight and length?
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 as the average is a 5A, and this is where we recommend that you start.
Try a few lessons using this weight, and then assess whether you feel it is just right, too heavy, or too light. If you feel the 5A is too light, try a 5B. The 5B stick is slightly thicker in diameter and thus heavier in weight. 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 seem to imply a degree of structure, it is actually a very old classification method that is a little dated. For example, the letter "A" used to be associated with orchestral playing, while "B" was for marching band. This is not as relevant in today's playing.
What types of wood are common for drum sticks?
While most drum sticks are wood (although there was a brief trend towards carbon-fiber sticks), the actual wood type can differ. The majority of sticks are made from hickory, which is by far the biggest seller and most popular wood. Other popular woods include oak and maple. From a practical standpoint, hickory is good durable wood; oak is the most solid, and maple is the lightest. It is actually your technique that is likely to determine whether you break sticks. If you follow the instructions in our introductory video on grip, then you shouldn't frequently break drum sticks, regardless of the weight or composition. It's worth going into your local store and experiencing the difference 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. We've put a couple of recommendations below to help.
Wood or plastic tips. What are the differences?
There are different types of drum stick tips. You will see many wonderful descriptions such as teardrop, oval, acorn, and round, and these terms refer to the shape and profile of the tip. The variants do provide different articulation on the cymbals (meaning they all produce slightly different tones), but this, in our opinion, is marginal at best and not something that we believe should concern a beginner drummer. The same applies to whether the tip is made from wood or nylon (plastic). The most practical difference here is that nylon tips will give you a brighter tone when playing the cymbals. Again, this is marginal at best and not something to concern yourself with when starting. We have seen beginner 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 just something to look out for.
The feel of a 5A hickory stick has always been a great starting point for beginner drummers in our experience. 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. We recommend getting two pairs of 5A hickory sticks, one pair with wood tips and one pair with nylon (plastic) tips. That way, you can hear the slight difference in articulation, decide which you prefer, and you'll also have a spare set in case of any mishaps that can occur in the early days of drumming.
Where to buy.
In our videos, Simon uses the Vic Firth 5A wood tip model. We've included links below so that you can purchase these sticks if you can't make it to your friendly local drum store. As an associate of Amazon.com, we may make a commission if you choose to buy these products here.
We are here to help.
If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to email [email protected].