When learning drums online with Drum Ambition, or with a local drum teacher, you will be shown how good technique can prolong the life of your drum sticks. If you are regularly breaking them, it can be an inconvenient and costly affair. Drum sticks are considered "consumables", because they need to be replaced at somewhat regular intervals. With the average cost of a pair of drum sticks being around $15, it's certainly not something we should let happen too often if it can be avoided. There are some common scenarios that lead to frequent breakage. Some are technique based, and some are just a natural byproduct of playing your drums and cymbals. As a preface to this feature, you may want to refer to our recent blog on drum stick selection.
Have you selected an appropriate stick?
The old saying "you get what you pay for" is certainly applicable when selecting your drum sticks. The established brand names in drum sticks are likely to offer a better quality product, with state-of-the-art manufacturing, and superior grade wood. Brands like Vic Firth, Vater, Regal Tip, Zildjian and ProMark are trusted manufacturers, using the latest technologies and premium materials to make their products. The majority of sticks made by these companies are made from select hickory, oak and maple, and are more likely to outlast the "bargain bucket" nondescript sticks that can be found in your general music store.
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Drum sticks are classified in different weights, with the average weight being a 5A. Again, our blog on stick selection will help you identify what best suits your needs, but it is important to use a weight that is appropriate to your playing style. For the majority of beginners and hobbyists, that will most likely be a 5A. If your playing style is heavier, then it may be prudent to consider a 5B or 2B option. Ultimately, stick selection is very subjective, and you will choose what feels comfortable, and works for you.
How is your technique?
It really doesn't matter which brand of sticks you use or how good the grade of the wood is; if you have not spent time developing your technique, then you are more likely to break sticks. If you are holding your drum sticks too tight (using the so called "death grip"), you will break them often. As you will discover in the Drum Ambition videos, holding the stick in a relaxed but controlled way contributes to dynamic playing, speed, power and endurance - all byproducts of control that are developed over time. Our Special Feature video on grip shows you how to hold the sticks to build good technique, and ensure the optimum life of your drum sticks.
How are you striking your crash cymbals?
Many beginner drummers, who may still be developing their technique, often break their sticks when striking crash cymbals. Even when you have developed good grip technique, if you are striking your cymbals in a direct downward motion, you are causing stress on the sticks, the cymbals, and your wrist. In Drum Ambition Lesson 4 (available to our subscribers), we show you how to safely and musically strike your cymbals using a "glancing movement", otherwise known as a "glancing blow". This is the motion of striking your cymbal from right to left (or left to right in certain situations) in a downward motion, taking the pressure off the stick and cymbal. Not only will you preserve your sticks when doing this, you will also spare your cymbals from cracks, and your wrists from potential injury.
Rim-shots and hi hat playing.
Even when you have good technique and an appropriate stick weight, there are certain aspects of playing the drums that naturally fatigue the stick. For example, if you are regularly playing rim-shots then the main body of your stick is being subjected to more wear and tear, and it is common to see fraying and shredding. If you are playing on the edge of your hi hats with the shoulder (taper) of your stick for a heavier sound, then again, this will cause more stress then if you were playing with the tip of the stick on the top of the hi hat cymbal. Given as you will want both of these musical options, then stick fatigue is going to be inevitable over time.
Examine your drum sticks before you play.
It's always a good idea to take a look at your sticks before your start playing, to make sure that there are no visible signs of damage, and to make sure that the tips have not been chipped. The latter can lead to inadvertently "pitting" your drum heads, and then the repair costs can start to escalate. (Pitted heads can affect the sound, and eventually lead to a stress failure such as a tear or split). If you are using plastic tips, (as opposed to wood tips) this is particularly important. If these tips fail and detach from your stick, you will be hitting your drum heads with a sharp end!
Even with the best care in the world, your trustee drum sticks will eventually break over time through regular playing, and replacing them will be necessary. Fortunately, we drummers have little in the way of consumables that require frequent replacement. Other than our sticks and drum heads, we play a typically low maintenance instrument when treated with care.
If you have any questions or comments relating to this article, please email [email protected].