Choosing drumsticks

Let me preface by saying that choosing drumsticks for the first time can be overwhelming. There are A LOT of different brands, styles and sizes. The good thing is that there’s no right or wrong – in the end, the choice comes down to what feels good and sounds good to you.

When I look at the stacks of drumsticks we have in the store I think, “Why do we need so many? They take up so much space, and is there really any difference? I mean, they’re sticks!” But, apparently there is a difference, several important differences.

I did my own research and found it quite confusing, especially the number and letter each stick is labelled with, so I asked Noah to simplify it for me. The mantra at Origin Road is, “If Christine can understand it, anyone can.” As it turns out, drumsticks aren’t as tricky as I thought. They just need to be presented in a way that makes sense to me. I hope what I learned also helps you, so you won’t feel completely lost when you’re staring at the stacks of sticks staring back at you. Here is what I learned from Noah.

Finding the right drumsticks is pretty much like shopping for a pair of shoes.

Each pair feels different and everyone will have an opinion, but after a while you’ll find your perfect pair.

Size: Weight, Thickness and Length

One of the first things you’ll notice is that drumsticks are labelled with a number and a letter. These tell you about the weight and thickness. They’re standard throughout the industry, but every brand will have its own proprietary take on it.

• The most common numbers are 2, 5, and 7. The higher the number, the lighter the stick.
• The most common letters are “A and “B”. B is thicker than A.

For example,
7A = lightest and thinnest
2B = heaviest and thickest

Lighter, thinner sticks play faster and create a lighter sound. They work well in a jazz or folk setting.
Heavier, thicker sticks offer more power and volume, and are more durable. They’re ideal for a solid, noticeable backbeat, such as rock or R&B.

5A is the most popular stick and is great for beginners. It’s kinda the “baby bear” stick. (Cuz it’s juuust right.)
7A is ideal for young drummers who need a lighter drum stick

The length of a drumstick generally runs from 15 to 17.5 inches
There are also shorter sticks specifically for kids. These are about 13” long.

When choosing drumsticks, remember that it matters more how you like the reach, weight and overall feel. Don’t worry about the meaning of the numbers and letters.

Tip (may also be called “bead”)

The shape, and material the tip is made of affect the feel and sound.

Tip Shapes
• Bigger tip and more surface area that contacts the drum = darker, richer and less defined sound.
• Smaller tip and less surface area that contacts the drum = lighter, brighter, more defined sound.

You’ll hear more of a difference on cymbals than you will on the rest of the kit.

There are a number of different shapes to choose from, but here are a few common shapes:

Oval
• Can be used for most styles as it allows for a range of tones depending on the angle at which it hits the drum
• Warmer, fuller sound
• Lighter feel
• Great for beginners

Acorn
• Fuller, fatter sound
• Popular, versatile and suits most styles and genres

Barrel
• Punchy and loud
• Stubby, small and fat
• Bright and articulate cymbal sound
• Good for recording in the studio

Round/Ball
• Clean, bright, crisp, more defined sound
• Popular with jazz drummers
• Extra rebound and fast response

Tip Materials

Wood
• Most common
• Gives a full, warm, more natural sound
• Great for a variety of styles and genres

Nylon
• Very durable which makes them great for hard rock and metal drummers
• Bright, defined sound
• Excellent for electric drum sets

Drumstick Material

Sticks come in a variety of materials, the typical ones include:

Hickory: medium weight, dense and durable; most common
Maple: lightweight, easy to control, quick
Oak: heavyweight; very durable, great for drummers who tend to break sticks
Polyurethane: extremely durable; not as natural feeling

Brands

There are four main brands that most drummers will know. We carry all of these at Origin Road.
1. Vic Firth
2. Zildjian
3. Vater
4. RB

Vic Firth, Zildjian and Vater are all great quality, have many styles and sizes to choose from, and have something to offer no matter your budget.

For those of you who are just starting out, don’t hit too hard, and don’t have any preferences yet, RB are very economical. Remember – you get what you pay for.(Friendly hint: If your sticks keep breaking, you should probably invest in a thicker and better quality stick. You be may be stronger than you think!)

Regardless of your preferences we have drumsticks to suit your needs. Our staff are always happy to answer any questions you have and help you find the right pair of drumsticks for you.

A huge thank you to Noah Ortiz for gathering all this information and explaining it to me.