Experienced drummers know that choosing drumsticks is a matter of deciding which size and material is right for their drumming style and the music they play. It's a relative thing and each drummer needs to make an individual choice. Finding the right material, size and tip is the focus of this drumsticks guide.
Selecting the Right Material
The vast majority of models are made from four different woods or are synthetic. Each material has unique characteristics and delivers its own sound. We list the woods from least dense to most dense which is also the least durable to the most durable material.
Maple: Like maple shells, maple sticks are light and produce a bright sound with fast response. That's the advantage they offer. The downside is that maple is not as durable as other woods. The sound they produce and their strength make them an ideal choice for drummers who play fairly light, with a focus on tonal quality rather than big projection.
Hickory: Most baseball bats are made from hickory so that tells you something about this wood. It demonstrates a nice balance between light weight and durability. Hickory sticks are the best drum sticks for those who play an eclectic mix of styles because they are very versatile.
Oak: Very dense and durable, oak sticks are the preferred tools of players who use a heavy-handed style with a focus on volume and projection. They are a good choice for rimshots as well.
Rosewood: This is another dense wood. It has a more musical sound than oak and is a good choice for drum solos. Rosewood drumsticks are more expensive than other woods but are also very durable.
Synthetic: The greatest advantage of synthetic drum sticks is their durability. They make great practice sticks and the synthetic head is also preferred by some drummers for the ringing tones they deliver when playing cymbals.
Picking a Size
Drum stick sizes originated for use in playing different genres of music. Here are the 4 most popular sizes and a description.
7a: This is the thinnest body type and is excellent for lighter styles including jazz, pop, R&B, etc., and for playing live in small venues.
5a: The most versatile size, it works well for all musical styles.
5b: This is a larger size and used mainly for playing loud in large venues. Most rock drummers play 5b sticks.
2b: B could easily stand for beefy. These are big and bold, a popular choice for heavy rock and metal.
Tips on Tips
A variety of tip shapes is available to enhance your sound. Here are the options along with the sound produced by each.
Barrel/Fat: The large contact area produces medium body that is heavy on tone.
Oval: With the biggest impact area, these tips deliver full, rich tone with less attack. Oval tips are also the most durable type.
Round: A small impact area produces piercing, focused attack that grabs attention.
Triangle/Mushroom: Similar to a barrel tip, it offers medium body with slightly more pronounced attack.
Nylon: Most shapes are also available in nylon which produces more snap on cymbals and is very durable.
Putting it All Together
Choosing drumsticks is a process of discovery. To find the right drumstick for you, you'll have to try a variety of them. Start with three combinations of materials, sizes and tips and give them a go. Rotate the sticks consistently, playing with each option at some point during each session. You will soon begin to feel most comfortable with one of the sets. You'll like the sound they produce and they will fit your individual approach to playing. Enjoy the process of finding the best drumsticks for you. Eventually, your playing will improve and you’ll be sounding better than ever.
To help you put it all together, here's a video done by Brodie from Better Music to explain what they recommend in choosing drumsticks.
Buy Drumsticks Online
Speaking of choosing drumsticks, here are two of my favorite places to find them.