Drumsticks: Choosing and Buying Your First Pair

If you are about to start learning to drum, you will definitely need a pair of drumsticks.

This article provides a brief introduction to drumsticks. Going to the store can be an overwhelming and intimidating experience for new adult drummers like me.

Hence, I prefer to make my purchase online – mostly through Amazon.

Maybe when I am confident that I will not be thrown technical terms at a physical store, I will start making my purchases there. For now, Amazon is most convenient and comfortable.

If you prefer to visit a physical store to purchase your drumsticks, and are not as easily intimidated as me, you could enlist the help of the store’s sales personnel.

A quick, zippy introduction to types of drumsticks

There are several makers of drumsticks: ProMark, Vic FirthWincent, Vater, etc.

some drumsticks makers

Each maker have their own range of drumsticks for drummers to choose from. However, the classification for the standard drumsticks are pretty much the same across the board.

P.S. Zildjian is know for it’s cymbals, but I have read somewhere that their sticks break easily. If you use this maker, let me know if it’s true!

Parts of a drumstick

It’s not just a stick! Here’s the anatomy of a drumstick in detail:

parts of a drumstick

As you can see, there are several parts that can come with variations. These variation gives drummers a wide range of choices when it comes to choosing a pair of drumsticks.

Your first drumsticks

For my very first pair of drumsticks, I ignored all ‘specifications’ of a drumstick and only focused on the thickness (which contributed to the weight). It is easy to experience paralysis by over-analysis.

For me, it was the case when I read tons of informative articles on ‘how to choose’ a drumsticks’. In the end, I borrowed both the 5A and the 7A from a friend and decided to go with the 7A instead.

my first drumsticks!
my first drumsticks!

I chose the 7A as it felt lighter compared to the 5A.

However, while I was researching about drumsticks that I realized my friend’s drumsticks were made of oak – the most dense and hence heaviest amongst the different wood used to make sticks.

Usually, drumsticks would be made of hickory.

If you are lazy to read through the entire article, new drummers can start with: Hickory, wood tip 5A drumsticks.

The brand does not make much difference, and these drumsticks usually come in the same length.

As mentioned above, the most important thing is to avoid any paralysis by the wide range of choices and choose a standard pair of sticks so that you can start hitting drums with it.

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For those who are wondering what specifications or features you should take note of when choosing a pair of drumsticks, here they are:

1. The Classification of Drumsticks

Standard drumsticks are usually given a number followed by an alphabet.

 drumstick-size

The standard numbers are: 2, 5, and 7.

They represent the circumference of the drumstick, in an inverse relationship.

The higher the number, the smaller the circumference.

As a quick guide, the wider the circumference, the heavier the drumsticks. Hence, most stores would recommend that you start from the middle range drum sticks – the 5As.

The standard alphabets are A, B and S.

They represent the intended purpose of the drumsticks.

‘A’ drumsticks were designed for orchestra – these are good for soft and fast playing. Hence, they are popular with jazz and rock players.

‘B’ drumsticks were designed for bands, brass bands and symphonic orchestras.

I read somewhere that apparently pro drum teachers like to recommend the 2B drum sticks for new students. It is supposed to help with precision and technique. (I’m just purchased a 7A drumsticks, chosen because of its weight) 

‘S’ drumsticks were meant for street drums such as marching bands. These sticks then to be larger and thicker to create louder sounds. Each company also offer their own special drumsticks that are modifications of the standard drumsticks.

5A may be a better fit, but for a beginner drummer, getting started is key. So just get a pair of drum sticks and start learning to drum!

2. Drumsticks Tips

No, I’m not referring to pointer or tips in this section.

Instead, I am referring to the tip of the drumsticks. With so many makers, models and drummers out there, it is not surprising that drumsticks designers (not sure if this is a real profession, but there’s obviously someone behind all these designs…) would design different tips that would produce different quality of sounds on the drums.

There are 4 common tip shapes, with 2 common materials!

Material of Tips

Wood and nylon tips produces different quality of sound on the drum set. Some nylon tips are replaceable.

Drumstick Tips Material

Shape of Tips

Again, different tip shapes provide varying quality of sounds.

Round tips
Known to produce better sounds on the cymbals with increased clarity.
Barrel Tips
These tips are large, they produce a sounds that seems to vibrate longer.
Pointed or triangle tips
These produce sounds that are between the round and barrel tips
Tear drop or olive shaped
The tip of my drum sticks are of this shape. These are good for a range of sounds from tight, clear sounds to diffused, longer lasting sounds.
drumsticks tip shapes

Although it may be important to the sound I produce across the drum set, but at my current beginner level, these are merely subtle differences that won’t matter to me.

Disclaimer: When I purchased my drumsticks, I did not pay much attention of the tip of my drum sticks. As a beginner, I could not tell the difference in the sounds produced anyway.

3. Length of Drumsticks

Yes, drumsticks come with varying length. Depending on the set up of the drum set, drummers may prefer drumsticks of different length for optimized playing.

Generally, longer sticks provide greater reach and leverage when you are hitting the drums – i.e. smaller movements of your arms can lead to greater degree of swing of the tip. (In short, you can hit the drums harder with lesser arm movement)

And, shorter drumsticks provide greater control and generally weighs less than its longer counterparts. Again, drumsticks makers do provide drumsticks with average length.

Most 5A and 7A drums sticks have similar length, unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer.

As new drummers, I do not see a need for drumsticks that are exceptionally long or short as we will probably be hitting just the drum practice pads or just the snare drum and a high hat. There is no need to be overwhelmed by the length of the sticks.

Just get a regular 5A pair of drumsticks.

4. Material of the drumsticks

In short, most drumsticks are made of wood. In order to increase the product offerings, manufacturers use different types of wood. And each type provides different sound quality.

Again, another fancy specification for new drummers. I did not know about the different types of wood when I purchased my first pair of drumsticks.

I just chose the cheapest one. I am aiming to wear out the sticks, so this doesn’t matter to me. (It is only while researching about drumsticks that I realized mine were made of oak – the heaviest.)

These are the most common wood used to make drumsticks:

Oak
Most dense of all the wood used. These tend to last longer and are sturdy. These are the heaviest.

Hickory
Most commonly used wood.
Known to absorb shock and thus leads to less tiredness in the arms.

Maple
Less dense of all the wood used. Maple drumsticks are the lightest and gives better dexterity to the drummer.

And I’m glad to say, that’s all.

Although I have repeated this many times, as new drummers, just get a regular 5A pair of drumsticks and let’s start hitting some drums.

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