If you are about to start learning to drum, you will definitely need a pair of drumsticks. But choosing your first pair of drumsticks can easily become an overwhelming experience since there are so many options out there. I’ll share a brief guide to choosing your first drumsticks here.
Quick note: going to the store alone can be an overwhelming and intimidating experience for new adult drummers. I prefer to make my purchase online – mostly through Amazon.
If you are visiting a physical store, know what your objectives are and get help from the staff at the store!
A quick & zippy introduction to types of drumsticks
There are several makers of drumsticks: ProMark, Vic Firth, Wincent, Vater, are some common brands.
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 known 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:
As you can see, there are several parts to the design.
Good news, each part come with variations!
These variations give drummers a wide range of choices when it comes to choosing a pair of drumsticks.
but also makes it confusing…
Your first drumsticks
For my very first pair of drumsticks, I ignored all the ‘specifications’ of a drumstick and only focused on the thickness (which contributes to the weight).
With so many things to consider, it is easy to experience paralysis by over-analysis.
I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time I attempted to learn just about drumsticks. There are tons of informative articles on ‘how to choose‘ a drumsticks’.
To make it easier on you, I’ve compared several drumsticks that I think you should consider as your first ever drumsticks.
In the end, I borrowed both the 5A and the 7A from a friend and decided to go with the 7A instead.
I chose the 7A simply because it felt lighter compared to the 5A.
Later, I found out that my friend’s drumsticks were made of oak – the most dense and hence heaviest among the different wood used to make sticks.
Drumsticks are usually made of hickory.
If you are lazy to read through the entire article, new drummers can start with this pair: 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.
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 classified with a number, followed by an alphabet.
The standard numbers are: 2, 5, and 7.
They represent the weight of the drumstick, in an inverse relationship.
The higher the number, the lighter the drumsticks.
Hence, most stores would recommend that you start from the middle range drum sticks – the 5As.
In the early days, the numbers referred to the circumference of the drumsticks; the higher the number, the smaller the circumference.
Drumsticks – A vs B vs S
The standard alphabets are A, B and S.
The alphabets on the drumsticks refer to the diameter of the drumsticks. ‘A’ being the thinnest, ‘S’ being the thickest.
Fun fact: The alphabets represent the intended purpose of the drumsticks.
- ‘A’ drumsticks are designed for orchestra – ‘A’ sticks are great for soft and fast playing. Hence, they are popular with jazz and rock players.
- ‘B’ drumsticks are designed for bands, brass bands and symphonic orchestras.
Apparently, pro drum teachers like to recommend the 2B drum sticks for new students. It helps build up their precision and technique.
- ‘S’ drumsticks are 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.
However, taking action and getting started is more important for a beginner drummer. If you do not have access to a wide range of sticks to choose from, just grab any that you can get your hands on.
It’s more important to start learning to drum!
2. Drumsticks Tips
If you visit a drum store in town, you would notice that there is a wide variety of drumsticks that differs only in their tip designs.
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.
It is also good to note that some nylon tips are replaceable too.
This means you can easily replace your tip, instead of having to buy a new pair of sticks, once it has been worn out.
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.
Tip designs can affect the sound you’ll produced across the drum set.
These are merely subtle differences that won’t matter to new drummers initially.
Disclaimer: I did not pay much attention of the tip of my drum sticks initially. 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.
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, there is no need to choose drumsticks based on their length.
Most new drummers would probably be practicing with 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
Most drumsticks are made of wood.
In order to increase the product offerings, manufacturers use different types of wood.
And each type is known to produce different sound quality.
Another fancy specification for new drummers. I did not know about the different types of wood when I purchased my first pair of drumsticks.
Because I am aiming to wear out the sticks, I just chose the cheapest one I could get my hands on.
These are the most common wood used to make drumsticks:
- Oak: Most dense of all the wood used. These tend to last longer, are sturdier and are the heaviest too.
- Hickory: Most common wood for drumsticks. Known to absorb shock, which means your arms don’t tire out so quickly.
- Maple: Less dense of all the wood used. Maple drumsticks are the lightest and provides 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.
Still can’t decide? Here are more resources that will help you choose your drumsticks: