- Drumstick sizes explained
- Selecting the right tip and material for you
- The difference in drumstick sizes and types
- Also, check out our post on drumsticks for beginners and the best drum gloves.
If you are anything like me, the first pair of sticks you used were the ones that came with your first kit. It wasn’t until I trashed that first pair (I was a very enthusiastic student) that I realized there might be more to drumsticks than I had thought.
I was confused and unsure what anything meant. What is a 5A? What do you mean I need to choose the type of tip?
Not to worry, if that is you, we have you covered. Let’s dive into all things drumstick.
Drumstick Sizes Explained
To quickly wrap your head around drumstick sizes, generally, they are indicated with a number and a letter.
For example, a 5A is a standard drumstick size. The number indicates the drumstick length, and the diameter increases as the numbers get smaller.
So, in terms of a drumstick size comparison, a 2A is significantly thicker than a 5A.
The letter designation is used to indicate the intended use of the stick. For example, A was for orchestra use, and B was for band use.
Those are a bit dated now, though, and most manufacturers offer different drumstick sizes, including the most common ones; 2A, 5A, 5B, and 7A.
**insert drumstick infographic**
There are three important factors to consider when selecting a new set of sticks. Each of these factors will affect the sticks’ sound and response.
Choosing new sticks is a matter of taste and musical necessity, but starting with the basics regarding different drumstick sizes is good.
What Are the Drumsticks Made From?
Drumsticks are generally made from wood. The type of wood used affects the durability of your drumstick. A stick made from oak, or hickory, will be much sturdier than one made from maple. Although, the maple stick will be lighter.
Wood is also not the only material used in making drumsticks. There are options available in carbon fiber and aluminum with a polyurethane veneer. Both options are incredibly durable.
The aluminum sticks have quite a rebound, though, and I find that fairly difficult to wrangle while playing, so keep that in mind, especially if you are a beginner.
When looking at a drumstick, you will notice that it gets thinner towards the tip. This is the drumstick’s taper. A thick taper is usually good for hard hitters, while a longer taper is a better choice if you want a lighter sound.
When thinking about the tips of your drumsticks, you need to consider two things. Firstly, the material, and secondly, the shape of the tip.
Wood and nylon are the two most common materials drumstick tips are made of. Wood tips are pretty self-explanatory. They are drumsticks where the entire stick is a single piece of wood, including the tip.
Nylon tips, on the other hand, are synthetic tips added to your sticks. The material of your tips affects your sound.
I like a warm, natural sound, especially on my ride, so I favor wood tips. If that is what you are looking for, then start there.
Nylon is for you if you want a sharper attack and a brighter sound.
As far as tip shape goes, you have several options. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
First up is the shape you are most likely already familiar with: the oval tip. This is the most common tip shape and is versatile with a wide range of sounds.
Next up is my personal favorite, the teardrop shape. I like a focused low-end while maintaining that warmth I was talking about earlier.
Round or ball-shaped tips sound great if you look for many attacks, especially in your cymbals.
Acorn tips give a fat and full sound. I find them great when playing fat funk grooves with my bass player.
Barrel tips sound like they are named. Perfect for punch and aggressive playing with lots of volume.
Not surprisingly, the wood your stick is made of will affect your playing too. The standard wood types used for drumsticks are hickory, maple, and oak.
Hickory falls in the middle of the pack. It is not too heavy or too light and has a reasonable level of durability.
Maple is much more lightweight and allows for faster playing. That lighter weight does come at a bit of a cost to durability, though, so if you are a heavy hitter, maple will shred much faster.
Oak is the heavyweight of the pack. This is the densest wood and, as a result, is quite a lot heavier but also incredibly durable.
I also wanted to add aluminum sticks here. Though they are not made of wood, they play very much the same. They have a polyurethane coating and are incredibly durable and light.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, the aluminum material makes these sticks have a very noticeable rebound, which is great for fast playing but not really something I am fond of.
Other Types of Drumsticks
Brushes are most often seen in Jazz. Brushes are made of a “brush” of steel or nylon fibers. Brushes are used to create the characteristic “swish” sound on the snare in Jazz, although they are also useful in other settings.
Whenever I play a smaller venue or an unplugged gig, I opt for brushes and play like I usually do but at a much lower volume.
Rods are the much beefier brother of brushes. Rods, as the name suggests, are a collection of wooden rods bunched together to form a stick. The rods will rattle together while you play, giving them their distinct sound.
To be honest, you don’t see mallets used behind a kit much. They look sort of like the beater on your bass drum. They have a large felt head and will give a very muted and muffled sound. You mostly find mallets in orchestral music.
What Drumsticks Do Professionals Use?
5As are the standard drumstick size and the most common type of drumstick available and used. The most popular 5A in the world is Vic Firth’s American Classic 5A, used by beginners and pros alike.
Ultimately, your stick will be down to your body type, playing style, and the music you want to make. Although some great drumstick brands to look out for include Vic Firth, Vater, and ProMark sticks.
What Are 7A Sticks Used For?
7A drumsticks are both lighter and longer than 5As; this gives them a longer fulcrum and a much lighter touch. You will mostly find 7As in lighter musical styles like jazz.
What Wood Is Best For Drumsticks?
Again, the type of wood you select for your sticks is very much a personal choice. If speed and weight are more important than durability, maple is likely best for you. However, if it is durability and versatility you want, then hickory is more likely to satisfy.
I advise getting down to a physical shop and trying several pairs of sticks. Find what feels best for the way you play, and start there.
Before you go, check out our guide to the 7 Best Online Drum Lessons/Courses (For All Skill Levels)!