Here’s a little ditty about a man named Jed. Poor drummineer couldn’t afford a pair of sticks. Er, something like that… Here’s a bunch of info that you might know, don’t know, or just stumbled upon my site at one time or another seeking the all knowing tree of stickathus logicus. That’s Latin for “I’m gonna learn ya some drumstick knowledge”!
Sticks are made from trees, duh. No I’m not talking about a “switch” that your mom made you go outside and pick off a tree so she could whoop you with it. I’m talking about drum sticks. The noise makers that were built conveniently for your hand by constructive wizards for beating out your rhythmic craft. Sticks are made from a variety of woods that serve different purposes. The majority of sticks are hickory, less popular are birch followed by oak. Birch is a little lighter and more swift but less durable, whereas oak is much more dense, heavier and can take a beating. Like Goldie Locks – hickory is just right. Not the former!
It’s not a competiton to see how long your sticks can last by buying heavy sticks and pounding but rather all about the music and your feel to complementing what you’re playing. Just because you’re playing jazz doesn’t mean you HAVE to use a jazz stick. I use one particular kind of stick that I’ve used for years. Yes I might go through 4-5 pairs a week, or 2 pairs a night but they feel good in my hands and respond perfectly to what I’m exaggerating percussively.
A shoulder to lean on….
A drum stick consists of 4 parts: the bead, the shoulder, the shaft, and the butt. I’m not a feminist but I guarantee you those terms were created by men. The bead is the ….wait for it………..tip of the stick. It’s available in a number of shaped varieties. The different shapes correspond to the way the drummer plays both drum and cymbal, how they feel the stick strike their intended instrument, and the sound emitting from it. Unfortunately a description will not do feel justice. It’s like trying to explain the color blue to a blind person. You must feel it for yourself. Both wood and nylon tips are available for just about every stick size. Wood tips are very resilient and trustworthy although a nylon tip will give you a brighter cymbal tone and brighter attack off your toms and snare.
The shoulder is most overlooked part of the stick. It comes from the bead in a convex, cone shape to the shaft. The shoulder can determine the entire balance of the stick. It can also make the stick feel a lot stronger, flexible, or responsive. A small shoulder may give the player a feeling of power and follow through, whereas a long shoulder feels like a faster withdraw for swiftness. This part is mainly used on the bell of a ride cymbal or sweeping crash cymbal motion and taking abuse from the rim of a snare on rim shots.
The shaft makes up the mass of the stick. It’s where you hold and control the stick. It is your center of all that revolves around you’re playing, your ability, your volume, your style, your everything. When you’re choosing a stick the shaft should be your first trial go to topic.
The butt is simply that-the other end of the bead. Some metal and heavy rock players use this end to destroy their heads.
One good thing about sticks are they are NOT priced according to size but rather brand preference. Number/letter sizing can seem ridiculously insane but is manageable when you get used to it. Two things go into sizing ONLY. Length and weight/circumference.
The number and letter represents the circumference and weight respectively. Their usually measured in odd numbers for some reason and the most popular are 5’s 7’s with occasional 9 and one popular even number – 2. The smaller the number, the fatter the stick, also relating to weight is the letter that follows. For instance 5A drumsticks are smaller than 5B. The length of stick also goes into the letter somewhat meaning further down the alphabet the longer the stick. If there is a second letter it’s usually a W or N signifying wood or nylon tip.
The wood makeup can also make the price go up as well with oak being the most expensive. Brand has a lot to do with pricing most significantly. The most popular brands today are Vic Firth sticks, Vater sticks, Regal tip sticks, Pro-Mark sticks, and even Zildjian has their hat in the mix and are doing pretty well with them. A couple of those manufacturers can make custom drumsticks or personalized drum sticks, of course at a whopping “good price”.
All these manufacturers though go to great lengths to have their sticks at certain tolerances to be sold as a premium stick. Weight, balance, and straightness must be 100% PERFECT! Those that don’t make the grade are sold as the companies “2nd’s”. That’s where the deals come into play. A lot of companies 2nd’s can be just as good as the premium stick at a fraction of the cost. For instance, Vater drumsticks’ 2nd line is called GoodWood which sell around 2-3 dollars a pair and their premium same model at 9-12 dollars a pair. That makes a huge difference when you’re buying a dozen at a time and shred through them like I do.
Artist young and old…
Even the oldest drummers still look for a different kind of stick to try and “up” their game. Most of the time newbies will try and try and never seem to find that one true size that’ll work. I say say trial and error. Your going to get some you don’t like at all and your going to get some you love and destroy. Keep at it and find the ones that you like. You may also find different sizes for different songs in your repertoire that complement the style that you fluctuate back and forth. I say keep at it and trial trial trial!!
As mentioned before most of these companies have a 2nd line of less expensive sticks available so if your trying out different sticks maybe give the 2nd’s a go and save a buck or two. They’re widely available and manufacturers are dying to get rid of them! Happy hunting guys! Keep the beat alive and jam on!
As always, if you have any questions give me a shout!