Sticks Aren’t Sticks!
I was given my first pair of drumsticks when I was nine years old, and they quickly became my most prized possession. They accompanied me everywhere – from home to school and beyond – perched in my back pocket to make sure I was ready for any impromptu drumming that might be required, while also signalling my coolness to the world.
Jamie Goff, Product Manager, Yamaha Music Australia
Yes, that’s right. I’m cool. I’m a drummer!
Those sticks saw their share of single stroke rolls and paradiddles on my practice pad, as they were intended; but to be honest, anything that didn’t move (or moved too slowly) was fair game as well. I loved those sticks, but eventually they gave in and broke in a moment of both pride and sadness. It was time to buy a new pair.
It was at this point, when confronted by the huge array of options at my local music shop, that I realised I really didn’t know where to start. But how different could drumsticks really be? Unfortunately, I found out the hard way. The pair I chose were a bit big and heavy for me, and just didn’t feel right. In the years since then, I’ve had the opportunity to play almost every type of drumstick out there, and now have a good understanding of all the different options available.
The following is a look at what goes into making drumsticks – hopefully, this will help when it’s time for you to choose your next pair.
I’ve had the opportunity to play almost every type of drumstick out there, and now have a good understanding of all the different options available
Drumsticks are usually made of one of two species of timber: hickory or maple.
Hickory is the most popular wood choice for drumsticks due to its shock absorption and durability. It’s a strong hardwood that’s also used to make striking tools, such as hammer handles.
Maple is another one of the world’s strongest hardwoods, but its lightness makes it the perfect choice for someone who is looking for a thicker stick without the extra weight.
The diameter – or thickness – of a stick is one of the most crucial aspects of choosing a pair of drumsticks for yourself. The diameter of the stick affects the overall weight, which in turn impacts on the volume, strength and grip. A thicker stick will be heavier and stronger, but it will also have a slightly slower rebound off the drum or cymbal. The added weight will also increase the volume of a given stroke. A stick with a smaller diameter will be lighter and slightly quieter, and will rebound faster.
The length of a stick drastically affects the feel of the stick. Although it may not seem like much, a quarter of an inch makes a great difference in the reach of the stick, as well as the rebound.
The taper of a drumstick affects the overall balance of the stick. The longer the taper, the quicker the stick will respond off the drum or cymbal. The shorter the taper, the stiffer the stick will be and the less the stick will “bounce” off the kit. The trade-off here is strength. The shorter the taper, the stronger the stick.
The tip of a drumstick affects the sound more than any other factor. A small tip will give you a bright, clean sound, while a large tip will produce a warm, full tone.
Nylon or wood?
Another thing to consider is nylon versus wood. Neither is better, or worse. If you want a bright sound that will cut through the guitars and bass, then you’ll want to go with a nylon tip. If you want a warmer, natural tone that will blend in with the surrounding sounds, then you’ll want a wood tip.
Nylon tips produce a brighter sound than wood tips, and are more durable.
Teardrop tips produce rich, dark tones, with focused lows.
Barrel tips produce a full punchy sound, which is great for louder volume situations.
Acorn tips produce a full, fat sound. They are very responsive.
Oval tips produce a broad, mid-range sound, due to their length.
Ball tips produce a clean, bright and articulate sound.
Once you’ve narrowed your search for the perfect pair of drumsticks, using the insights above, there is still one question you’ll need to ask yourself before making a decision: How does it feel in your hand? You will know when you’ve found the right stick because it will feel like a natural extension of your body.
It turns out that sticks aren’t sticks!
Jamie Goff has worked extensively as a professional drummer and drum teacher and is currently the product manager for Yamaha Drums and Paiste Cymbals in Australia.