How to Select Your Drumsticks

What good is a drummer without drumsticks? More specifically, the proper ones. Drumsticks aren’t just generic sticks of wood; every set of drums requires a pair of drumsticks that match the drummer’s individual playing style. Things to consider when searching include the drumstick sizes and materials. Here’s how you can determine what your hands should be gripping.

Using the Numbering System to Determine Drumstick Sizes
The range of drumstick sizes is large. Based on the size and use of the drumstick, a number and letter are assigned to every drumstick set. This began as a way for the manufacturers to determine drumstick variation.

The way the numbering system works is that the smaller the number, the bigger the circumference, and as the numbers increase the circumference decreases. For instance, a 2B drumstick is smaller in circumference than a 3S.

The letters “A,” “B,” and “S” are the three typical letters used to determine a drumstick’s intended application:

  • The “A” drumstick is meant for orchestral drums. They’re thinner than the “B” series and are meant for softer drumming within a big band. Many jazz and rock musicians use the “A” series. As an example, 7As produce more of a marching band sound and are typically used by beginning jazz players. The “A” was chosen (instead of “O” to stand for “orchestra”) because William F. Ludwig (founder of the Ludwig Drum Company) decided that “A” looked better on paper.
  • The “B” series stands for “band.” Smaller in circumference than the “S” series, these are often used by beginning music students due to their easy manipulation. 2Bs are fairly thick for the series, but are often recommended by music teachers, and are used in heavy metal bands.
  • The “S” series drumsticks are the thickest, with the “S” standing for “street.” The drumstick sizes in this series are intended for marching bands and other styles where loudness and projection are needed.

Choosing the Proper Wood
Drumsticks are typically made from hickory, maple or oak. Each type of wood

provides a different feel for each drumstick and influences its flexes and absorption of vibration.

Maple, being the lightest of the drumsticks and lower in density, is perfect for lighter and quicker playing. Hickory contains more density and because of this is heavier. Hickory is able to absorb shock that can fatigue the wrists and hands, making it the most popular wood used for drumsticks. Oak, the densest of the woods used, is also one of the most durable. Oak is also better at transmitting vibrations.

Other drumsticks sought by drummers have been made from more exotic and rare woods, such as rosewood.

Picking the Tips
The very end of a drumstick makes a big difference in sound. Tips are made of either wood or nylon normally, and come in four different shapes.

Here are the different shapes:

  • Round tips are good for use on cymbals, coming in small or large sizes which provide tight or broad tones respectively.
  • Barrel tips are useful if you’re looking for a broad sound.
  • Pointed tips allow for a medium, focused tone.
  • Teardrop tips are even more focused, and their diffuse depends on how the sticks are held.

More Importantly, Try Them Out
As a beginning musician, or even as an experienced drummer, simply trying different drumsticks out, finding the combination of feel and sound that works for you, is more important than figuring out the exact specs.

While the genre of music you aspire to drum can be determined by going through different materials, sizes and tip shapes, actually playing the drums with a new pair of sticks can help gauge what works best. The more experience you have in using different drumstick sizes, shapes and materials, the more you’ll be able to pick out the ones that you like. As with any musical instrument, hands-on experience is essential!



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Photo by LeahLikesLemon