Even though I have an unusual habit of usually playing signature sticks from my actual favorite (I have been playing Jojo Mayer signature sticks for over a year now and I am absolutely pleased), choosing a good pair of drum sticks is at least as important as choosing a good drum kit.
Actually, it might even be more important, since sticks have a direct effect upon your playing, while most kits – tuned appropriately – respond to a certain stroke in the same way.
We could probably compare drum sticks to bass drum pedals with a frozen set of adjustments and hopefully by the end of this article, you would have picked up some tips on how to select proper drum sticks.
Apart from the manufacturer, one thing that differentiates drum sticks from one another is the code assigned to them, consisting of a number and a letter, such as “5A”, “5B”, “7B” or “3S”. The logic behind this kind of coding has historical origins. The number refers to the circumference of the drum stick, where 7 refers to a narrower stick than 5, 5 is again narrower than 3 and so on.
The letter in the code used to refer to the recommended application of the stick. “S” drum sticks were manufactured to be used on the street, that is, in drum lines or marching bands. In such places volume was essential and these sticks were designed for louder volume and better projection.
Sticks signed with a “B” were designed for applications in a band: for example symphonic bands or brass bands. These sticks had a smaller circumference than “S” models, resulting in better control, making them popular among beginner drummers. Finally, drum sticks signed with an “A” were intended for “orchestra” purposes or big bands.
You might also have noticed the strange anomaly that “B” stands for “band”, “S” stands for “street”, yet “A” stands for “orchestra”. This can be credited to the founder of the Ludwig drum company, who believed that “A” looked better in print than “O”; or maybe he just preferred “A” over “O”. The reason is blurred, but his decision is still active these days.
The typical drum stick (not counting mallets, brushes, and the likes – they cannot even implicitly be considered drum sticks after all) consists of the following parts: the butt, the shaft, the shoulder and the tip.
The butt is the counterpart of the tip, and it can sometimes be used for producing louder hits with heavier attack. Also, you can invent some tricks where you hit a drumhead with the butt of the stick while flipping the sticks.
The shaft is the actual “body” of the stick, it is where your grip should be, closer to the butt than the tip. The shoulder is the area of the stick where the stick is already narrowing. It can be used for producing a wide range of different accents, especially while playing cymbals, including the hi-hat. Finally, the tip of the drum sticks is the part which you use for most strokes. Tips come in different shapes and sizes, producing different sounds.
Most drum sticks are made of wood, usually maple, oak or hickory, the latter being the most popular choice of manufacturers and buyers eke. These differ in density, weight and durability. Apart from wood, a wide range of other materials is also used in the drum sticks industry: you can find whole drum sticks made from carbon fibers and others with nylon tips. Rubber is sometimes used for making the grip more stable. Textile is also used in the case of non-standard, specialized sticks.
There are a number of other forms of drumstick. Softsticks usually have a beater attached to the end of them. They aren’t usually used on drum kits, though they can be utilized for effects purposes.
Brushes are used a lot in jazz drumming, or for musicians that prefer to play acoustically with bands. They provide the drummer with a very soft sound, and are great for snare drum sweeps and complex cymbal work.
Rutes are sticks that are made up of either birch wood or bamboo. These sticks dampen the sound of a drum kit a lot and again can be used for acoustic bands. Hot rods have the same feel as a standard drum stick, only with less volume.
Many famous drummers have their own signature series drumsticks. These are designed using the exact specifications that the drummer requires. If you like the particular sound of a famous drummer then it can be worth finding out who sponsors the as usually this company will manufacture their personal brand of sticks.
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