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Drums

Best Drum Sticks

Drumsticks are made in multiple lengths but most fall between 15 to 17-inches with the most distinguishing feature being the amount of taper between the shaft and the tip. Sticks vary in diameter, weight, and usually available in sizes between 2B (large) and 7A (small). Drumsticks come fitted with either wood or nylon tips with the most common tip shapes being round, barrel, and teardrop. Most drumsticks are made from wood for better control when performing basic and advanced techniques; some companies also craft sticks from alternate materials like metal and plastic. Additionally, many companies produce signature drumsticks designed to meet the specifications of professional drummers. For more help selecting the best drum sticks for your style of play, check out our buyers guide below.

Nova Hickory Drumsticks

Vic Firth is one of the best drumsticks makers in the world so their second-bests are better than most competitor’s high-grade sticks. The Nova drumsticks are made from quality hickory wood, available in many common sizes and usually bought in quantities of twelve. Novas are available with wooden tips but nylon tips are also offered. The Nova Hickory Drumsticks have a nice sound on cymbals and have a great bounce on drumheads. These are some of the best budget drumsticks available and provide a great alternative to expensive sticks.

Sound Percussion Hickory Drumsticks

Sound Percussion drumsticks are inexpensive sticks made from quality hickory and great for jazz drummers because they have a light feel with a nice bounce and good grip for swing on the ride cymbal. They have a finish similar to that of higher quality sticks and available in many common sticks sizes with the choice of wood or nylon tips. When I buy a brick of budget sticks, I usually have to throw away one or two defective sticks but Percussions Hickory Drumsticks typically have a high rate of consistent straightness and balance.

On Stage American Hickory Drumsticks – 5A Wood Tip

On Stage is one of the best manufacturers of microphone stands and they’ve recently branched out into producing budget drumsticks. While they offer maple sticks, you’ll want to choose their hickory for better sound quality and greater durability. These sticks last a long time and have a stiff feel which is good for developing technique. These sticks offer a lot of control to the player and are versatile enough for any genre of music.

Pulse Drumsticks

Pulse drumsticks are durable workhouse drumsticks great for Rock music. They have a solid, heavy feel which creates a big sound on drumheads and cymbals. Available in many of the common sizes and with wood and nylon tips, this all-hickory stick make them superior in quality to many other budget sticks. They do have some consistency issues, but are inexpensive enough to be worth the risk of the occasional wonky stick. Pulse Drumsticks are great for beginners with a confident feel for developing your technique.

Stagg American Hickory Series SH2B Wooden Tip

Stagg’s American Hickory 2B sticks feel the best of the budget 2B sticks. Often budget 2B sticks can feel bulky, but these feel quite light yet still have the power I look for in 2Bs. These sticks are made from quality hickory wood but Stagg also offers sticks made from Birch and other types of woods. These sticks are great for playing Rock or just general practicing.

Vic Firth SZ Zoro Signature Drumsticks

Vic Firth Zoro Signature drumsticks have a fairly unique 555” diameter and maintain the perfect weight for every genre of music. They can be big and weighty for Rock and at the same time lightweight enough for Jazz. Their 16.375” length seems to be fairly arbitrary but when I play them I realize how perfect the length is. I’ve tried sticks similar to the Zoros with 16”, 16.25”, and 16.5” lengths with none of them feeling as good as the Zoro signature sticks.

Their barrel tip produces a full sound even articulate on the snare and cymbals. Every Rock song that I’ve recorded and most of my rock shows have been with these sticks because they sound amazing. My only complaint about these sticks is the shafts shred very quickly and the tips can splinter rather easily. Personally I am willing to deal with this durability issue because of the superior feel and sound of the sticks.

Zildjian 5AWN 5a Wood Natural Drumsticks

Zildjian’s 5A drumsticks are a bit thicker and heavier than other 5A sticks which is appropriate for Rock music. They have large round tips for creating a wide sound similar to barrel tips and big enough to have a full sound even after being chipped. Light enough for Soft Rock, the added size can also drive a Hard Rock beat. The smaller size makes them very easy to control and these sticks have extremely durable shafts which rarely splinter and round tips which rarely chip because of their large impact surface.

Vater American Hickory Pro Rock Drum Sticks

Vater’s Pro Rock sticks are slightly thinner than most rock sticks but still have the necessary length to achieve a good amount of power. The smaller shaft makes them lightening fast, great for fills and feels amazing for Rock because these sticks don’t take a lot of effort to create a big sound. They can really drive a band while the thin shafts are versatile enough for other genres. These sticks have oval tips which draw a big sound from anything they hit and durable enough to resist chipping. Even with the thinner shaft, a single pair will last you a long time.

Vic Firth American Classic Drum Sticks 2B

Vic Firth’s 2B drumsticks are a little thicker and a bit shorter than most other Rock drumsticks. Choose these when your hands are feeling fatigued and you need something a bit easier to control than a longer pair drumsticks. The fatter shafts give them a lot of power and they’re balanced to feel a bit bottom heavy. Since they’re shorter than normal sticks, I feel like I can control these sticks with less effort. I usually only use these sticks for Rock music, but other notable drummers have used them for Jazz. The overall shape of these sticks is ideal for building technique, so they’re recommend for use by students. They have a teardrop tip creating an articulate attack on cymbals and a big sound on drumheads making these sticks great for any setting requiring a lot of sound production.

Vater Percussion 1A Drumsticks

The 17” length gives these Vater’s 1A drumsticks a lot of power making them ideal for Heavy Rock or even Metal. The shafts aren’t too thick but they produce a lot of volume along with a late taper adding bulk for rim-shots and crash cymbals. Even with the added length, these sticks feel very light making them very easy to control while helping you maintain endurance over the course of a gig. They have an acorn tip which produces clean bounces and buzz strokes and these durable sticks can actually be used as a rudimental snare drum stick because of the length and balance.

Vic Firth Jack DeJohnette Signature Drum Sticks

Jack DeJohnette will go down in history as one of the top Jazz drummers of all time and his signature sticks produced by Vic Firth are the most unique sticks available for Jazz. Superior to all other Jazz sticks, they’re sized similar to Vic Firth 5A but a bit longer with a medium taper (feeling like a late taper because of the length.) While bigger than typical 5A sticks, they also feel much lighter. Their signature white finish allows you to locate them easily in a stick bag and gives them a smooth feel in hand. Their unpainted teardrop tip won’t leave paint marks on drumheads and they’re also some of the most durable sticks you can own. Their great feel and exceptional cymbal sound make these the best overall pair of drumsticks for Jazz you can buy.

Vic Firth American Classic 8D Drum Sticks

Vic Firth’s 8D sticks are basically 7As with extra length making them feel more significant in the hand than 7A sticks (which can sometimes feel like toys.) The small size is very appropriate for Jazz music because it keeps movements small and controlled, allowing you to really play out during fills without letting the volume get out of hand. The teardrop tip sounds great on the ride cymbal, especially on the snare drum and these sticks work great for heavy hitters looking to lighten their sound for Jazz music. More durable than most thin sticks, with the Vic Firth name you know you’re getting nothing but quality and consistency.

Vater Manhattan 7A Drum Sticks

Vater’s Manhattan 7A drumsticks are longer than most 7A drumsticks but still have a light Jazz feel. Their round tips are different than most 7A sticks allowing for detailed snare playing, sound great on the ride cymbal and they help to smooth out buzz rolls common in Jazz fills. They have a mellow sound on the toms and seem to embrace the head with each stroke; the impact doesn’t feel as harsh, but you still feel a strong sense of control.

These drumsticks are less flexible than most Jazz sticks so they’re ideal for technical players. Vater sticks are some of the most durable drumsticks available and mine seem to last longer than other brands with their tips not chipping as much. The longer size and round tip makes these some of the most unique drumsticks on the market.

Vic Firth American Classic Drum Sticks 5A Wood Tip

Vic Firth’s 5A drumsticks are probably the most versatile and popular sticks available; particularly nice for Jazz yet feel great in any musical genre. These sticks are the perfect “medium” stick, because they aren’t too big nor are they too small with a teardrop tip for the ideal sound on drums and cymbals. I like these because they produce more of a controlled sound than smaller Jazz sticks. There’s enough weight to allow drummers to execute advanced rudimental passages which sound great in jazz fills. Vic Firth creates some of the best quality sticks around so you can be sure each pair of these you pick up will be consistently great.

Regal Tip Classic Series 9A Drum Sticks

Regal Tip's 9A drumsticks are great for creating that Tony William's sound which comes from using bigger sticks. The size of the shafts creates a nice bounce off of the tom heads producing a big open sound while the tips are a combination round/barrel shape producing a very unique cymbal sound.

These sticks are great for creating a dirty Jazz sound with big drums and flat cymbals, have enough size to carry big bands and can easily be used on Rock or Funk tunes. The large shafts create a sharp tick which cuts through the band on rim-clicks and they’ve got a great clave sound when you flip the sticks over for Latin tunes. The shape of the tips prevent chipping and start to take the shape of a tear drop over time which only adds to their articulation. With large shafts equaling greater durability, you really can use one pair of these sticks for years on end.

Promark Hickory 747 Rock Wood Tip Drumsticks

747 drumsticks are great for Metal music because they’re fast and loud while lasting longer than other brands. They feel very light for sticks which produce so much volume, and are similar to a 5A stick in shaft girth but have a thicker taper. They’re also a little longer than typical 5A drumsticks for producing a lot of volume. The large oval tips draw full tones from drums and cymbals as well as being resilient to breaking even when subjected to the most violent Metal playing. Fast, loud, and durable, these sticks are simply great for playing Metal.

Vater Percussion Power 5A Wood Tip Drum Sticks

Vater’s durable Power 5A drumsticks are thicker than the average 5A and a bit longer with a solid, dense feel in the hand. While these sticks seem to be a bit top-heavy, this balance works well for fills and fast playing. Their round tips really cuts through on cymbals, producing a more pointed attack than sticks with oval tips. The Power 5A sticks are also available with nylon tips but I prefer the sound of wood tips. These sticks are also versatile enough to use for other genres of music because they’re not too big.

Vic Firth X55A Extreme 55A Wood Tip Drumsticks

Vic Firth’s Extreme 55A is a combination of a 5A and a 5B; a meaty stick with enough thickness for Metal music. They’re 16.5” long for extra volume, but still can be controlled. These sticks are very light with a hollow feel making them great for fast playing. The tear drop tip of the drumsticks delivers a pointed attack on cymbals along with a medium taper which feels great for Metal as well as all genres of music. The great overall balance and even weight makes these a great pick for metal drummers everywhere.

Vater Percussion 1A Drumsticks

The 17” length gives these Vater’s 1A drumsticks a lot of power making them ideal for Heavy Rock or even Metal. The shafts aren’t too thick but they produce a lot of volume along with a late taper adding bulk for rim-shots and crash cymbals. Even with the added length, these sticks feel very light making them very easy to control while helping you maintain endurance over the course of a gig. They have an acorn tip which produces clean bounces and buzz strokes and these durable sticks can actually be used as a rudimental snare drum stick because of the length and balance.

Ahead FatBeat Medium Taper Sticks Black Tip 5A

Ahead’s FatBeat 5A drumsticks are the best sticks for Metal players constantly breaking sticks and are sick of buying replacements. These all-metal sticks feel a lot different than their wooden counterparts because they don’t have a natural bounce and feel very light so you don’t need to work hard to create a lot of volume.
Aheads Fatbeat 5As are actually thinner than the other sticks I’d recommend for Metal, but create a lot of sound because of their all-metal manufacture. While they can’t be broken with normal use, these sticks can be bent but they feature replaceable plastic tips and a plastic covering wrapping around the shafts. If you can get used to the feel, these are the best sticks for Metal music.

Vater Percussion Power 5A Wood Tip Drum Sticks

Vater’s durable Power 5A drumsticks are thicker than the average 5A and a bit longer with a solid, dense feel in the hand. While these sticks seem to be a bit top-heavy, this balance works well for fills and fast playing. Their round tips really cuts through on cymbals, producing a more pointed attack than sticks with oval tips. The Power 5A sticks are also available with nylon tips but I prefer the sound of wood tips. These sticks are also versatile enough to use for other genres of music because they’re not too big.

Promark Hickory 747 Rock Wood Tip Drumsticks

747 drumsticks are great for Metal music because they’re fast and loud while lasting longer than other brands. They feel very light for sticks which produce so much volume, and are similar to a 5A stick in shaft girth but have a thicker taper. They’re also a little longer than typical 5A drumsticks for producing a lot of volume. The large oval tips draw full tones from drums and cymbals as well as being resilient to breaking even when subjected to the most violent Metal playing. Fast, loud, and durable, these sticks are simply great for playing Metal.

Vic Firth American Classic Rock Drum Sticks

Vic Firth Rock drumsticks are dependable, heavy-duty drumsticks. Almost impossible to break because of their extreme thickness, these weighty sticks are great for heavy Rock and slower Metal tunes. They’re also great sticks for practicing because their grips don’t fade. They have a very short taper which can withstand heavy rim-shots while the rock solid oval tips will not chip on you.

Ahead FatBeat Medium Taper Sticks Black Tip 5A

Ahead’s FatBeat 5A drumsticks are the best sticks for Metal players constantly breaking sticks and are sick of buying replacements. These all-metal sticks feel a lot different than their wooden counterparts because they don’t have a natural bounce and feel very light so you don’t need to work hard to create a lot of volume.
Aheads Fatbeat 5As are actually thinner than the other sticks I’d recommend for Metal, but create a lot of sound because of their all-metal manufacture. While they can’t be broken with normal use, these sticks can be bent but they feature replaceable plastic tips and a plastic covering wrapping around the shafts. If you can get used to the feel, these are the best sticks for Metal music.

Vic Firth SSG Steve Gadd Signature Wood Tip Drumsticks

Vic Firth’s Steve Gadd signature drumsticks are extremely versatile and while it’s rare to find barrel tips which don’t chip, these certainly last a long time; they’re actually a bit shorter making them less likely to chip. These tips are denser than longer barrel tips but still have a great sound. A special black coating protects the shafts from dents and while the sticks themselves are fairly short this prevents them from breaking as easily. The sticks also have a medium taper which has a nice balanced feel in your hand. These sticks can be used for almost any genre of music and are durable enough to last any drummer for a long time.

Buyer's Guide

 

Drumstick Buyer’s Guide

Choosing the right drumsticks can be a daunting task but the following buyer’s guide is structured to help you choose the most appropriate stick to fit your needs. It’s best to start by choosing a stick size which feels good to you and then look for a specific model with a taper and tip that sounds the best.
 

Drumstick Type

Wooden Sticks: Hickory is the most common wood used to make drumsticks because it’s strong and also has a nice feel. Maple, Oak and Persimmon drumsticks are also available but should be tested in person to judge their feel and sound.

Synthetic Sticks: These types of drumsticks are made from metal and plastic materials. Their sound and feel is drastically different compared to wooden drumsticks and are often more expensive.
 

Drumstick Size

Drumstick sizes vary from company to company, but they’re generally similar to one another in weight and length. The taper, which is the degree of thinning from the tip to the handle, can vary greatly from stick to stick.

Most companies offer their own additional sizes and signature models which are specialized variations on universal core sizes.

7A: These drumsticks are generally the smallest sticks available in length and diameter.

8D: These drumsticks usually have the same thickness as 7A sticks but are a bit longer. Not all companies make 8D size sticks.

5A: These sticks are thicker in diameter than 7A sticks and are a bit longer.

5B: These sticks are thicker than 5A sticks and typically similar in length to 5A sticks. They’re usually heavier and bulkier than 5A sticks.

2B: These sticks are thicker than 5B sticks and slightly longer.

Rock/Metal: These are the thickest and longest drumsticks available. Rather than a numeric value, the actual size is literally expressed as either “Rock” or “Metal”.
 

Drumstick Tip

Wooden Round Tip: These oval-shaped tips are made from the same wood as the rest of the stick.

Wooden Barrel Tip: These tips are made from the same wood as the rest of the stick with a longer, fairly flat striking surface.

Wooden Teardrop Tip: Shaped like a teardrop, these tips are also made from the same wood as the rest of the stick.

Nylon Tip: These are plastic, generally round tips with a sound and feel which is drastically different than wooden tips.
 

Performance

Sound, feel, and durability are three crucial elements for determining the best drumstick for your needs.

The sound of a stick is best determined by playing the ride cymbal with the sticks tip and observing its sound. While you’re playing the ride cymbal, note the feel and bounce of the stick in your hand.

Next, play the high-hat with both the tip and shaft of the stick and then hit the crash cymbal with the shaft of the stick. One of the most important factors in choosing drumsticks will be the colors they create on the cymbals.

Follow up with a series of rolls and rudiments on the snare to test technical feel, then move around the toms to test speed and sound across the entire kit. Finally, play a few rim shots on the snare to see how much “bite” the sticks have.

At the end of play, look over the stick shafts and tips for any chips or dents. If these marks are prominent, you might want to switch to a different stick.
 

Durability

Generally the best quality drumsticks are made by a handful of companies including Vic Firth, Zildjian, Pro-mark, and Vater. In my opinion, these four companies make the most reliable drumsticks in terms of quality and durability.

All of these companies work with professional drummers to create drumsticks that sound and feel great. A few of these drummers even create custom sizes to match their specific drumming preferences.
 

Price/Value

You always want to choose a superior quality drumstick, especially since the price difference between good and bad sticks is often only a few dollars. It’s best to purchase drumsticks from quality manufacturers such as Vic-Firth, Pro-mark, Zildjian, and Vater.

Alternately, many off-brand companies offer cheap sticks in bulk quantities for several dollars cheaper per pair. In my opinion, it’s best to buy a quality, well-balanced pair of drumsticks because they’ll sound and feel better than these inferior bargain sticks.

Rick Urban
Rick began playing drums at the age of 10. In 2003, He received Bachelor's Degrees in Percussion Performance and Music Composition from the DePaul University School of Music in Chicago. While at DePaul, Rick studied with Ted Atkatz (Principal Percussionist - Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Also founder of the band NYCO), Mike Green (Principal Percussionist - Lyric Opera of Chicago), Al Payson (Percussionist - Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Fred Selvaggio (Drumset and Marimba Artist) and Ed Harrison (Principal Timpani - Lyric Opera of Chicago) In 2005, Rick received a Master's Degree of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he studied with Will Hudgins (Percussionist - Boston Symphony Orchestra), and Fred Buda (Drummer - Boston Pops). While in graduate school, Rick performed with the Boston Philharmonic, including performances at Carnegie Hall and Symphony Hall in Boston.  

As a performer, Rick has performed with orchestras all over the world. He has also played drums for several groups in everything from rock bands to musical theater. He has worked with such world-renowned conductors as Bernard Haitink, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, and Michael Tilson Thomas. He has performed with the New World Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the National Reperatory Orchestra, and the Schlesvig Holstein Festival Orchestra in Germany. Rick is also the drummer for the band Standby Radio. In 2010 they recorded their first album entitled When Signals Cross, and they released Awake at Midnight in 2012.

In the summer of 2005, Rick moved to Chicago and became Music Director of the A.A. Stagg Percussion Ensemble. He also created and served as the resident conductor for the "Bad Vibes" new music ensemble. In the fall of 2005, rick became a percussionist with the West Michigan Symphony under the direction of Scott Speck. In 2009 He became the resident conductor of the Lincoln Park Percussion Ensemble. In 2011 they premiered his latest percussion ensemble work entitled Over 4. In the Fall of 2010, Rick enrolled in the "Music Composition for the Screen" program at Columbia College under the direction of Andy Hill and David McHugh. While studying with Mr. Hill and Mr. McHugh at Columbia, Rick also studied Film Composition with Gary Chang and Hummie Mann. He also studied conducting with Alan Tinkham.

In the Spring of 2012, Rick received his Master's of Music from Columbia College and moved to Los Angeles. Since moving to Southern California, Rick has played with the San Diego Symphony and the Santa Barbara Symphony. He is currently the Percussion Ensemble Director of the Open Academy of Los Angeles.
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