In preparation to make drum set stick recommendations, I bought 20+ different pairs of drumsticks from Promark, Vic Firth/Zildjian, Regal Tip and Vater. I was looking for the perfect drumsticks to use on drum set. Well actually, I anticipated selecting 3 models of sticks. A small combo stick, a medium general stick, and a large ensemble stick. I wanted them all to be from the same manufacturer AND I wanted a maple and hickory version. But first…
What About the Stick Numbers?
What struck me on my search of drumstick manufacturer’s websites, was the wide variation in stick diameter for exactly the same “standard” stick size numbers. For example, 5A varies from .551″ (Promark), .565″ (Vic Firth), .570″ (Vater) to .580″ (Regal Tip). I think the drumstick manufacturers should get together at a Holiday Inn somewhere and finally standardize stick numbers. They can offer different lengths, tip styles and signature series. But if you want to play a 7A or 5A etc. they should at least be really close to the same diameter from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Pay No Attention to the Numbers
To a drummer a 5A stick which varies from .551″ to .580″ makes a real difference in feel. So if the drum stick manufacturers don’t standardize their stick specifications then BE ADVISED: Pay no attention to the numbers on the sticks. Look at the specifications for diameter and length. Stop thinking of yourself as a 5A stick drummer and start thinking of yourself as a .565″ 16″ stick drummer. I wonder if that is why some people favor one manufacturer over another. They’ve always played 5A and they “love” Regal Tip sticks. Maybe what they “love” is the thicker (.580″) diameter of a Regal Tip 5A. So pay NO attention to the numbers on the sticks and you might discover that there are so many other sticks you should try and maybe start using.
I had already narrowed down some of the specifications and knew I was looking for sticks in the .555″ – .585″ diameter range with a length around 16″. After a lot of playing, I think I have made some decisions.
I decided to go with Vater Percussion drumsticks. They have several different models to choose from. “Vater’s material has to meet very strict quality characteristics to be made into a Vater drumstick. Vater only uses dowels that have a moisture content specific to “striking” tools (10%-12%), so you get a drumstick with great feel and durability.”
I generally prefer maple for its lighter weight and soft dynamic control. But I also like the feel of Hickory if I need more weight for increased volume. Which is why I wanted a maple and hickory version of the same model number. “Sugar Maple is a lighter weight wood that is still durable and produces a fast feeling stick with warmer pitched tones. Maple sticks are primarily used for light, fast playing in low volume situations. Sugar Maple is a great choice for someone who is looking for a thicker stick without the extra weight. American Hickory is the most popular wood used for making drumsticks. Hickory is denser, heavier and more rigid than Maple. Hickory can also absorb a great amount of shock, which reduces hand and wrist fatigue.”
Stick Tip Options
I like the sound of wood tips on cymbals better than nylon tips. Vater produces 5 types of wood tip shapes: 1) Teardrop – produce rich, dark tones with focused lows 2) Barrel – produce a full punchy sound 3) Ball – produce a clean, bright and articulate sound 4) Acorn – produce a full, fat sound and 5) Oval – produce a broad, mid range sound due to tip length. Believe it or not, the shape of the tip makes a significant difference in cymbal tone. Before you buy a new ride cymbal, try different tip shapes and see if you finally get the cymbal sound you were looking for.
Drum set stick recommendations for Small Combo playing – I selected the Vater 8A model. The Sugar Maple 8A is lightweight with a .555″ diameter, has a barrel-shaped tip for defined cymbal work, and is responsive even at soft dynamic levels. The .555″ diameter is between the traditional 7A (.540″) and 5A (.570″) diameters. If I want a little more weight, I use Vater American Hickory 8A.
Drum set stick recommendations for General Playing – my choice is the Vater Session model. The Sugar Maple Session is .570 (5A) in diameter, lightweight maple, and has a small acorn tip for great cymbal and drum sounds. For additional weight I use the American Hickory Session model. If you prefer a rounded oval tip sound and less taper, the Sugar Maple Los Angeles 5A Wood and American Hickory Los Angeles 5A Wood models are excellent options.
Drum set stick recommendations for Large Ensemble playing – I decided on the Vater 9A model. The 9A is .580″ in diameter and has a barrel-shaped tip for great cymbal clarity and focused drum tones. The 9A is available in both American Hickory and Sugar Maple. “The American Hickory 9A version is the right choice for live and harder hitting performance settings, while the Sugar Maple 9A version is perfect for more laid back, subtle playing styles.”
Glad I Took the Time and Spent the Money
Amazing how much different sticks with basically the same specifications felt and played. I am really glad I took the time and spent the money to try out different models and brands and find drum set sticks I know feel good and are responsive. For my drum set stick recommendations, I ultimately decided on 3 models from Vater Percussion in Maple and American Hickory. Now I can select the stick that best meets my musical needs.
I went back and practiced with some of the sticks I had been using and wow what a difference. What was I thinking? I would encourage any drummer to take the time to try out different models and manufacturers of drumsticks. You might discover, as I did, that what you had been using wasn’t the best choice. You may also want to see: AHEAD Speed Kick Bass Beaters and Stick Bag