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The Different Types Of Drumsticks

Drumeo Team  /  Sep 7, 2022

Out of all the different types of drumsticks on the market, which ones are the best for you?

This guide will give you a detailed rundown of the most common drumstick types and what to look for the next time you’re hunting for a pair.

Here’s a quick overview:

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Standard Drumsticks

For drum kit players, these are your ultimate tools. The feeling of these in our hands is what makes most drummers fall in love with drumming from day one.

When you’re a new drummer, it can be tricky to choose which drumstick types to get. You might notice that every stick has a set of letters and numbers.

What do the numbers on drumsticks mean?

In a nutshell:

Lower number = thicker stick
Higher number = thinner stick

The most common numbers you’ll see are 2, 5, 7, and 8. The lower the number, the thicker/heftier the stick and the larger the circumference.

What do the letters on drumsticks mean?

‘A’ refers to a lighter stick, while ‘B’ means the stick is a bit heavier. All other sticks with varying letters fall somewhere in between these two.

These are the most common drumstick sizes you’ll see at music retailers:

  • 7A (a lighter stick, great for jazz)
  • 5A (a good moderate stick for all types of playing)
  • 5B (a bit heftier than 5A)
  • 2B (heavy, best for hard rock)

Most drumsticks used on the drum set are around 16″ long but can range from 15-17.5″. You can sometimes find extra-long sticks (like the Vic Firth ‘Extreme’ line or the Los Cabos ‘Intense’ line) if you’re looking for a different feel and response.

7A, 5A, 5B and 2B are the most common drumstick sizes.

What are drumsticks made of?

Most drumsticks are made from a select group of woods and other materials:

  • Maple 
  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Carbon Fiber
  • Polyurethane
  • Aluminum
types of drumstick materials, what are drumsticks made of
Drumsticks can be made of different types of wood and synthetic materials.

Maple is a good lightweight wood while aluminum is a lightweight metal option. Hickory and maple are the most common drumstick materials.

The type of wood largely determines the weight of the sticks and how they sound. Another factor is the type/shape of their tips:

  • Oval
  • Acorn
  • Drop
  • Ball
  • Barrel
  • Nylon

…which can slightly alter how the sticks feel when you strike the drumheads.

types of drumstick tips
Drumsticks can come with different tip shapes. Here are a few.

All of these tips are made from wood except nylon, which changes how the sticks sound when they hit the cymbals. Nylon-tipped sticks can give you a more consistent tone from one pair to another.

A big debate among drummers is whether to get sticks with nylon or wooden tips. Nylon tips sound bright, while wooden tips sound warmer and more natural.

If you don’t know which tips you want on your sticks, test a few and let your ears decide.

Vater x Drumeo
5A Hickory Drumsticks

BUY NOW

Vic Firth
5A Hickory Drumsticks

GUITAR CENTER | SWEETWATER

Promark
5A Hickory Drumsticks

GUITAR CENTER | SWEETWATER

At the end of the day, the best types of drumsticks are the ones that aren’t broken. Don’t get too stuck on which specific sticks to choose, as they all have the same purpose. 

It comes down to personal preference, but here’s some help from Jared Falk on narrowing down your choices:

Brushes

Brushes are made from a thin set of evenly spread out wires. The volume you get from the drums is a lot quieter when using brushes, so they’re often used for soft settings. This is one of the main reasons drummers will choose brushes over drumsticks.

A retractable brush by Vater

You can play like you would with standard sticks to get a mellower impact from the drums and cymbals. You can also sweep them over the snare drum head to get a swishing sound, which is an iconic brush playing technique.

Brushes are mostly used in jazz drumming, but there’s also a place for them in other modern music. There’s a bit of a learning curve to master brushes, but it opens up a whole new world of options. 

Los Cabos
Standard Brushes

REVERB | SWEETWATER

Vic Firth
Heritage Brushes

GUITAR CENTER | SWEETWATER

Zildjian
Wire Brushes

AMAZON 

Even if you never end up using them, brushes are valuable tools to have in your stick bag, and learning to use them will only expand your drumming skillset.

Check this video of Jason Sutter giving the rundown on how to play with brushes: 

Rods

Rods (also known as ‘rute sticks’) are another quiet alternative to standard drumsticks. Comprised of a bundle of thin sticks that’ve been strapped together, you may have been asked to use these if you’ve performed in a small venue or church.

A rute stick by Vater

The striking sound you get from rods is less intense than standard drumsticks, but you get more attack and volume than you do from brushes.

Some rods are made from wood while others are plastic or synthetic fiber. Thanks to their heavier weight, wooden rods tend to sound a bit louder. Plastic rods are quieter, and they don’t break as easily as wooden rods. 

Promark
Hot Rods

GUITAR CENTER | SWEETWATER

Vic Firth
Rutes

AMAZON | SWEETWATER

Vater
Splashsticks

GUITAR CENTER | SWEETWATER

Rods are the perfect tools to use in places like coffee shops. You can play everything on the kit without overpowering the environment with sound. However, you lose a bit of stick definition on the cymbals compared to a standard drumstick. 

Mallets

Mallets are sticks that have thick material pieces at the end. This material completely changes how the sticks sound when they strike drums and cymbals. 

The thicker the material at the end of a mallet, the warmer the sound will be. Almost all attack goes out the window, so they’re perfect for cymbal swells and tom rolls and builds.

You’ll see many drummers playing drum solos with mallets as their unique sound adds variety to the soundscape. 

Mallets take away the sharp cracking sound that cymbals produce, and that’s why they work so well for swells. As you repeatedly hit a cymbal with mallets, the warm sound resonates and gets louder. It’s the classic song starter and finisher. 

Promark
MT3 Oak Mallets

AMAZON | GUITAR CENTER

Ahead
Polyurethane Mallets

AMAZON | AHEAD

Meinl
Drumset Mallets

AMAZON | SWEETWATER

If you don’t have a set of mallets yet, you could always DIY it by attaching cymbal felts to the ends of your sticks. 

Hybrid Drumsticks

Every now and then, a drumstick brand will create something unique that combines different stick types and materials: a hybrid stick.

The most common type of hybrid stick has a standard drumstick tip on one end and a mallet tip on the other end. These are amazing for drummers who don’t want to risk dropping their sticks while switching between mallets and standard sticks mid-song. Just flip these around whenever you want to play warmer tones or cymbal swells. 

Musical theater drummers tend to be the biggest lovers of hybrid mallets, but it won’t hurt anyone to have a pair of these handy. 

Meinl
Switch Sticks

AMAZON | SWEETWATER

Headhunters
Jingle Things

REVERB | HEAD HUNTERS

Promark
Broomsticks

AMAZON | SWEETWATER

These are Headhunters Sandman hybrid brushes (with polypropylene filaments and a hoop for a different kind of attack)

You may also come across sticks with wire bristles or another material at the end to add a bit of flavor to the sticks. Some hybrid sticks are a lot more practical than others, so keep that in mind before choosing the latest Frankensticks to be your trusted pair.

Signature Drumsticks

Signature drumsticks get a section on their own because they’re often different from standard stick designs. These are made when artists get involved with a brand’s design process and the stick specs are made to fit the artist’s tastes.

When using a pair of signature drumsticks, you’re playing what a particular drummer thought would be the perfect stick. 

Vic Firth Ray Luzier
Signature Drumsticks

AMAZON | GUITAR CENTER

Promark Neil Peart
Signature Drumsticks

AMAZON | SWEETWATER

Ahead Lars Ulrich
Signature Drumsticks

AMAZON | SWEETWATER

Many signature sticks have unique additions that aren’t commonly found on standard drumsticks. For example, check this clip that features Gavin Harrison’s signature drumsticks with a matte dipped grip: 

Which drumsticks should I get?

It’s useful to have every type of drumstick in your stick bag, but you may use some more than others. Focus on standard drumsticks first since you’ll likely use them the most. 

The other types of sticks you should get will depend on what styles of music you play. You’ll need brushes for jazz and mallets for musical theater. Look around to see what’s out there, try a few different pairs, and your stick bag will turn into your trusted arsenal of tools in no time.


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