Choosing the right drum stick – weight vs speed

Vic Firth Drum sticks
“without the right sticks for your hand size, weight, strength, style of playing and required volume, all the many hours of work will not give you the return on effort that you deserve”
lots of drum sticks
It’s amazing how the sticks seem to be very different lengths when you play with them, but they are really quite similar.

Possibly the most underrated or under-discussed element of drumming is one of THE most important fundamentals – using the correct sticks for you. There is so much emphasis on technique these days and rightfully so. You can’t do all the things you hear in your head if you haven’t got the technique to pull it off. But without the right sticks for your hand size, weight, strength, style of playing and required volume, all the many hours of work will not give you the return on effort that you deserve.

Are you using the right drum sticks for you?

Most things to do with drumming, much as in life, come down to one thing: the best guide is often your comfort. If your sticks feel comfortable in your hands while you are playing, no matter what you are playing, most likely they are the right sticks. But how do you know if it is comfort or familiarity? Think of it this way, everyone thinks they have a good sounding stereo at home, they have been listening to music on it for years and think it sounds just fine, then they hear a REALLY good stereo. All of a sudden, the meaning of “good sounding stereo” changes completely and your thinking is re-mapped with this new knowledge. So, with the stereo in mind, are your sticks right for you, or have you just become accustomed to the feel of them? There are really only a few variables with sticks, there is how well they are made, (straightness and consistency) weight and length as well as hardness of wood, and nylon or wood tips.

Why lighter drumsticks?

The heavier the drumsticks, the more effort is required to get them moving, and if speed is your aim then long, heavy sticks are not the right ones to use. When you see a really fast drummer, check out the sticks they use, I guarantee they just won’t be heavy. Really fast drummers use light sticks, they are just easier to attain speed with.

A few nights ago I was watching this guy Sean at a jam, He is a good drummer. I talked to him after his set, and he was using ProMark 5A sticks which were quite loud. He wasn’t playing hard rock or anything so those sticks seemed a bit over the top for the purpose.

Drum sticks

When I tried his 5A sticks I couldn’t help thinking how cumbersome they felt after the Vic Firth 7A sticks I am currently using. So I pulled out a few pairs from my bag and we compared them. I had Vater Stewart Copeland and Vic Firth 7A in my stick bag.

drum sticks

Sean mentioned that he didn’t like 7A sticks as they were too light. I knew what he meant because I used to use the Pro-Mark 7A and did think they were a tad too long and thin. I find that the Vic Firth 7A has a different balance point (fulcrum) and it has a little more meat (it is slightly thicker than the Pro-Mark), and because of that, it is a nimble stick, but still supplies plenty of penetration when needed.

Zildjian 3A drumsticks

I used to play in a rock covers band in the eighties and after one support gig for The Spencer Davis Group, I spoke with their drummer (sorry I can’t remember your name sire). He was a great guy, very generous with his praise, but I said to him “man, I’ve been watching you and you have real authority in your playing, I’m just flailing away, seemingly to no avail”. He looked at my sticks and said they were too light for the music I was playing. He was a Zildjian artist and they had just begun to make 3As. He gave me a bunch of his used ones (quite new) to try. These were great for rock. But really they were too heavy for my build. If it was now, I would still be using a lighter stick and having the drums tuned better and the monitor more carefully set up to handle any situation. Best of both worlds.

But when I settled down and started playing blues and more funky styles, I found they were too long and heavy and I couldn’t get my speed anywhere near where I wanted. Also I wanted to get the volume right down as the venues got smaller, so I started using a 7A wood tip.

If you want a deal on a few pairs of the Vaters or ProMarks contact me, I used to buy them by the box so when I changed sticks I ended up with plenty left over.

Have you tried any other size or brand lately?


Please put your questions and thoughts below.

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