What type of music will you be playing? What types of venues will you play? There is also the question of what your budget is when buying drumsticks, especially for beginners. Some of the things you may want to consider are explained here.
The most popular drumstick woods that professional drummers choose are maple, hickory and oak. Hickory and maple are used for lighter styles of drumming whereas oak is usually used for harder styles. For example, those who play metal or rock music where the harder, more durable oak drumsticks can withstand the force. There are also synthetic drumsticks which are made from plastic or metal and can be slightly more durable than wooden sticks.
For cymbals, some drumsticks have a nylon tip which gives it a crisper sound but mallets can give a much smoother rolling sound depending on what kind of music you are making. Nylon tips are also great for electric drums. Wood tips can sometimes splinter, but don’t rule them out completely. They are great for rock music as well as many other types of music as they produce a warmer sound than a nylon tip.
Drumsticks come in different thicknesses for different styles of music. The size (e.g. 7A) depends on its application and where you are playing. The number is the circumference of the stick and the lower the number, the thicker the stick. The ‘3’ numbered sticks are an exception. The letter stands for a different application. ‘S’ is for marching bands and drum corps (street applications). It has a large diameter. ‘B’ stands for band applications and is for drumsticks with a medium diameter. ‘A’ is for softer playing as it has a very thin diameter.
7A is a very thin stick usually used for playing jazz music or for young drummers who do not want to be tired out using heavier sticks. 2B or 5B sticks are very heavy so it is best to use these for louder sounds. Size 5A is the most common stick and is usually used in rock music.
If you are playing in a quieter venue, thinner drumsticks may suffice so as not to ruin the acoustics of the sound. It is a good idea to choose a range of different drumsticks to suit different venues.
The type of tip you choose depends on what kind of sound you want to make and is really personal preference. Round tipped sticks have less impact because of their small surface area and may be better for marching drummers. Barrel tipped sticks have a slightly larger surface area and triangle tips add a bit more attack to the sound. Oval tips are larger and produce a medium to low tone but are more durable as they have a larger surface area.
Choosing cheap drumsticks may be suitable for beginner drummers to save some money, but they will wear out quickly and usually are not weighted properly so it is probably best to stick to well-known brands thereafter. When choosing drumsticks, make sure they are both the same length and check for straightness by rolling them on a flat surface.
Also, make sure they both match in pitch by hitting one on a flat surface and then the other and listening for a match. This will make sure that you are getting good quality drumsticks for your money. Usually, it is best to stick to sticks which have a brand name as opposed to those who don’t. Any name is better than no name.
Common brands of drumstick are Zildjian and Vic Firth. Prices start at around £10 for these well-known brands.
Drumsticks can be tailored to your own personal style as they come in all different colours and styles. Some are even fluorescent or light up! Shop around to find which sticks work best for you and your style of drumming.
We would all love to own the best kit that money can buy, but usually we have to work within a budget. This is going to be influenced by your experience as a drummer too, so that if you have been playing for several years, achieved success in your drumming qualifications and looking to perform with your band at a local venue, you are not going to want to buy a beginners kit! This would not look the part and certainly would not sound anything like good enough for your intended use, as the materials used for the drum shells are likely to be cheap, and the hardware that comes with it, basic. So your budget may need stretching by possibly borrowing money to buy a kit that’s suitable.
In addition to where you are going to play the drums, consider the type of music you play in the main. The basic five piece kit set up of Bass drum, Snare drum, Two Toms and a Floor Tom is seen as standard with the Toms usually 12”, 13” and 16” and the Bass 22”, producing a fat sound that is best suited to rock. Compare this to a Fusion kit which has shallower drums that are normally tuned a bit higher, and with the 10”, 12” and 14” Toms and 20” Bass are better suited to Jazz music.
The construction of the shells will affect the sound too. The drum shell is usually made out of layers of wood sealed together in the round, with the type of wood used affecting the sound produced. Maple produces a warm sound, is used a lot on professional kits as it is particularly good for live drumming giving a great deal of projection to the sound. Birch produces a much sharper and louder sound which is well defined, and Basswood being cheaper is found on intermediate kits. The snare drums are often made of metal producing a lot of attack and projection in the sound. For each of these the depth of the drum is important too, as deeper shells usually produce a deeper and louder sound, with greater volume and projection, whilst a more shallow shell will not be as loud.
Linked in with the factors already raised the number of items in the kit can be varied to the personal taste, and finances, of the drummer offering greater variety to the sound produced. Additional Toms can be included, but then need to be fixed so that they are accessible, possibly on to a cymbal stand which in turn needs to be strong and stable enough to take them. Stands can be single, or double braced with the latter obviously being much stronger. Smaller items like cowbells and tambourines can be added and fixed using mounts, with the number being restricted only by the imagination of the player. Finally don’t forget to get a drum stool, or throne, that is comfortable and allows you to move around the kit smoothly and effectively.