How to Pick Your Perfect Pair!

At one time, sticks were generally "classified" into 3 categories: "A" for Orchestra/Jazz/Acoustic settings, "B" for Concert Band and "S" for Street (Marching). However, those general descriptions no longer apply across the board. Percussionists today have a wide selection of implements to create exactly the sound and feel that they desire for any given situation.

Like a chef who wouldn't dream of using a meat cleaver to dice tomatoes, a great drummer wouldn't dream of using a heavy rock stick on a jazz gig! While it will ultimately be up to you to choose the perfect stick, this article will give you some general guidelines and give you a great starting point to begin experimenting with different sticks for different applications!

HOW CAN A STICKS’ DESIGN CAN CHANGE ITS SOUND AND FEEL?

A great drumstick is the perfect combination of balance, response, feel and sound properties. Each of these critical factors is a function of a stick’s design – and knowing a little about each of these components will determine which stick might be best for you and your situation.

THICKNESS:
The thickness of a drumstick’s shaft affects its overall weight, projection, and strength. A thicker stick allows you to play louder and offers increased durability. A thinner stick plays faster and creates a lighter sound on drums and cymbals.

Great sticks for light jazz and combo playing are the 7A, 8D and 5A (with a diameter of .540" - .565").

For jazz, latin and fusion playing, the most popular stick choice is the 5A (dia. = .565"), although you might want to experiment with something a bit thicker if you find that the stick doesn't produce the volume that you need (or if you tend to break sticks easily). If that applies to you, some good sticks to try might be the 55A, F1, 1A or 3A - all have diameters at .580", but have other characteristics that affect balance and speed.


LENGTH:
The length of a stick affects its leverage and the reach. When comparing two sticks with the same diameter and taper, a longer stick will feel “front heavy,” giving the player increased leverage and power. A shorter stick will feel more balanced, resulting in a lighter touch with more rebound. An example of two sticks that have the same diameter, but different lengths are the 5A (length = 16") and the Extreme 5A (16 1/2"). While essentially the same stick, these two models have drastically different feels because of the length differences.


MATERIAL:
The material that a stick is made out of is the key to its response and durability. Its composition has a unique effect on the sound, flexibility, and lifespan.

MAPLE has a fine grain pattern, producing a light, fast playing stick with the greatest amount of flex. These sticks are perfect for the artist who is playing lighter types of music or prefers a larger diameter stick without as much weight.

HICKORY has a fibrous grain pattern and is denser and more rigid than maple. A hickory stick produces less flex and is capable of withstanding a great deal of shock and stress, making it more durable.

PERSIMMON has a very close grain pattern, making it an excellent choice for a dark, bold sound with a slightly heavier weight of hickory. For this reason, persimmon sticks are a popular choice for concert snare drum.

OAK is a denser wood with a more rigid response than hickory. The natural hardness of oak produces clear, defined cymbal articulation from the tip and an incredible cross-stick tone that really cuts through.

STA-PAC® is composed of multiple thin layers of wood stacked on top of each other and finished with a hard laminate. This special laminated wood provides extreme durability and weight.

CARBON FIBER sticks are quite possibly the most durable sticks ever, lasting significantly longer than traditional wood sticks. Made from an advanced aerospace-grade carbon fiber, Vic Firth’s TITAN sticks are the first of their kind to emulate the feel of wood.


TAPER:
The taper affects the feel and balance of a stick. The amount of taper and location of the shoulder (where the taper begins) determines whether the stick feels “front heavy”, “back heavy” or evenly balanced.

A LONG taper produces more flex and faster response.

A SHORT taper increases the size of the neck of the stick, providing more power and durability. A short tapered feels “front-end heavy.”

A MEDIUM taper provides the best balance between the butt and the tip.


TIP SHAPE:
The tip shape and tip composition are critical to the overall sound produced on drums and cymbals (being more pronounced on cymbals). Each tip shape and size adds different characteristics to the sound, depending on the amount of contact surface area. It’s helpful to know that a tip with a very large surface area will create a dark, rich sound, while a tip with a very small surface area will produce a light sound with clear definition.


TIP MATERIAL:
Understanding the characteristics of a tips material is also essential. Each material produces a different sound color and varying degrees of articulation.

WOOD tips are the most common tip material, producing a balance between full sounds and great articulation on drums and cymbals.

NYLON tips produce a brighter sound and provide increased durability.

METAL tips provide the brightest sound possible. They produce cymbal sounds that cut and carry with amazing brilliance and clarity.

DUAL TONE or SWIZZLE sticks offer a standard stick tip on one end, with a felt ball on the butt end. This provides the player with the ability to quickly switch to a soft mallet for cymbal rolls or warm tom sounds.

FELT tips allow for unique, dark sound colors across the drums & cymbals.

RUBBER tips are specifically designed for practicing, but can also produce a wide range of unique sound colors on any instrument.


SURFACE COATING:
The coating a stick has applied may also affect how the stick feels in your hand. Note that not all hands are the same! Some people may perspire more than others when playing the drums – and this will contribute to the amount of tackiness that you may desire.

LACQUER gives the player a very natural stick feel. A few sticks such as the Keith Carlock signature have heavy lacquer applied, which increases the tackiness.

PAINTED sticks have a medium amount of tackiness to the feel.

VIC GRIP is an anti-slip coating made from a thin layer of urethane applied to the gripping area of the stick, providing the most slip resistant grip.


OTHER UNIQUE QUALITIES:
Because individual tastes vary from player to player, many sticks offer unique properties that set them apart from the others. The sticks in this category may include special design properties such as contoured grips, special paint options, dual tips, “Kinetic Force” inserts, unique tapers or enlarged shoulders. For specific qualities, check the full description in the product catalog.

 

Using this simple chart of the entire catalog of Vic Firth drumsticks, you can easily fine a stick that will feel great to you!



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