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The Best Drumsticks for Percussion Instruments

closeup of a stack of wooden drumsticks on wooden table

Drumsticks are special mallets used in the playing of percussion instruments. They’re generally used for drum kits and snare drums, hence the name, but may be used for some other types of unpitched percussion instruments as well. Drumsticks tend to be sold in pairs, since the majority of the time, they’re held and played with one in each of the musician’s hands. Though a simple tool, drumsticks can vary depending on the type, tip shape, and composition. Wood, usually hickory, maple, or oak, is the most common material that drumsticks are made from, but in recent years, aluminum, plastic, and other similar products may be used to make drumsticks as well. Some of these modern designs offer a wider range of color choices and may even light up when they strike the drum or instrument. If you’re in the market for a new pair of drumsticks, here are a few we recommend.

What Should You Consider in a Pair of Drumsticks?

Here are a few things to think about before buying drumsticks:

  • Lettering: If you’ve shopped for drumsticks before, you’ve probably noticed that they’re labeled by number and letter combinations like 7A, 5B, etc. Originally, this system meant that the number corresponded to the stick’s diameter (lower numbers marked larger diameters), and the letter corresponded to the style of music it was used for, A for orchestras, B for marching and concert bands, S for street bands, and D for dance bands. These days, however, most companies have their own systems for labeling drumsticks, which can vary considerably. Most will still offer what are considered the classic models: 2B, 5A, 5B, and 7A. A 2B will be the thickest stick, and a 7A most commonly will be the thinnest. If you’re unsure of what type of drumstick you need, these models can be used as a good jumping-off point. Be sure to read the respective company’s sizing system if offered, too.
  • Material: As mentioned, wood is the most common material for drumsticks. Almost every wooden drumstick will be made of hickory, maple, or oak. Hickory is considered the best since it’s durable and long-lasting without being too heavy and is the most versatile wood. Maple is lighter and thus plays faster but tends to wear out quicker. Oak may be too heavy for some musicians but will last the longest. Aluminum and plastic models are usually quite durable and tend to offer extra rebound.
  • Tip Shape: The shape of a drumstick’s tip will alter the sound to a certain degree. There are five typical shapes: oval, teardrop, round/ball, acorn, and barrel. Oval tips give you the biggest spectrum of sound, while teardrop tips make warmer, focused, lower tones. Round tips will create brighter and crisper notes, while acorn tips are known to produce full and rich tones. Barrel-tipped sticks are the punchiest and loudest of the five. Consider which sound you prefer or will sound best for the type of music you play.

Top Choice: Vic Firth Classic Drumsticks

closeup of two pale wooden Vic Firth drumsticks

This classic pair of drumsticks is the perfect weight, length, and overall size for any type of music, drums, or percussion instruments. These 5A drumsticks are made from durable hickory wood that will hold up under constant use but won’t feel too heavy in your hands. The hickory wood has a lacquer coating to increase its durability while also providing a nice sleek but subtle sheen. The tips, also made from hickory wood, are teardrop-shaped to bring out rich, warm tones in your instruments, especially cymbals. Both drumsticks are 16 inches long with a half-inch diameter and a medium-sized taper towards the tip.

Top Choice

Vic Firth American Classic 5A Drum Sticks

A pair of classic hickory wood drumsticks with a lacquer coating and teardrop-shaped tips.

Most Color Options: Donner Snare Drumsticks

two pairs of bright red wood drumsticks with a black drawstring carrying case

While you can’t go wrong with a pair of drumsticks that have retained their natural wood hue, you or your band might want something with a little more color to match other instruments or achieve a certain aesthetic. If that is the case, these drumsticks may very well be the solution. These 5A drumsticks are available in six different colors. They’re made out of nearly weightless, non-toxic, odorless maple wood that allows your hands to fly unencumbered across the drums and cymbals at a higher speed without putting strain on your wrists and hands. Their lightweight properties make these drumsticks a great choice for beginner drummers and percussionists who are just getting used to the feeling of holding drumsticks in both hands. The wood is polished to be as smooth as possible to feel more comfortable in your hands, and it is finished to be more durable and corrosion-resistant. The tips are teardrop-shaped. With your purchase, you’ll receive two pairs of matching drumsticks as well as a complimentary carrying bag.

Most Variety: Promark FireGrain Classic Drumsticks

two dark brown and black wood drumsticks

If you’re looking for a specific type of drumstick, the odds are good you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for in this pair. You can buy these tough drumsticks in nine different types: classic 2B, 5A, 5B, 747, 7A, rebound 5A or 5B models, or a forward 5A or 5B model. Regardless of which type you decide to spring for, every one of these drumsticks is made out of tough, resilient, and responsive hickory wood. They’re treated with a special heat tempering process where each drumstick is passed through a 4,000-degree flame tunnel. This not only turns the hickory wood an aesthetically pleasing deep brown hue but increases its durability and precision. Best of all, this process doesn’t add extra weight or synthetic materials to the drumsticks. All nine types of drumsticks are 16 inches long and have oval wooden tips for a warmer, deeper, and overall wider range of sounds.

Most Variety

Best Non-Slip: KASEMI Non-Slip Drumsticks

two pairs of pale wood drumsticks with black handles

When you’re playing the drums or other percussion instruments, the last thing you want is for your drumsticks to fly out of your hands, leaving you unable to continue playing. Fortunately, these 5A drumsticks offer a precaution against that very situation. Their coating is gloss-free to reduce the risk of slippage and sliding and make them easier to grasp. The maple wood makes it portable and light and won’t put added weight or pressure on your wrists and hands as you play. Each drumstick has a teardrop-shaped tip made of wood that provides a richer and more balanced sound with each strike. They’re 16 inches long with around a half-inch diameter. You receive two pairs of drumsticks with your purchase, available with grips in black, blue, red, or yellow.

Best Non-Slip

KASEMI Drum Sticks Non-Slip, 5A Wood Tip Drumstick (2 Pair) - Black

Two pairs of drumsticks with a non-gloss finish that reduces the risk of slippage while you're playing.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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