How to Choose the Best Drum Sticks

Difficulty Level: Average / Time Required: 20 minutes

You Will Need:

  • Patience
  • At least two dozen drumsticks or music store with that many
  • A relatively quiet location

Here’s how:

  1. Although straightness is always the first test that should be done, many drummers fail to realize that testing for tone/pitch is just as important.
  2. The first test for straightness is to roll them along a smooth surface – a formica type counter top is best because they are usually uniformly flat. Although many drummers roll sticks on glass display counters, they are not the best because they are not normally perfectly flat.
  3. The second test (and most accurate) test for straightness is to hold the stick loosely between your thumb and forefinger and execute one down-stroke only.
  4. Let the stick bounce back up from the down-stroke and back down again. Just hold the stick but don’t control it. (You must use the Gladstone Technique.)
  5. If the stick is warped – even slightly – it will bounce up and veer off to the right or left as it comes back down – Providing you are using the proper technique to make the initial stroke.
  6. If the stick is straight, it will bounce up and come back down in a straight line. When applying this test, be sure to use the same hand to test each stick.
  7. Once you have a dozen or two straight sticks, the next step is to match them in pairs that have the same tone/pitch. For this test, you’ll need a relatively quiet location.
  8. Hold each stick lightly between your thumb and middle finger, and bring it up close to your ear.
  9. Tap the stick lightly with your forefinger and memorize the pitch (each stick has a definite pitch).
  10. Test all sticks using the same hand and the same ear.
  11. Make separate piles of sticks that have high, middle, and low tones.
  12. Once you have gone through all of the sticks, go back to each separate tone pile and find the closest matching pair.
  13. When you’re done, you should have some low, medium, and high pitched pairs. Try these on a drum and cymbal, similar to what you actually play.
  14. You’ll be able to hear the difference in the timbre of the drums and cymbals, depending on the pitch of your sticks.
  15. Choose the sticks that make your drums and cymbals sound the best to you. Some players prefer high pitched sticks, while others prefer medium or low pitched ones.

Tiger Tips:

  • Testing a stick for tone/pitch is just as important as testing for straightness.
  • Sticks are expensive. Never buy them sight unseen or you’ll be wasting your money.
  • Never buy sticks from anyone who won’t let you open the sealed wrapper to test them.
  • Be prepared to test at least two dozen sticks to find a single pair or two that match. Believe it or not, this is the norm.
  • As long as each pair of sticks match, using high, medium, or low pitched sticks is strictly a preference thing.
  • Bad sticks not only make great drums and cymbals sound bad, but they can make it much more difficult for you to play especially if you use the concepts of Tension Free Drumming!

Until next time, have fun and stay loose!

–Tiger Bill