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Drumsticks are the most important tool every drummer has. They’re meant to be an extension of your arms, but some pairs can feel very uncomfortable.
So, it’s important to choose a pair of sticks that fits your preferences and playing style. With so many different sticks available, it can be difficult to choose. Here’s a list of all the best sticks to help you with the selection process.
Vic Firth American Classic 5A Wood Tip – Best Overall
The Vic Firth American Classic 5A Wood Tip Drumsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are arguably the most popular drumsticks in the world. They’re the standard choice for most drummers, as they have the size and shape that fits most people’s preferences.
If you have no specific preference for how you like your drumsticks to be, your favorite sticks will most likely be these Vic Firth 5As.
These are also very versatile sticks, as their size makes them a great option for every style of music there is. They have enough power to make an impact in rock songs, but they’re light and nimble enough to be used for quick jazz phrasing.
They have a tear-drop tip shape that makes them sound very articulate on cymbals. This means that you hear clear definition from all your strokes, and you can easily play quick patterns due to the manageable weight.
These are my best suggestion for your first drumsticks. If you love them, you’ll be set for life. If you feel that there’s something a bit off about them, that’s when you should search for other options.
Tip Shape: Tear Drop
Ahead TC Signature Series Tommy Lee – Premium Option
The Ahead TC Signature Series Tommy Lee Drumsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a highly unique option to consider. They’re made of polyurethane and have an aluminum core. This makes them feel and act very differently from standard drumsticks.
They’re a lot more durable. While they’re not unbreakable, they tend to last a lot longer than standard sticks.
The structural quality of the sticks also makes them excellent for heavy styles of music. They’re a bit heavier than standard sticks, giving them more volume with less effort. However, they’re made with what Ahead calls the Vibration Reduction System to give them slightly more rebound than standard sticks as well.
Another cool thing about these sticks is that they have replaceable tips. If you don’t like the oval tips that come with them, you can just purchase another shape of tip from Ahead to attach to the sticks.
Just note that these sticks feel very different from how wooden sticks feel. Many drummers don’t like them because of that.
Material: Polyurethane and Aluminum
Tip Shape: Oval
On-Stage Hickory 5A Wood Tip – Best Budget Option
These are the sticks that I’d suggest new drummers get before they decide that they want to take drumming very seriously. They’re perfect for beginners who are trying things out. They’re also good for older children who are going to drum lessons.
The downside of them is that they’re not very durable. They’re quite light, and experienced drummers will feel like they’re hollow compared to standard sticks from bigger brands. That’s why they’re only a good option for beginners.
They’ll stay durable for as long as a beginner drummer doesn’t strike the drums on the rims, and that skill only comes into play later down the line. By that stage, a drummer will need to get better sticks.
I’d also say that these are good throwaway drumsticks. People often need to keep sticks around at venues and settings where different drummers come in and out. While drummers should ideally bring their own sticks, it won’t cost much to keep a few of these On-Stage sticks for the times when drummers don’t arrive with their own sticks.
Tip Shape: Acorn
Vic Firth American Classic Extreme 5A Wood Tip
The Vic Firth American Classic Extreme 5A Wood Tip Drumsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) have all the same qualities as the standard 5A sticks from Vic Firth, but they have a boosted length. The extra length makes them feel completely different to play with, and many drummers prefer them due to this.
The boosted length gives these sticks two big benefits. Firstly, you have more reach around the kit. You can space your drums and cymbals out a bit further than you would with standard 16-inch drumsticks. A practical example of this would be spacing your cymbals out more so that you can fit more in your setup.
The other benefit of the boosted length is that you get a bit more power from your strokes. There’s more mass in the sticks, so you can play a bit harder than with standard 5A sticks. That’s why the Extreme 5As are popular amongst rock drummers.
Not every drummer likes having the extra length, though. It forces some drummers to shift their balance points with the grip, and that’s not ideal for many.
Tip Shape: Tear Drop
Promark Classic Forward Firegrain 7A Wood Tip
The Promark Firegrain sticks have all gone through a process of heat tempering that makes them a lot more durable than standard wood sticks. I’ve suggested the 7A versions here as they’re my favorite from the line. 7A sticks can often break due to their lighter structure, but the heat-tempering negates that, for the most part.
If you want thin sticks that are great for light playing and will last what seems like forever, these are one of your best bets.
The added benefit of the heat tempering is that it makes the sticks look fantastic as well. These are a breath of fresh air compared to the standard look of wooden drumsticks.
These specific 7A sticks have oval tips, which bring out darker tones from cymbals. This makes the sticks a good option for playing cymbal-heavy music like jazz.
Tip Shape: Oval
Vater American Hickory Power 5B
The Vater American Hickory Power 5B Drumsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the best stick options for drummers who love thick and heavy sticks. While they’re mainly suited for rock, you could easily use these to play pop and country as well.
They’re called the Power 5Bs as they have extra length, similar to the Extreme 5As from Vic Firth. So, these things are long and thick, making them ideal for heavy players that want extra reach from their sticks.
The other factor that separates them from the Extreme 5As is their oval tips. These tips often feel like they give you slightly more rebound, as there is less surface area connecting with the drums as you play them. They also make your strokes feel thicker than acorn or tear drop tips do.
Sticks with a length of 16.5” don’t feel comfortable for everyone. Neither do sticks with heavy weights and thick bodies. These sticks share all those features, so you need to make sure that you’re looking for that before buying these. Otherwise, you’ll find that they feel too foreign in your hands.
Tip Shape: Oval
Meinl Stick & Brush 5A Hard Maple Hybrid Drumsticks
The Meinl Stick & Brush 5A Hard Maple Hybrid Drumsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a fairly unique option to choose. While they look like standard sticks, they’re designed very differently compared to most.
The first thing to note about these sticks is that they’re made from maple and not hickory. This makes them feel lighter in your hands than most drumsticks on the market. They also tend to feel soft and buttery on the drums and cymbals. However, you still get enough force behind your strokes to get the same levels of volume and intensity.
The other unique part of these sticks is that they have longer tapers than standard sticks. Meinl advertises these to give a whip-like response, meaning you get a quicker downstroke feeling from them.
The final thing to mention is that these sticks have barrel tips, which are very articulate and clear on all the drums and cymbals.
If you love 5A drumsticks but you want something slightly different, these will give you a very fresh feeling and playing experience.
Tip Shape: Barrel
Vic Firth American Classic Kidsticks
The Vic Firth American Classic Kidsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the few pairs of sticks available that are made solely for children to use. They’re much shorter than standard sticks, and they have a fun design to keep kids’ interested.
The 13-inch length makes them suitable for toddlers under six years of age. Children older than that may find these sticks to be too short, and they should get standard drumsticks.
You can get these sticks in two color options, which are blue and pink. Both options have tear drop wood tips that keep their natural wood color.
These sticks are still as thick as a few other kinds of full-sized sticks, so kids will be able to get power behind their strokes quite easily.
Overall, they’re very fun to use, and most young kids love having a special pair of drumsticks that are designed just for them.
Tip Shape: Tear Drop
The Promark Hotrods (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the most popular stick options to use for gigs where you have to keep the volume down. These are considered drumsticks, but they’re designed very differently.
You get several wooden dowels that are bundled together to give you a solid stick that produces a fraction of the volume of standard sticks when you play the drums. These work as the perfect middle-ground option between standard sticks and brushes.
While you get reduced tones from the drums, the cymbal tones will be even quieter. You lose a lot of articulation, though, so keep that in mind when choosing to use these.
They’re an essential tool to keep in your stick bag, as most drummers end up playing acoustic gigs at some stage in their playing careers.
Meinl Stick & Brush Switch Stick
The Meinl Stick & Brush Switch Stick Drumsticks (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a great pair to have to add versatility to your stick bag. These sticks are two-sided, with one end having barrel wood tips and the other having hard felt tips that allow you to use the sticks as mallets.
Mallets on their own are typically quite expensive compared to drumsticks, so getting these is a good way of saving a bit of cash while also getting usable 5A sticks.
They make it very easy to play normal strokes and then switch to the mallet sides whenever you need to in song parts.
The hard felt ends are a lot harder than other soft mallets, so you still get a bit of attack from the drums when you play them using the mallet sides.
In terms of other designs, these sticks are the same as the Meinl 5A sticks that I suggested previously. They’re just slightly longer to make room for the hard felts on the opposite sides. The other difference is that they’re made from hickory and not maple.
Tip Shape: Barrel/Hard Felt
Vic Firth American Classic NE1
The Vic Firth American Classic NE1 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are signature drumsticks designed with the help of Mike Johnston. The difference between these and other signature drumsticks is that they’re designed for drummers of all kinds and not for the preference of the artist who made them.
Mike Johnston is one of the top drum educators in the world, and he designed these sticks with students in mind. The main design aspect of them is that they fill the gap between 5A and 5B drumsticks. This makes them one of the most universal pairs of drumsticks on the market.
They’re 16”, but they have a longer taper than 5A sticks to give more balanced compared to the slightly heavier weight and a thicker feel. They also have an altered barrel tip for tight articulation and darker tones on the cymbals.
These are sticks that most drummers will love, so you should try them out!
Tip Shape: Barrel
Zildjian Dip Series Super 7A Wood Tip
These come with dipped handles that provide good shock absorption and better grip. The result is a pair of sticks that you’re less likely to drop as you sweat throughout a gig. Dropping sticks can become very frustrating in high-energy environments, so these are perfect for that sort of setting.
They’re also made from maple, making them lighter to carry. They still have plenty of power, though, and the oval tips feel great on the drums.
Having extra handles added to the sticks isn’t something that every drummer enjoys, so you need to try these out to see if you like how they feel.
Tip Shape: Oval
Promark Giant Sticks
The Promark Giant Sticks are the big wildcard on this list. These are more of a gag purchase than a useful tool purchase. These sticks are massive, and they make a great gift for drummers.
They can be used as an ornament to place in a drum studio, or they can be used to make a funny drum video.
I’m just suggesting these as a light-hearted option to get for yourself or a drummer you know. They look great when hung up on a wall!
Just don’t buy these thinking that you’ll use them to play in any serious situation.
Tip Shape: Oval
What To Look For In a Pair of Drum Sticks
Weight is one of the most important things that you need to consider when choosing drumsticks. It’s the biggest determining factor of how they feel in your hands, and it also affects how the sticks sound on the drums and cymbals.
Lighter sticks are easier to play quick notes with, but they don’t give you as much power as heavier sticks do. If you want a good balance between those two things, you should pick drumsticks that offer a bit of both.
If you’re a lighter player who doesn’t need much power behind your strokes, lighter sticks would be a better pick. You should get heavy sticks if you play hard and heavy styles.
You can tell the weight of drumsticks from the naming conventions. 5A sticks are the standard ones that offer lightness and a bit of power. 5B sticks are much heavier, while 7A sticks are lighter. Any stick with the letter “B” in the name is typically a heavy one.
The length of a pair of drumsticks will affect how much power they have and how much reach you have around the kit. Longer sticks allow you to play drums and cymbals further away, and they add a bit more force behind your strokes.
Shorter sticks give you far less power, but many drummers find that they’re easier to play with. The standard length for drumsticks is 16”. Most drumsticks are that long, so any sticks that are a bit longer are considered unique options.
Any sticks that are shorter than 16” would be considered children’s drumsticks. If an adult were to use these, they’d quickly realize that they don’t offer much reach or power.
The thickness of a drumstick is very closely tied to the weight, but you’ll find that some drumsticks are a lot thicker than others, even if they’re lighter. So, make sure to check the thickness so that you know how the drumsticks will feel in your hands.
Thin drumsticks don’t feel comfortable for players that hit very hard, while thick drumsticks feel too bulky for players with a lighter touch.
It also has a lot to do with your stick grip, as drummers that use more of their fingers for strokes tend to prefer thinner sticks. Drummers who mostly use their wrists tend to prefer thicker sticks.
The taper is the end part of the stick that comes before the tip. You use the taper to strike cymbals on the edges, as well as strike the rims on the drums when you play rimshots. All drumsticks have varying taper sizes, lengths, and weights, and the taper greatly determines the overall feel of the stick.
You should check the length, weight, and size of the taper in the same way that you check those things with the overall stick. Thicker tapers give more power and volume, while thinner tapers give more finesse.
Some sticks have almost no tapers, while others have very long tapers. If you’re a hard player, you’ll break sticks with long tapers very easily. Keep that in mind.
The tip of a drumstick will affect how it sounds and feels when you play drums and cymbals. The biggest distinction between sticks is ones that have wood tips and ones that have nylon tips.
Nylon tips sound very strong and bright on cymbals, while wood tips sound a bit more earthy. You don’t hear any difference between the two tips when striking drums, though.
You also get several shapes when it comes to wooden tips. These include tear drop, barrel, acorn, arrow, oval, and round.
The type of wood tip you get only slightly affects how the sticks sound when hitting cymbals, but the bigger difference is how they feel when striking drums or cymbals.
Most drumsticks on the market are made from hickory. It’s the best and most abundant wood for making drumsticks, and all hickory drumsticks sound and feel fantastic. However, you’ll find several options out there that are made from something different.
Maple is another common wood used. Maple sticks are a bit lighter than hickory ones, so you can get a pair of maple 5As that feel lighter than a pair of hickory 5As. If you love a certain type of stick but want a slightly lighter option, I highly suggest looking for a maple variant.
You’ll also commonly find oak sticks. These were first made by Promark, but most brands offer them these days. They’re slightly heavier.
Some brands, such as Ahead, offer metal sticks. These are made to be very durable, but they’re not very kind on your joints. If you like the idea of metal sticks, you should find ones that have a mixture of metal and other materials to make them feel more natural.
Price isn’t too big of a factor when looking for drumsticks. If you’re comparing sticks from the three major brands, they’re all priced very similarly. You’ll just find cheaper sticks from lesser-known brands, and more expensive sticks have special designs.
People often see Ahead as the most expensive drumstick brand, but it’s because they produce a lot of specialty metal sticks.
The other drumsticks that cost more are rutes, brushes, and mallets. Other than those, drumsticks are very affordable.
If you want to save money on sticks, the best thing to do is to buy a pack of 10 or 20 pairs. Most drumstick brands offer these packages, and they call them bricks of sticks.
Best Drum Stick Brands
There aren’t too many popular drumstick brands out there, so it makes finding good sticks a lot easier. The brands I’m about to mention all have amazing products that are used by beginners and professionals alike.
Vic Firth is the most popular drumstick brand in the music industry. The brand has been around since the early 60s, and a lot of drumstick innovations have come from the company. Most Vic Firth sticks are made from hickory, but there are plenty of other materials to choose from as well.
I’d say that Vic Firth have the most variety out of every drumstick brand. There are hundreds of different sticks that they sell.
Promark is another highly popular drumstick brand that has also been around since the early 60s. The brand falls under the larger D’Addario company, which they joined in 2011. While the brand was highly popular before joining, being part of a larger company has given them a lot more reach around the world.
Promark sticks are fairly well known for having unique materials and designs. However, the brand also makes amazing sticks with classic designs.
Vater is the final stick brand that has also been around since the early 60s. Vater was one of the first stick brands to make custom models for different artists, and that’s one of the aspects that boosted the brand’s popularity in the early years.
Nowadays, Vater remains a strong contender in the market, being one of the “big three” stick brands. The brand has some amazing options that cover every shape and size that you could think of.
Meinl Stick & Brush
Meinl Stick & Brush is a fairly new drumstick brand that falls under the larger Meinl family. The best thing about the brand is their focus on simplicity. Most other stick brands have hundreds of drumstick options, whereas Meinl Stick & Brush only has a fraction of that to choose from.
Most of the Meinl sticks are made from maple, but you get a few with the classic hickory design.
Ahead is a brand known especially for making specialty drumsticks. Most of the options are uniquely made with durability in mind. These include aluminum and other metal sticks that are intended to never break.
Ahead sticks are mostly used by metal drummers, but there are a few famous drummers that play other styles that use them. If you’re looking for something out of the norm, Ahead is a good brand to check out.
Top Drum Sticks, Final Thoughts
While finding a good pair of drumsticks can take a while, you’ll know when you have the right pair for you. They’ll feel amazing in your hands, and playing the drums will feel more natural than it ever has.
To find a good pair, you need to establish what you like when it comes to weight, diameter, and material type. After that, try a few out to see what sticks.