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This article is all about the drumsticks, subjects are: sizes, model numbers and letters, woods, anatomy, tips, length and choosing your drumsticks.

Model Numbers
Drumsticks model numbers are used to differentiate and separate different sticks in to different categories. As of today there are two different categories of drumstick model numbers, they are: traditional and contemporary.

Contemporary Model Numbers
Contemporary model numbers are manufacturer specific, they are not propriety and because of that can only be referenced to those specific drumsticks / manufacturers.

Traditional Model Numbers
Traditional model numbers, consist of a letter followed by a number such as 5A, the letters and numbers in the traditional drumstick numbering represent the size and application. In most cases traditional model numbers specifications differ slightly between manufacturers.

Two means are used to number a drumstick: the number represents the sticks circumference (the lower the number the thicker the stick is) for example the 5* drumsticks are thinner than a 2* drumsticks. The only exception is the 3* numbered sticks - for example the 3S is larger in circumference than a 2B.

The letters: "S," "B," and "A" indicate the recommended application, which mean:

S - Large diameter, Street applications (drum corps and marching bands)
The large diameter of the S models drumsticks helps to naturally enhanced volume and sound projection which is demanded in drum corps and marching bands.
Recommended manufacturers: Vic Firth, Pro-Mark, Zildjian, Regal Tip, Vater, Ahead

B - Medium Diameter, Band applications (brass bands and symphonic concert bands).
Smaller in diameter than the "S" models, the B series are easier to control and that makes them practical for "in studio" and "live" applications.
Recommended manufacturers: Vic Firth, Pro-Mark, Zildjian, Regal Tip, Vater, Ahead

A - Small Diameter, Orchestra.
A series drumsticks were designed for big band or dance type orchestras, they feature the smallest diameter and because of that are ideal for softer playing.
Recommended manufacturers: Vic Firth, Pro-Mark, Zildjian, Regal Tip, Vater

Drumstick Woods
The most common woods used for drumsticks are hickory, maple, and Japanese oak. Drumsticks made from different types of wood have different characteristics, like hickory drumsticks will sound brighter, than those made from Japanese oak, but oak is generally stronger than hickory and thats why sticks made from Japanese oak will generally hold the impact better.

Maple is lighter compared to hickory and Japanese oak, and thats why drumsticks made from maple will provide the fastest response.

Hickory is the most common wood for drumstick construction because it provides enough durability for most drummers, offer very musical tone, and is not expensive in construction.

Japanese Oak
Japanese oak is generally heavier and stronger than Maple and Hickory, the most common sticks made from Japanese oak are perhaps the Tommy Aldridge 2S Japanese Oak by Pro-Mark.

Rosewood is another wood type used for drumsticks, it offers extremely durable, dense and very musical structure that is preferred by many drummers. However rosewood is generally more expensive than hickory, maple, and Japanese oak.

Synthetic Sticks
Some manufacturers offer drumsticks made from different types of plastics, metals and other materials. Synthetic drumsticks are usually more durable and provide manufacturers with more options to control sound, weight and feel.

Drumstick Anatomy

Butt is the thicker, counter balance end of the stick and although was not specifically designed as the part to play, some drummers flip drumsticks to use butts for specialty effects.

Body is the biggest part of drumsticks, it is used to hold and sometimes to produce specialty strokes like the snare rimshot.

Shoulder and Taper
Shoulder is the area of the stick between the body and the neck, it is the area where the stick is narrowing. Drumstick shoulder is often used to hit hi hats and crash cymbals. The term "taper" is sometimes used to identify the shape and the length of the drumstick shoulder. Obviously the length and the shape of the taper influences the density of the drumstick.

The Neck
Neck is the small part of drumstick that connects the tip to the shoulder. Drumstick neck is usually the thinnest part of drumstick with the exception of some specialty drumsticks and mallets that dont narrow near the tip.

Four fundamental shapes represent the base of many different variations of drumstick tips:

Round Tip | Barrel Tip | Triangle Tip | Oval Tip

Round Tip
Round tip has the smallest impact area, and because of that creates a bright and very focused attack that is overwhelming the body of the tone.

Barrel Tip
Barrel tip features larger contact area and because of that creates a medium body tone with less attack and more tone, compared to the Round Tip.

Triangle Tip
Triangle Tip produces a similar to barrel tip sound, with a medium body but adds more attack to the overall tone.

Oval Tip
Oval Tip has the largest impact area and because of that produces fuller medium to low tone with less attack. The largest impact area of the Oval Tips also makes them more durable compared to Round, Barrel and Triangle.

Nylon Tips
Nylon Tips mimic shapes and sound characteristics of corresponding wood tips on most of the percussive instruments. Nylon is however is a lot harder than most woods and because of that Nylon Tips produce a much brighter, snappier attack specially on the cymbals. Nylon Tips are considered more durable than wood tips, as they dont chip or wear out, because of that Nylon Tips can provide a consistent sound.

Timbale sticks
Timbale sticks dont have tips or shoulders, instead they feature butts on both ends of each stick. Timbale drumsticks are usually light, thin and a little shorter than most of drumsticks, this provides for a fast response, loud rim shots and medium to low tones while playing percussive instruments such as Timbales and Cowbells. Timbale sticks are also used for Power Rock applications.

The length of drumsticks affects their density, the power of the actual stroke, control-ability, and the reach-ability.
Length is certainly not the most important factor in a drumstick, longer sticks are harder to control and can be impractical for most of applications, however a longer sticks are advised when performing on a stage with a huge percussive installations or extensively big drumsets where an extended reach-ability is needed.

Choosing Drumsticks
Drumsticks should be chosen considering your application. Try to experiment with different types and sizes before making a permanent choice. And many drummers will agree that "permanent choice" should not mean a single pair of sticks for every gig, as different gigs may require a drummer to switch drumsticks for a lighter, or a heavier ones or even mallets to achieve the desired effect. It is always better to have a small "selection" of drumsticks in your bag as that will enable any drummer to use his abilities in a broader sense, which in turn makes a drummer more "universal".

As for Nylon tips versus Wooden tips, it is also a very personal choice, you should try both and see what makes you feel more comfortable. As noted earlier in this article, nylon tips are considered to be more durable, and produce brighter sounds on cymbals and percussive instruments like cowbells, while wood tips have a warmer natural sound and feel. Recommended manufacturers: Vic Firth, Pro-Mark, Zildjian, Regal Tip, Vater, Ahead

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