Brushes are one of the tools that every drummer knows they need in their stick bag, yet not many drummers actually like using them. They’re such a great tool for playing dynamically on the drums, whether you need them for soft moments or to just have some unique sounds.
They’re mostly used in jazz, yet all drummers can benefit from having a pair of brushes. So, we’re going to look at some of the best drum brushes on the market.
6 Best Drum Brushes for the Money
Table of Contents
- 6 Best Drum Brushes for the Money
- Why Are Brushes Mostly Used in Jazz?
- Drum Brush Prices
- How Important is It to Have a Set of Brushes?
Zildjian is one of the top cymbal companies in the world. Although cymbals are their main thing, they do sell some drum sticks and brushes. The quality of these brushes definitely matches the quality of Zildjian’s cymbals, giving you a worthwhile product that will benefit you in many ways.
These standard wire brushes from Zildjian are firm, yet smooth enough to play very articulate patterns and phrases on the drums. They’re pretty simple in terms of design. However, they deliver everything you need from a pair of brushes.
I particularly love how the rubber handle feels with these brushes. It’s quite smooth and allows you to play drums the same way that you would with sticks. The handle is the better part compared to the wires, so that is something to think about when you’re choosing brushes to get.
The wires don’t bend as much as some other brushes I’ve played with. However, they can come loose if you’re not careful. This happens more frequently if you leave the brushes sticking out. It’s always best to pull them back in when the brushes lying around.
One downside is that these brushes are fairly expensive compared to other ones. However, their cost is reflected in their build quality.
I also found that they produce a slight squeaking sound when you retract the wires. Although this is a very small noise, it could sound very loud when you’re trying to swap out the brushes while playing a slow ballad. Mics tend to pick up most things you don’t want them to.
Overall, I think these brushes are a good option if you’re not looking for too much stiffness. The wires are quite flexible so the brushes aren’t harsh.
Vic Firth is arguably the most popular drum stick brand. They produce so many high-quality sticks that are loved by drummers all over the world. So, you just know that they will give you some great brushes as well.
I’ve played with these WB Jazz Brushes for several years and let me tell you that they’re some of the thickest brushes around. The wires are extra heavy, so they’re a great option for louder playing.
The distinct white grip has become synonymous with the heavy wires. These wires allow you to play standard brush patterns at a much higher volume than thinner brushes would. This makes these brushes a great tool for more intense situations where you still need the sweeping sound on the snare drum.
The wires also extend wider than standard brushes, allowing you to play on a wider playing surface. They’ll make a bigger sound on cymbals than standard brushes would, producing more of an impact.
I love the white handle on the brushes. It has always made finding them in my stick bag incredibly easy when I’m playing gigs with low lighting. The best example of this is when I play in pit bands in musicals. The only light you have is for your music stand, so finding certain sticks in a stick bag can be difficult.
Overall, they’re a great pair of brushes to have for loud playing environments. Rock drummers could benefit from these when playing ballads and other soft songs.
The biggest gripe I’ve had with these brushes is the rubber material inside the handles tends to melt if you leave the brushes out in the sun. I’ve gone through a few of these over the years as the wires starting sticking and were hard to push out after the material melted. Learn from my mistakes and make sure you keep these safe in your drum stick bag.
Moving on from thick and heavy brushes to some light and mobile ones. The Vic Firth Heritage brushes take influence from the lightweight brushes that were used by all the jazz drummers in the 20th century.
These brushes are the perfect tools to play double-time swing patterns and other quick drum beats. The wires are extremely light, allowing you to be more agile in your playing. They won’t fatigue you like heavier brushes would, meaning you’ll be able to play hours on hours with these.
I’ve seen so many pro jazz drummers play indescribably fast patterns with brushes. Most of them were using light brushes like these. They seem to just glide around the drums a lot better than the heavier and thicker brushes that we’ve looked at so far.
Having them so light means you’ll sacrifice a bit of volume, though. That may not be an issue in most environments, but you’ll need to hit a bit harder in others. I’d suggest getting a light and heavy pair if you want to avoid having to change your technique for different situations, and these Heritage brushes are one of the best pairs to get.
Along with the light wires comes a rubber handle that is extremely comfortable in your hands. The handle has a distinct purple color that stands out similarly to the WB Jazz Brushes. I’m personally not a fan of purple, so I wish they offered these in a different color.Overall, they’re a strong contender on this list, especially if you’re looking for something that is light and easy to play with. You can’t go wrong with these if you’re a jazz drummer. I’ve found they also work well when playing on percussion instruments like cajons.
Moving on from the standard wire brushes, we have the Monster brushes from Vater. Vater is one of the other big stick companies that produce a lot of high-quality sticks for all types of drummers. The Monster brushes have poly strand rods that sound very musical on the drums.
As you can see, they don’t look like normal brushes. These things are a bit meatier and I’d say they bridge the gap between brushes and drum sticks. They’re the things you need to use if you still want the strong forceful sounds of sticks, but the warmer and more delicate tones of brushes.
Basically, I think they’re the best option to go with if you just need to lower your drum sound for certain situations. You won’t be able to play any washing sounds on a snare like you would with wire brushes, so they won’t be good for that.
I also think these are way better than the classic hot rods that most drummers will tell you to get. The fact that the wires are plastic means you won’t have any splintering or wooden shards flying around. I’ve found that the sound is much warmer as well.
The best feature of these brushes is that they have two straps around the stands that can be adjusted, allowing you to get a loose brush feeling or a very tight one. This makes them a seriously versatile pair of brushes.
Another fantastic feature is that they can mute a drum if you press them into it or they can bring out the resonance if you hit openly. You basically get a set of brushes on one setting and a set of rods on the other.
They’ll work wonders in all kinds of music, especially percussive-heavy ones. In total, they’re a versatile tool for any drummer.Just be aware that they’re going to leave black marks on your drums. The paint tends to rub off everywhere you hit. If you’re someone who needs clean drum heads at all times, you’re going to hate these. Everyone else will find them to be incredibly useful to have in your stick bag.
The Promark Broomsticks have the same design concept as the Vater Monster brushes. However, they’re made from broomcorn, giving them a much more aggressive attack. Their attack sits somewhere in between your standard drum sticks and brushes.
They have the same O-rings that allow you to adjust how tightly the sticks are held together. The tighter they are, the harder the sticks feel. The looser they are, the looser the sticks feel.
These sticks feel extremely organic when playing on drums. They’re a great tool for lowering volume slightly, but not as low as you would with standard brushes.
They’re also great for playing on cajons. Many drummers don’t like playing cajons since they can’t use sticks anymore. I used to be one of those drummers. However, the day someone suggested I just use plastic or wooden brushes, I found out that it’s really not that bad after all. These Broomsticks are perfect for that.
Since they’re made of wood, they’re going to break the same way normal drum sticks do. So, they may not last as long as wire brushes will. However, they’re not the most expensive things around, meaning you won’t be set back too much if you buy a new pair now and then.
They still won’t splinter like hot rods will due to the wooden reeds being so thing. I was very surprised at how flexible these brushes feel. You wouldn’t think that something wooden can be so bendy.
The flexible nature of them makes the response from the drums very organic as no sound is choked out when you play a note. Overall, I’d suggest getting these if you want something that feels and sounds more solid than the Vater Monster brushes.
The Jazz Telescopics are Promark’s take on the standard wire brush. They’re very bright on the drums, creating a tone that will cut through mixes surprisingly easily as far as brushes are concerned.
They sit somewhere in the middle of being light and heavy. This means they’re an all-purpose tool for any situations where you need to use brushes. They’re easy on the hands and they sound great on the drums.
I’d recommend these to anyone who needs a pair of brushes for the sake of having a pair of brushes. I don’t think offer anything spectacularly interesting, but they do their job very well and are quite reasonably priced.
Promark actually took inspiration from the original Gene Krupa brush when designing these. Gene Krupa is a jazz drumming legend and was one of the first world-famous drummers. Having a pair of brushes that are modeled after a design from a drumming legend is an extraordinary thing in my mind.
Overall, these brushes will cover most of what you may need them for. If you’re looking for a reliable pair to get the job done, the Promark Jazz Telescopic brushes are a great option to go with.
I’ve often found myself suggesting these brushes to anyone who asks me and doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for. They do everything moderately well, they just don’t do specific things exceptionally well.
One downside is that these are arguably the least durable brushes on this whole list. The wires will bend very easily if you’re not careful and I even found the handles to be a bit wonky compared to other pairs of brushes.
Why Are Brushes Mostly Used in Jazz?
One big reason for this is that brushes for drums were introduced around the time when jazz was the most popular music genre the world. So, the development of brushes went along with the development of jazz music.
Nowadays, a jazz band will play softer songs that require the use of brushes. These songs could be ballads or have solos from softer instruments such as the acoustic bass.
The drummer will need to lower his volume to accommodate the other musicians in the band. The brushes are the best way to do that.
Most other styles of music don’t require soft drumming, meaning the use of brushes is less commonly seen.
Another reason for jazz drummers using brushes is that the style is incredibly experimental. Sounds are constantly being explored and jazz drummers will always have more accessories than other drummers because it allows them to create unique sounds.
I once went to a jazz gig and saw a drummer wave the brushes in front of the microphone to get a swishing sound. It absolutely blew my mind!
I’ve kept a pair of brushes in my bag ever since so I could do that one day. You’d probably only get away with that in a jazz gig, though.
Drum Brush Prices
Most pairs of brushes will fall anywhere between $15 and $30. They’re not the most expensive pieces of gear in the world. However, they’re typically always more expensive than standard drum sticks. The prices of brushes and mallets often tends to chase a few drummers away.
You just need to remember that the average lifespan of a pair of brushes is much longer than the lifespan of a pair of sticks. Sticks are used more often, so they break faster. Unless you’re a hulking drummer, you won’t hit hard and chip away at the brushes like you would with sticks either.
So, the higher cost of brushes shouldn’t stop you from getting them as you’ll be using them for many years.
How Important is It to Have a Set of Brushes?
Every drummer should have a stick bag where they have an assortment of sticks to choose from. You will be a lot more versatile as a drummer if you have more than just standard drum sticks. Things like mallets, brushes, and roots are all valuable tools to have as a drummer.
You’re going to need a set of brushes if you ever play a gig where your drums can’t be too loud. This could be in a coffee shop or a restaurant.
It’s also important to develop your drumming ability by learning how to play with brushes. There are specific sweeping motions that will take some time to learn. Once you get it down, you can play some really cool things on the drums.
As you’ve seen from the list, there are a wide variety of brushes to choose from. Your standard wire brushes are the most popular.
However, you can get a lot of good use out of some brushes that have wooden or plastic components. The type of material the brush is made of will determine the type of tone it brings out of the drums.
If you’re unsure of which brushes to get, just try all of them. You can never have too many drum sticks. In turn, you can never have too many pairs of brushes!