Drumsticks have come a long way since their inception. Sticks are now being created using all sorts of different materials, in a variety of sizes, with different textures, and more details that may not be immediately obvious to the eye.
You may have noticed while browsing for drumsticks online or shopping in your favorite music store, that some drumsticks have a letter and number assigned to them. This combination of a letter and number is what manufacturers use so drummers can quickly identify the stick's length, circumference, and weight.
With so much variety you may be unsure which stick to buy. I want you to make sure that before you spend any dollars, you have an idea of what might be the right drumstick model for you.
We‘re going to focus on three of the most common models used by drummers to help you in your decision. These are the 7A, 5A, and 5B size sticks. You’ll see here that all sticks are not the same.
7A Drum Sticks
7A drumsticks are thin and lightweight. 7A drumsticks will measure 15.5” long and .540” around.
The light weight of these sticks makes them an optimal choice for drummers who often play softer genres of music or music that requires tight sticking patterns like Jazz, Funk, or Jazz Fusion.
The 7A sticks’ size and weight also make them a great choice for younger drummers who are learning how to play. If you’re a drummer with smaller hands, this may be a great option for you as well.
Top 3 - Popular 7A Drumsticks
5A Drum Sticks
5A sticks are known as the most popular drumstick model in the world. 5A sticks are slightly larger than a 7A. 5A sticks measure 16” long and .565” around.
You’ll find that 5A sticks are the sort of, “renaissance man” of drumsticks. 5A sticks are great for both live performances and recording. You’ll notice an array of drummers who play rock, pop, jazz, country, and more like to utilize this very capable model of drumstick.
Top 3 - Popular 5A Drumsticks
5B Drum Sticks
5B drumsticks are the widest and heaviest of the three. 5B sticks measure 16” long by .595” around.
Their added weight and girth make 5B sticks easier to feel in your hand. Some players like the wider stick as it feels more connected to the player's hand.
If you do have hands that are on the larger side, a 5B drumstick may be a great choice for you even as a beginner.
5B sticks are the choice of drummers who play heavier styles of music like rock, hard rock, or metal.
Top 3 - Popular 5B Drumsticks
What Drumsticks Should I Use?
While there are other variables to consider when purchasing the proper drumstick, the thing I’d recommend first and foremost is making sure that whatever sticks you’re holding feel good in the hand.
Practicing with a pair of ill-fitted sticks can ruin your experience. Sticks that feel too small in hand may lead to a lack of control and lack of feedback or feeling when playing. Adversely, sticks that are properly fitted to your hand can make your playtime much more enjoyable!
Secondly, consider what style of music you plan on playing primarily.
If you’re playing something louder like rock or metal, you don’t want a stick that is too small. Small sticks will make your hits sound weak and you’ll be trying to strike your cymbals or drums too hard.
A stick with a bit more weight and surface area will make your drumming sound full and it won’t require as much work from you. Think of it like trying to throw a Wiffle ball as hard as you can as opposed to a real baseball.
If you are playing softer forms of music that require a more subtle touch like jazz, blues, or gospel, then a lighter stick like a 7A would be an ideal choice.
Since these forms of music require a more delicate touch you would not want a heavy feeling stick that could cause dynamic inconsistencies in your performance.
Drumsticks are different sizes, widths, and lengths for a reason. Taking some time to try out a few sizes will eliminate any future confusion when purchasing drumsticks.
Does the Manufacturer Really Make a Difference?
Manufacturers all abide by the sizing rules when making drumsticks. You’ll find that 5A, 5B, 7A, and other sizes are all attainable no matter which company's product you are buying.
You’ll also undoubtedly begin to develop a preference for slight variations from one manufacturer to another.
These variations could be subtle things like cosmetic appearance, the grip dip, how the lacquer feels, the slope of the taper, the quality of the wood, or anything really. We all eventually will find variations in each that will most likely develop a proclivity for one brand over another.
Once you find the stick size from the manufacturer of your preference, you’ll most likely be sticking with that brand for a while if not for the entirety of your drumming career.
Some brands experiment with odd sizes or styles of sticks that you may end up liking a lot! Take a look at what's available and try them out for yourself.
Different Types of Tips
5A, 7A, and 5B still will also have differently shaped tips or tips made as tips made from different materials like nylon. When looking at drumsticks you’ll notice tip shapes like; oval, barrel, arrow, teardrop, and more.
While the tip shape may seem like a minor detail to the untrained eye, the drumstick tip does affect the sound profile and feel of the stick when playing.
You’ll notice drummers who play jazz like a stick tip that is smaller. They’ll often use sticks with a ballpoint or small barrel-shaped tips. The smaller dense tips have more bounce and they produce a cleaner, more focused sound.
Drummers of the louder genres tend to use oval, teardrop, or arrow-shaped tips. This all depends on personal preference and again, the style of music.
Now, what about the differences between a wood-tipped stick versus a nylon-tipped stick?
A regular wood tip typically has a more natural, warmer, fatter sound whether striking a drum head or cymbal.
Nylon-tipped sticks have more bounce to them. Some drummers really like the way these sticks bounce back into their hands with less effort than a wood tip. The nylon tip will produce a cleaner, higher-pitched tone when striking a cymbal or drumhead.
At the end of the day, it’s all preference. Once you get better acquainted with your ideal stick, having a variety can be fun!
Do not take your drumsticks for granted. They are the things that allow your drum kit to sing! Yes, there will be an occasion where we will have to play with a strange pair of sticks here and there but, you should know what your ideal drum stick model is. You should know which drumsticks allow you to play that kit like the rockstar you aspire to be!
Beginners, start with something light like the 7A style sticks. If you’re just starting out you want to work on developing your grip along with the muscles in your hands to move the sticks. Starting with something too heavy can cramp up your hands and prematurely end your practice time.
Playing with the right set of sticks for you will allow you to perform at and sound your best. That is the goal, isn’t it?
Take what you’ve learned from this article and go find your perfect matched pair of sticks!