Beginners Guide to Drum Sticks

Drumsticks might be an afterthought to the newbie drummer, but that’s a big mistake! From a distance most drumsticks look alike, but there’s some subtle differences between the different models.

The differences between drumsticks come down to the material they’re made out of, such as different types of wood or plastic, and the shape of the drumstick which is identified by a numbering system.

nylon drumsticks


Drumstick Number and Lettering System

Some examples of a drumstick numbers are 5A, 5B, 7A, 2B. The drumstick numbering system is very old, and it shows in the meaning behind the letters.

The letters in the identification system indicates what style of music the stick was originally meant for.

drum sticks lettering

“A” stands for “orchestra”. Orchestra sticks are the most narrow of the lettering options and are generally produce less volume and are lighter than other letters.

“B” stands for “band. Band sticks were designed for brass bands are thicker than “A” sticks. The size “2B” is the most popular recommended sticks for beginner drummers. Though when it comes to electronic drums, most people recommend “5A”.

“S” means “street”, and these drumsticks were originally meant for marching bands. Since they were playing in large, open-air spaces, these drumsticks are meant to produce louder sounds than others.

The numbers of the stick refer to the diameter of the stick. The higher the number, the thinner the stick is. The numbers typically range from 7 (the most narrow) to 2 (the most thick).


Types of Materials for Drumsticks

By far the most popular and affordable material for drumsticks is wood. The most popular woods include hickory, oak, and maple.

Maple sticks are the least dense and most lightweight of the woods and lend themselves to fast playing where lower-volume is desirable. If you want to practice on an electronic drum kit without disturbing others, maple is the perfect choice.

Hickory drum sticks are the most popular choice for drumsticks. They’re heavier and more dense than maple sticks so they produce more volume and also absorb shock better, making them easier on your hands for longer sessions.

Oak is another choice for sticks which are heavier and more durable than other woods.

The below video compares how these different types of woods affect the sound of a cymbal and snare drum.


Other materials include graphite, which are extremely durable but a bit more expensive than wood.

Aluminum drumsticks are the latest advancement in drumstick technology. The benefits of aluminum sticks are numerous. They include –

  • Reduced shock/vibration transferred back to the hands.
  • Fast rebounds and flexibility for greater speed than wood.
  • Precision manufacturing for perfectly balanced sticks.
  • Replaceable tips and incredible durability.

Another way to increase your comfort while drumming is to pick out a high quality drum throne.

Drumstick Tips

Drumsticks come in a variety of tip shapes which have an effect on the sound produced. It’s hard to put into words the difference between the different drum tips and the effect they have on the sound of drum equipment. It’s best to find a music store where you can test different sticks out yourself.

There’s 5 general drumstick tips –

  • Oval
  • Teardrop
  • Round
  • Acorn
  • Barrel

drum stick tips

The below video goes over some tips for picking out drumsticks.


Best Drumstick Manufacturers

If you’re looking for a brand of drumsticks to start with, here’s a list of some of the best and most respected drumstick manufacturers in the industry.

  • Zildjian – Zildjian is a legendary cymbal maker and they have a huge line of drumsticks to go along with it. They work with world-class drummers to create specific lines in their Artist series, and they really have something for everyone of every skill level.
  • Vic Firth – Vic Firth is a drumstick specialty company, that’s all they do and they do it extremely well. You can’t go wrong with Vic Firth sticks.
  • AHEAD – AHEAD is another drumstick specialty company, but where they really made their mark is with their aluminum drumsticks. These aluminum sticks cost much more than wood drumsticks, but should also last much longer. You can check them out on Amazon.

AHEAD drumsticks

If you’d like to learn more about picking out one of the best drum kits for beginners, we have a great list where you can get started on a kit for under $500!