Based on questions I’m often asked, here are three tips for buying drumsticks for drummers just starting out.
1. Don’t buy cheap drumsticks.
Seriously, it’s not worth it. You definitely would rather buy 1 pair of $10 Promark drumsticks every 2 months than 5 pairs of $5 sticks in the same amount of time. So you’re really not saving any money buying cheap. I personally have found the most consistency and durability with ProMark. Vic Firth, Zildjian, and Vader are also decent names to look for.
One time I was at a camp in GA and the only music shop within an hour’s drive were selling Promark sticks for like $14 a pair. But they had these no-name bargain bin sticks for like $4 a pair. I bought 3 pair. We only had one set a night, about 30 minutes, and I’m not a particularly heavy-handed drummer, but all but one of those sticks broke within 3 days. The first stick broke on the second SONG I played it on. Seriously.
2. Start with 5A.
When first started, I picked up some 7A sticks was immediately drawn to how thin and light they felt in my hands. I started learning to play with them. For a while it was ok, but then especially when I played rock, I would break sticks a lot. I also found some double stroke fills and ghost notes fairly taxing on my energy but I thought that was just my own inadequacy that I needed to practice through. I bought some 5As in the hopes that they wouldn’t break as often (they didn’t) but I was pleasantly shocked by how much easier it was to pull off double stroke fills and ghost notes, as well as really getting better response from the drumheads. I can honestly say that my hand strength and stamina increased noticeably playing 5As. The larger sticks are heavier, so not only do they travel faster on their own (thanks, gravity), they strike the drum more fully and bounce better.
3. Learn to enjoy playing with “hot rods.”
If you didn’t know, hot rods, lightning rods, thunder rods, etc. are al basically a bundle of individual little sticks bundle together. They have far less bounce and MOST importantly, far less volume when striking the drum. Churches and small venues (especially restaurants) will often ask you to play with hot rods upon arriving and starting to sound check. When you’re planning to play with regular sticks, and you’ve practiced with regular sticks, this can be really deflating right before a gig. Your playing suffers, and really the whole performance suffers. The good news is it doesn’t have to. If you suspect a venue will ask you to play with hot rods, go ahead and ask and if they aren’t sure, or say yes, then go ahead and prepare for that. If you don’t have any, go ahead and buy some hot rods. I recommend these, because the plastic lasts far longer than the all-wooden ones do. Then go ahead and practice the set with hot rods. If you end up getting to play full out with drum sticks, then great, that’s usually easier anyway. But if you’re asked to use rods, you can be smooth and professional and own those rods, and your attitude is better, so your playing is likely better, so the show likely goes better, and that’s what you wanted, right?