The Best Drumsticks + Brushes & Mallets

The Highest Rated Drum Sticks

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Drumsticks come in all shapes and sizes. When selecting the right ones for you, there are many things to consider which we outline below for newer drummers.

Below we present the most highly-rated sticks, brushes and mallets for use with acoustic and electronic drum kits, updated with the latest ratings as of May 2021.

This year we have included separate categories for Wood Tip and Nylon Tip drumsticks as well as retaining the sections for Brushes and Mallets.

The Best Drum Sticks, Brushes & Mallets

Author & Contributors

Alden Acosta Alden Acosta

A drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. When not researching gear he is learning to play bass.

The Best Wood Tip Drum Sticks

Vic Firth American Classic 5A

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 9900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$10
Vic Firth American Classic Wood 5A Drum Sticks - Wood Tip

Vic Firth’s American Classic Wood 5A Drum Sticks are made from hickory, a dense and tough wood known for its durability. Hickory is of a medium weight, being roughly 10% heavier than maple but 10% lighter than oak. Because of their hickory construction, this 5A set is a great fit if you’re looking for a versatile yet durable pair of drum sticks.

The tips are deeply back-cut, which gives them a very articulate and bright cymbal response. They also have a medium taper, giving them a very balanced feel. Even better, because of the taper they can produce plenty of volume without sacrificing control over your dynamics and positioning.

Because of the material used, the taper, and the back-cut tips, Vic Firth’s 5As are a great starting point for beginner drummers. Because of the sticks’ design they’re very easy to control, which will make it easier for drummers who are just getting their start to get a handle on different techniques without being held back by drum sticks that require more effort to use.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Hickory
  • Weight: 2.1 oz
  • Diameter: 0.565”
  • Length: 16”
  • Taper: Medium

Pros
As can be seen with their high number of ratings, there's a ton of love for the Vic Firth American Classic 5As, from parents who bought this set for their kids, to pros with decades worth of experience. Beginners appreciate the weight and balance, while experienced drummers find them surprisingly sturdy for their weight, making them ideal for both acoustic and electronic setups. Even players who hit their drums hard find these to be fairly strong and hard to break.

Cons
There are a few who report breaking the sticks earlier than they expected, but it's most probably due to their playing style. Note that you'll tend to break your sticks more often if you frequently hit the rims as you're striking the skins.

Overall
The Vic Firth American Classic 5A is a great set of sticks for those who want balanced weight and strength.

Vic Firth SDC Signature Series Danny Carey

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$11
Vic Firth SDC Signature Series Danny Carey Drum Sticks

At publication time these were the Highest Rated Wood Tip Drumsticks.

The Danny Carey Signature sticks feature a similar feel to 2B sticks with a more agile feel and bounce. They're great for heavy music.

They have a slight taper at the butt-end that improves their balance and a subtle groove in the gripping area that serves as a handle and provides a uniquely secure and comfortable grip especially when playing hard.

These sticks are big and long for power and reach on your drum set without sacrificing versatility.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Hickory
  • Weight: 4.8 oz
  • Diameter: 0.630"
  • Length: 16 1/2"
  • Taper: Short

Pros
Users have reported good rebound characteristics with great balance especially for large sticks. They almost feel smaller in terms of control. Many laud these sticks' comfort, mainly due to the ergonomic indentations placed in the gripping area.

Cons
Some have reported that they were not as durable as expected or that they chipped too easily. But that can depend on playing technique.

Overall
Danny Carrey is not only known for playing loud, but for his finesse and creativity on the kit. These sticks reflect his playing style perfectly and would be a great set of sticks for players who want to play loudly yet intricately.

Vic Firth SBR Signature Series Buddy Rich

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$12
Vic Firth Signature Series Buddy Rich Drumsticks

Buddy Rich was known for his virtuosic speed, power and technique.

His sticks are made in a modified 5A style with a uniquely large blended drum tip, neck, and shoulder providing added weight for enhanced power and durability.

The long taper on these sticks also give them a great balance and rebound response.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Hickory
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Diameter: 0.590"
  • Length: 16.31"
  • Taper: Long

Pros
These drumsticks have been reported to be extremely durable, feel fast and light, and are especially good for buzz and double stroke rolls. The white paint finish has also been favorably reviewed for its aesthetic quality.

Cons
Some users have found the glossy finish of the sticks to be slippery. These might not be the best pair for players with sweaty hands.

Overall
These are great sticks for Big Band playing and other styles of jazz. If you're a fan of the legendary Buddy Rich, these sticks are an obvious choice.

Promark PW747W Neil Peart Lacquered Shira Kashi Oak

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$14
Promark Shira Kashi Oak 747 Neil Peart Wood Tip Drum Sticks

The Neil Peart signature drumsticks feature Promark's classic 747 design.

These are slightly longer than 5As.

Japanese White Oak is reported to be the heaviest and densest wood that drumsticks are made of helping these sticks deliver good articulation and great volume.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Shira Kashi Oak
  • Weight: 4 oz
  • Diameter: 0.551"
  • Length: 16 1/4"
  • Taper: Medium

Pros
These sticks are extremely durable, even for heavy hitters. Some have claimed to never have broken a pair, only worn them down.

Cons
Some have found the sticks to be too heavy to play soft with. Although these were primarily designed for rock, some might benefit from the lighter weight and more shock-absorbing qualities of hickory drumsticks.

Overall
These Neil Peart signature sticks are great for hard-hitters who don't want to stray too far from the 5A size range.

The Best Nylon Tip Drum Sticks

Promark TX420N Mike Portnoy Hickory

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$10
Promark TX420N Mike Portnoy Hickory Signature Drumsticks

Mike Portnoy is the co-founding drummer of the American progressive metal band, Dream Theater.

His signature sticks are slightly smaller than 5A's in diameter with a 747 style taper providing a fast and responsive feel.

These have a nylon tip for a brighter, more-articulate cymbal sound compared to wood tipped sticks.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Nylon
  • Weight: 1.41 oz
  • Diameter: 0.531"
  • Length: 16 1/8"
  • Taper: Medium

Pros
Users have reported these as being great for speed and power, lightweight and smaller than most rock sticks but without compromising power due to its large nylon tip. Also, the sticks are fairly priced compared to other similar sticks on the market.

Cons
At 16 1/8 inches length, these sticks were a bit shorter than some preferred.

Overall
These sticks are great for versatile and technical metal players who prioritize speed and articulation above all else.

Vic Firth X5AN American Classic Extreme 5A

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$10
Vic Firth American Classic Extreme 5A Nylon Drum Sticks

The 5A Extreme drumsticks are of the 5A size with a 1/2″ more length, providing extra reach and power.

As popular as the 5A's are, many have requested a slightly longer version without changing too much from the original.

These sticks provide that extra reach while retaining the positive qualities of the American Classic 5A's.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Nylon
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Diameter: 0.565"
  • Length: 16.5"
  • Taper: Medium

Pros
Many users have reported these sticks as being at a very comfortable size and weight, and that the extra 1/2" of length makes all the difference in terms of reach for playing their large electronic or acoustic kit.

Cons
Some have reported durability issues with these sticks not lasting as long as expected, although playing style could be a factor.

Overall
These are great for those who love the 5A's but need a little bit more reach and power. It might be worth having a pair in your stick bag to compliment your regular 5A's for that rare occasion needing extra volume or reach.

Vic Firth American Classic 5AN

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 1200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$10
Vic Firth American Classic 5AN Nylon Tip Drumsticks

These are the popular Vic Firth American Classic 5A's in nylon tip.

Nylon tipped 5A's possess some advantages over the wood tipped version such as brighter cymbal sounds and more resistance to chipping or cracking - although some drummers prefer the natural feel and darker sound of wood tips.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Nylon
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Diameter: 0.565"
  • Length: 16"
  • Taper: Medium

Pros
Many have reported excellent durability from the nylon tips and that they don't fall off. They also possess a good balance, weight and feel similar to their wood tip siblings.

Cons
There have been some complaints of the sticks breaking too soon although this may be due to playing style.

Overall
The 5AN's are an excellent starting point if you want to try nylon tip drumsticks.

Ahead Signature Series Lars Ulrich

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$31
Ahead Signature Series Lars Ulrich Drum Sticks

At publication time these were the Highest Rated Nylon Tip Drumsticks.

The Lars Ulrich Signature sticks are made of aluminum.

They have replaceable covers and tips over an alloy core.

This gives these synthetic drumsticks 50 percent less shock and 10 percent more rebound when compared to wooden drumsticks.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Nylon
  • Weight: 2.29 oz
  • Diameter: 0.595"
  • Length: 16 1/4"
  • Taper: Long

Pros
These sticks are highly customizable, have a unique feel, and have interchangeable parts unlike regular drum sticks. They are not disposable and you won't break them like wood sticks.

Cons
Some have reported these to feel heavier than wooden drumsticks. Also, they are more expensive than their wooden counterparts - fortunately metal sticks don't break.

Overall
If you can afford the extra price for modern technology and play primarily heavy types of music, these might be the sticks for you.

The Best Drum Brushes

Drum brushes are used for softer playing at low volumes. While distinct from sticks, they’re an important part of every drummers tool kit. They’re great in jazz, pop, and even Latin music and more, the only real limit is your imagination!.

Promark PMBRM Large Broomsticks

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$18
Promark Large Broomsticks PMBRM

A company owned by D'addario since 2011, Promark has been developing and distributing various kinds of drumsticks for over 50 years now, and the brand has been endorsed by big names like Ringo Starr, Phil Collins, Neil Peart and more.

The Promark Large Broomsticks are an interesting hybrid sitting between brushes and drumsticks.

They have less attack than regular drumsticks, while having more volume than standard brushes.

The design is pretty straightforward, each strand is crafted from actual broomcorn and joined together via adjustable O-rings that let you change the spread of the bristles.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Broomcorn
  • Weight: 4.6 oz
  • Diameter: 1”
  • Length: 14.5”
  • Taper: Not Applicable

Pros
Many users appreciate the uniqueness of the Promark Large Broomsticks, both in functionality and sound. Drummers appreciate how they work well both with regular drums and cajon, and there are plenty of reports of them doing a great job with more quieter styles like jazz, blues and the like. Some comment that this stick/brush hybrid sounds best in more intimate settings.

Cons
It's not quite a stick and it's not quite a regular brush, so some say that it's not a substitute for either. Some users reported it being too light to produce enough volume unless your drums are miked up well. There are also a few who note that these are not meant to be played hard, as they tend to fall apart.

Overall
If you're looking to expand you're sonic palette, and you're willing to take on something that plays and sounds distinct, then do check these out.

Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$24
Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush

Steve Gadd is arguably one of the most sought-after session drummers in the world, having played in the studio for a diverse range of musicians such as Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, and James Taylor. So it's only fitting that his signature Vic Firth brush is doing well in the market.

An interesting feature of this brush set is that the wire is actually angled, which helps to keep your brushes from snagging on (fresh) coated drum heads. Essentially, they angled the wire only in the last ¾” of the playing end of the brush.

So you still get the same feel as a normal set of brushes, without having to worry about snags. Even better, you still retain a traditional tone.

The Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush set also uses a rubber handle. The rubber handles help to prevent your hand from slipping off the handle while playing.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Wire
  • Weight: Not Specified
  • Diameter: 0.530”
  • Length: Not Specified

Pros
Most users appreciate the angled brush ends, which allow for articulation that would be harder to get with regular brushes. There are also no questions about quality, in fact there are many praises from the quality of the bristles to their adjustability.

Cons
The price may be on the higher side for some, but most of those who bought it are very happy with their investment. Also, a few found that the angled part of the brushes made it hard for the wires to retract completely into the handle.

Overall
If you're looking for nothing less than the best wire brushes for drums, then get these.

The Best Drum Mallets

Mallets expand your tonal range by allowing for a softer attack than sticks but provide more impact than brushes.

Vic Firth 5ADT Dual Tone 5A Drum Sticks/Mallets

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$19
Vic Firth 5ADT Dual Tone 5A Drum Sticks/Mallets

Vic Firth’s Dual Tone 5A Drum Sticks/Mallets are essentially a 5A drumstick on one end and a (synthetic) felt tipped mallet on the other end.

Basically, this set is a perfect fit for the drummer who’s looking to quickly switch between a standard drum head and a mallet without switching sticks.

As far as the stick end is concerned you aren’t going to notice a huge difference between this set and a normal Vic Firth 5A set (once you get used to the felt on the end of course). It’s still made from hickory, it has a medium taper, and it’s only an eighth of an inch longer.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Felt/Hickory
  • Weight: Not Specified
  • Diameter: 0.565”
  • Length: 16 1/8”
  • Taper: Medium

Pros
Owners love how the Dual Tone 5As let you seamlessly switch between mallets and regular drumsticks without having to switch sticks. The benefit then extends to convenience and space saving, which is very important for busy drummers who are always on the go and playing different styles. There are also plenty of users who are pleasantly surprised at how balanced they feel, even when using the mallet.

Cons
These sticks are basically normal drums stick with a mallet on one end. This means that they aren’t going to be as good as a dedicated mallet, so if you’re looking to get a proper mallet tone and response you may be happier going with a traditional option. Some also found that the felt was too flimsily attached to the stick but none reported it actually coming off.

Overall
Vic Firth Dual Tone 5A Drum Sticks/Mallets are a true 2-in-1 package that'll make a good and practical addition to any drummer's stick bag.

Promark MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallet

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$29
Promark MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallet

Promark’s MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallets are made from Shira Kashi Oak, which are roughly 10% heavier than hickory.

This increase in weight creates a greater volume and a darker tone, which depending on what you’re looking for, could be a huge asset.

Another cool thing about these mallets is that they have a gradual taper, where you feel more weight the farther your hands are down the mallets. This means that the sticks have a very “front-heavy” feel, which facilitates fast motions.

While these mallets are said to be great on timpani and concert toms, they’re also ideal mallets for cymbal swells.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Felt
  • Weight: 4.2 oz
  • Diameter: 0.6”
  • Length: 14.25”

Pros
Because these sticks are made from oak (which is a dense wood) your odds of breaking a stick are very low. This alone makes the sticks worth serious consideration if you’re a gigging musician. The front heavy of feel of the mallets are also often commended, be it for cymbals, concert toms, timpani and other related percussion instruments.

Cons
There are some who report that these are a bit too short for their hands. There are also a few who feel that the felt mallet head is a bit too solid for their preference.

Overall
These are currently the top rated felt mallets for a reason, do check them out if you're looking for a good quality traditional mallet.

Vic Firth American Custom T1 Mallets

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$30
Vic Firth American Custom T1 Timpani Mallets

The T1 General timpani mallets are made from hand selected maple shafts and high quality felts that provide a great response and feel.

They are perfect for all-around playing and are capable of producing a rich yet rhythmic sound.

Specifications

  • Tip Material: Felt
  • Weight: 1.44 oz
  • Diameter:1. 5"
  • Length: 14. 5"
  • Taper:

Pros
Users have reported to be able to get great floor tom tones and many are pleased with the build quality of these mallets.

Cons
These can be a bit pricey for some, especially if mallets are rarely needed in their repertoire.

Overall
If you need all-around mallets for melodic tom passages to cymbal swells, these are a highly-rated option.

Things to Consider When Buying Drumsticks

If you’re looking to learn more about drum sticks, check out the sections below. We cover what goes into a stick’s design, what they mean for your sound, and how to choose a stick based on how you play.

Weight

As a general rule, the heavier the stick the louder your drums and cymbals are going to be though this does come at the expense of some dynamic range (the amount of volume you can get between soft and loud). Lighter sticks have a greater dynamic range and a brighter tone.

Maple is the lightest wood commonly used for drum sticks, though it tends to wear out the fastest. Hickory is much stronger, and roughly 10% heavier than maple. Oak, roughly 10% more dense than hickory, is the heaviest commonly used drum stick wood.

Length and Diameter

Length is arguably one of the most important factors of a drum stick, because it has a huge effect on how your sticks feel to play. The longer a stick is, the more reach and leverage you have. More reach makes it easier to hit different pieces of your kit, and the extra leverage means that your stick will require less effort to hit hard.

With that being said, the benefits of a longer stick depend on how you play. If you like to have more control over your volume, you may prefer a shorter stick. Likewise, if you play with a more minimalist kit you may find that the extra length of longer drum sticks just gets in your way.

Diameter, or how thick a drum stick is, impacts its weight, durability, and its volume. A thicker diameter creates a stick that can be shorter while still having good volume, or a longer but thinner stick that isn’t so heavy it becomes unwieldy.

Taper

Taper is the difference between a stick’s thickness at its point and at its end. A long taper gives you a stick with more flex (so you can hit harder with less effort) and a faster response. A short taper gives you more volume but it will feel heavier and take more effort to play. A medium taper is the middle-ground between the two.

Tip Material

Drum sticks have two commonly used tip materials: wood and nylon. Wood is the most common material, and is generally considered to have a warm and responsive tone as well as great articulation. Nylon has a brighter tone and more durability, though this does come at the expense of the articulation associated with wood tipped drum sticks.

Tip Shape

The tip shape of your drumstick dictates the surface area that hits your drums or cymbals thus highly influencing the sound you produce. Wider tips like barrel shaped ones provide a thicker sound while narrower ones like teardrop and round shaped tips provide thinner, more focused timbres.

Why You Should Get Multiple Sets of Sticks

A reality of life as a drummer is that eventually you’re going to break a drum stick, or a stick will fly out of your hand at the worst possible time (like in the middle of a solo). Because of this, it’s important that you have multiple sets of drum sticks to hand while playing.

Think about it this way. Imagine you finally get some time to practice. You warm up for a few minutes, collect whatever practice materials you use, and get ready to spend some time with your instrument. Then, as soon as you start really playing, your drum stick breaks. If you have a spare, you can get right back into practicing. If not, than you’re going to be pretty (understandably) upset.

Even worse, if you don’t bring spares to a gig you could potentially disrupt an entire performance in the event that you break or drop one. It’s generally recommended that for a gig you bring at least five pairs of extra drum sticks (so six in total).

Thankfully, drum sticks are affordable enough that either of the situations above are very avoidable. Just be sure that if you’re playing, you always have spares close at hand.

Also, different sticks work for different situations. Some drummers like to practice with heavier sticks to build strength and lighter sticks on the gig for speed and added endurance. It's good to have different kinds mallets and brushes in your stick bag too as those tones cannot be replicated by sticks. If you play multiple genres, it is not unheard of to use different sticks for different styles of music.

Best Drumsticks Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the latest edition was published on May 27, 2021.

There are a large number of options on the market so we ended up with 59 different sets of sticks, brushes and mallets on our short-list for analysis - you can see them in the Music Gear Database.

We collected feedback from over 32,800 sources that included ratings, reviews, videos and forum discussions about each option, including the latest data up to mid May 2021. We then selected the highest rated options in each category above to recommend and we used that information to report on the pros and cons of each one. For more information about our methods please see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alden Acosta Alden Acosta

A drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. When not researching gear he is learning to play bass.

As an experienced producer and musician, Alden loves to help fellow musicians find the right gear for the job. Aside from music, Alden's interests include: CS:GO and MLBB.

Contributors

Mason Hoberg: Supplemental writing.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Product research, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of the Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush, Ahead Signature Series Lars Ulrich, Promark MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallet, Vic Firth American Classic 5A and Vic Firth 5ADT Dual Tone 5A Drum Sticks/Mallets.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

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