The Best Drum Sticks
Vic Firth American Custom SD1 General
Vic Firth’s American Custom SD1 General Drum Sticks are a round tipped set that are great for just about everything, hence the “general” name. The cool thing about these sticks is that there’s nothing about them that’s going to hold you back. They’re not going to excel at everything, but if you’re looking for a versatile set of sticks you definitely can’t go wrong with these.
Part of the reason why these sticks are so versatile is that they have a tip with a small surface area and a (relatively) long length. The small surface area of the tips means that you’re transferring less force into your hits, so it’s easier to back off and get more subtle tones. Likewise, the long length allows you to dig in more for louder passages. The short taper makes playing faster passages easier, and because of the small surface area of the sticks you don’t lose as much control over your volume.
- Tip Material: Maple
- Weight: 2.4 oz
- Diameter: 0.635”
- Length: 16 3/8”
- Taper: Short
Reviews are full of drummers who appreciate the consistent quality control of Vic Firth for the many years that they've bought from them. This is true with the American Custom SD1, where owners are simply pleased with how good they are in terms of weight and playing feel. Many describe these sticks as having a good balance, weight and durability.
Some drummers report that the thin diameter of the SD1 feels uncomfortable to those with large hands, while others caution that hard hitters may easily break them.
Younger drummers and those with smaller hands will find the Custom SD1 to be just what they need for more control over their playing.
Vic Firth American Custom SD2 Bolero Wood
Vic Firth is known for being the first to mass produce sticks with round striking surfaces, and the American Custom SD2 Bolero continues this legacy.
Their round surface produces less volume, but allows for more precise control allowing you play dynamically without having to hit your drums hard, ideal or for styles such as jazz, orchestra and the like.
- Tip Material: Rock Maple
- Weight: 3.2 oz
- Diameter: 0.635”
- Length: 15.75"
- Taper: SD2
Satisfied drummers love how they can play accurately and dynamically while keeping the volume low. They are also happy with the taper, with a thick grip yet light overall weight.
There are a few who caution that these sticks break easily, but this is more of a physical limitation of design, they're not really meant for hard hitters.
Here's a great set of sticks to have for musical styles and situations where articulation and accuracy are more important than volume.
Zildjian Artist Series Tre Cool
The signature stick of Green Day’s Tre Cool is a great choice for any drummer looking for a great punk and/or rock sound. These sticks work excellently for genres with hard, driving rhythms.
The main strength of these sticks is their short taper. While the taper isn’t stated on Zildjian’s website, they’re definitely on the shorter side when compared to some of the sticks we’ve already featured. A short taper produces a “front-heavy” feel, which makes it easier to play loud and to play quickly. This is also helped by the sticks’ 16 1/2” length.
- Tip Material: Hickory
- Weight: 2.4 oz
- Diameter: 0.625”
- Length: 16 ½”
- Taper: Not Specified (Appears Short)
These are a no brainer for fans of Green Day's Tre Cool, and a favorite of many who play similar punk rock music styles. Young drummers and students are well represented in positive reviews, most of them are very happy with how easy this stick plays. There are many reports from those who use these on electronic drums with good results.
There a few who question stick longevity, but they are far outnumbered by those who are satisfied with the amount of use they got from their Tre Cool sticks.
If you're looking for punk rock friendly drum sticks, then this should be high in your list.
Promark TX515W Joey Jordison Signature
As the name implies, this stick is co-designed by Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, with a slim neck and a full round tip. This profile is designed to provide drummers with sticks that have good articulation and rebound, while having enough durability and projection for Jordison's style of heavy rock playing.
Although it does not have any impact in performance, Promark added an interesting spin on this signature model, by adding Joey's actual blood into the red ink used on the signature. Thankfully, only trace amounts of blood is used so we don't have to worry about Joey's blood pressure even with so many being sold.
- Tip Material: Hickory
- Weight: 2.0.9z
- Diameter: 0:551”
- Length: 16”
- Taper: Not Specified
Owners of these sticks are happy with the weight and balance, which many describe as perfect for the heavy hitting requirements of modern grunge and rock styles. They're also commended for being durable, be it for use on acoustic or electronic drums.
These sticks are not meant for low volume applications, you may want to have a separate set of sticks for that. There are some who report stick breakage earlier than they expected.
Whether or not you're a fan of Slipknot, the Promark TX515W Joey Jordison Autograph will make a good addition for drummers who hit hard and play rock music.
Honorable Mention - These are the Most Popular Drumsticks
Vic Firth American Classic 5A
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.
- Tip Material: Hickory
- Weight: 2.1 oz
- Diameter: 0.565”
- Length: 16”
- Taper: Medium
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 stick 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.
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.
The Vic Firth American Classic 5A is a great set of sticks for those who want balanced weight and strength.
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
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.
- Tip Material: Broomcorn
- Weight: 4.6 oz
- Diameter: 1”
- Length: 14.5”
- Taper: Not Applicable
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.
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. There are also a few who note that these are not meant to be played hard, as they tend to fall apart.
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
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 namesake 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.
- Tip Material: Wire
- Weight: Not Specified
- Diameter: 0.530”
- Length: Not Specified
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.
The price may be on the higher side for some, but most of those who bought it are very happy with their investment.
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 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.
- Tip Material: Felt/Hickory
- Weight: Not Specified
- Diameter: 0.565”
- Length: 16 1/8”
- Taper: Medium
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.
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.
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
Promark’s MT3 Multi-Purpose Felt Mallets are made from Shira Kashi Oak, which as covered below 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.
- Tip Material: Felt
- Weight: 4.2 oz
- Diameter: 0.6”
- Length: 14.25”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Best Drumsticks Selection Methodology
This guide was first published on October 23, 2017 written by Mason Hoberg and the latest major update was published on February 18, 2020 written by Alexander Briones with contributions from Mason Hoberg.
Even though we restricted our search to those that are widely available from major American online music gear retailers, we still ended up with a not-so-shortlist of 66 sets of sticks, brushes and mallets (see their ratings in the Music Gear Database). We then examined each one, and the many ratings, reviews, recommendations and discussions about them, including the most recent feeback up to February of 2020. We ended up gathering over 14,400 sources, all of which were then processed via processed via the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 that we used to rank them within three categories: Drum Sticks, Drum Brushes and Mallets. We then selected the highest rated options in each of these 3 categories to recommend. For more information about our methods please see How Gearank Works.