The Best Wood Tip Drum Sticks
Vic Firth SDC Signature Series Danny Carey
- Not as durable as other similarly-sized sticks
- Too heavy for traditional jazz and other soft music - not an all-rounder
- Feels good in the hands - uniquely ergonomic
- Lots of controllable bounce - play intricate passages easily
- Excellent reach
- Inspiring club-like dimensions - meant for bashing
I love drumming. And that love extends to the interface between my hands and the instrument: the sticks. Like guitar strings, drum sticks are affordable enough to obtain different models and satiate my curiosity. I've tried all kinds. From gargantuan marching sticks, to light jazz sticks, orchestral 5B's and even heavy stainless steel practice sticks at one time!
This familiar old model of drumsticks has accompanied me on the stage many times. Unfortunately sticks never last forever and my original copy is now obliterated after a few rehearsals and rock shows.
My main experiences with drums are Highschool Marching Band, Rock Bands and Orchestra Pit for Musical Theatre, I see these sticks able to fulfill highschool marching band and rock situations quite handily.
The SDCs feature a unique curvature along the holding area of the sticks. This provides a uniquely satisfying grip that prevents any slippage without resorting to friction based rubber solutions that can tear up the hands. It's subtle enough to still feel close enough to regular sticks so you won't have to adjust your technique.
Danny Carey is an excellent drummer who plays loud complex music with his band Tool. If you've never listened to them and like cerebral, heavy, dark and loud music, they are one of the best.
I can see why he designed this tool (no pun intended) in this way. It has very good reach for far away drums and cymbals, and provides reassuring leverage to loud backbeats. In no way do these sticks sacrifice their ability to play intricately and with dynamics but they do make you want to play louder every time.
On the drumset, it beckons me to bash - make my worst impression of John Bonham or pretend I'm in Rage Against The Machine. I see these sticks being perfect for players who want to alternate between highschool marching band then play rock gigs after school.
I do appreciate the craftsmanship and thought put into these sticks, I wouldn’t main them unless I specialized in heavy forms of music such as heavy metal or outdoor mega concerts.
On a more critical note, these aren't the longest lasting big drumsticks I have tried. Although they invite you to rip on the drums, after a few shows they succumb to fraying and get pulverized at the contact point with the drum rims.
This gentle giant showing signs of pitting just after 30 minutes of "light test" use. These are not the most durable big sticks I've used.
Mad props to Danny Carey and the Vic Firth designers, this is a beast of a drumstick made for a beast of a musician.
The SDC are a great feeling set of drumsticks. These sticks make a loud, articulate sound with good definition on the ride cymbal when playing with the bead. Super loud backbeats are a cinch as well although they do tend to fray quite easily. If you play mostly rock and other loud genres, give your hands a rare treat with the Vic Firth SDC. I give this a 94 out of 100.
In addition to this drum stick review, I've also written a review of the Vic Firth High Fidelity Ear Plugs.
- Tip Material: Hickory
- Weight: 4.8 oz
- Diameter: 0.630"
- Length: 16 1/2"
- Taper: Short
|YouTube||The Real Howard Yates||96/100|
Vic Firth SBR Signature Series Buddy Rich
- Glossy finish is slippery when used with sweaty hands
- Uniquely large blended drum tip, neck, and shoulder provides added weight for enhanced power and durability
- Especially good for buzz and double stroke rolls
- Fast and light feel
- Great balance and rebound response
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 gives them a great balance and rebound response. They are dense and extremely durable, feel fast and light, and are especially good for buzz and double stroke rolls. The white paint finish also looks pretty cool.
I found the glossy finish of the sticks to be slippery for my sweaty hands. If your palms don't well up too much, this shouldn't be a problem.
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.
- Tip Material: Hickory
- Weight: 3.2 oz
- Diameter: 0.590"
- Length: 16.31"
- Taper: Long
Great Beginner Option
If you're just starting out then I strongly recommend starting with these sticks. They are used by professional drummers such as Daniel Glass, so they're not designed purely for beginners, but they have just the right weight and feel when you're starting out.
Vic Firth American Classic 5A
- Variances in weight, density and durability due to source wood
- A perfect middle-ground balance between weight and durability
- Articulate and bright cymbal response
- A smart jump-off point for beginners looking for their first sticks
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 makes 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.
I personally love the Vic Firth 5A's, and I'm sure that there are thousands of us out there. These, along with the 5B's from Vic Firth were perfect beginner drumsticks for me. In the middle-ground of drumsticks in terms of dimensions, you can quickly gauge your preference for big or small sticks. That's not to say these are sticks to be grown out of. My bandmate Lem Belaro who is a platinum selling drummer and songwriter refuses to change from his Vic Firth 5A's saying any other drumsticks give him nasty callouses. With these sticks, he can still play with power and they hold up for many, many gigs - Lem is a powerful and hard-hitting rock drummer by the way.
Because wood is an organic material that varies from season to season or even just from the part of the tree used, there will be 5A's denser, lighter and everything in between. Consider this when buying a pair of 5A's.
The Vic Firth American Classic 5A is a great set of sticks for those who want balanced weight and strength, landing a special mention in this list for its ubiquity and renown.
- Tip Material: Hickory
- Weight: 2.1 oz
- Diameter: 0.565”
- Length: 16”
- Taper: Medium
|YouTube||Sean Daudelin (drumdrumdrums)||87/100|
The Best Nylon Tip Drum Sticks
Nylon tipped drumsticks have a brighter sound on cymbals and last longer than wood ones. Be sure to get a high quality pair like the ones listed below as low quality nylon-tipped sticks tend to have their tips fly off at inopportune times. Also note that they have a slightly different response and feel than wooden tipped sticks.
Vic Firth X5AN American Classic Extreme 5A
- Variations in weight and density due to wood inconsistencies
- Nylon beads feel and sound different from wood tips
- 5A's with extra reach and leverage
- Comfortable size and weight not straying too far from the classic 5A
- Durable and high quality nylon tips
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, some of you might discover that you prefer 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.
The nylon tips of these sticks are durable, never fly off and resist chipping a lot more than wood. They also sound brighter on cymbals.
These have a very comfortable drum stick size and weight, and that the extra 1/2" of length makes all the difference in terms of reaching far away cymbals and drums while providing just a bit of extra leverage and power.
Like the 5A's and some other hickory-made sticks, due to wood inconsistencies its possible to get a weight, density and durability variant under the same model that is less than ideal. This is normal and you should keep that in mind. Buy more than one pair or select them in person if you can.
Also, nylon tips are not for everyone. They might be more durable and brighter on cymbals, but their rebound and impact-feel differ slightly from wooden tips and can feel a bit weird to someone (like me) who's been playing wood tips all their life... they'll take a bit of getting used to.
I see these working well for people who want to switch back and forth between louder and softer forms of music without changing their stick model. The nylon tips will ensure the beads last a bit longer while retaining a bright cymbal sound throughout its lifespan.
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.
- Tip Material: Nylon
- Weight: 3.2 oz
- Diameter: 0.565"
- Length: 16.5"
- Taper: Medium
Ahead Signature Series Lars Ulrich
- Due to unorthodox materials and design used, these feel heavier and generally different than wooden sticks
- Around 3 times more expensive than regular sticks
- Highly customizable and have interchangeable parts - futuristic and modern sticks
- Metal alloy core offers supreme durability
- Synthetic drumsticks provide 50 percent less shock and 10 percent more rebound
- High consistency between pairs due to not being made from wood
The Lars Ulrich Signature sticks are made of aluminum. They have replaceable covers and tips over an alloy core.
The manufacturer says this gives these synthetic drumsticks 50 percent less shock and 5 percent more rebound when compared to wooden drumsticks, I'll take their word about the precision of the figures for this because it didn't occur to me to do the measurement, but the general idea is true.
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. As an unfortunate tradeoff, these feel heavier than wooden drumsticks.
Also, they are more expensive than their wooden counterparts - fortunately metal sticks don't break unless you really try.
If you can afford the extra price for modern technology and play primarily heavy types of music, these might be the sticks for you.
- Tip Material: Nylon
- Weight: 2.29 oz
- Diameter: 0.595"
- Length: 16 1/4"
- Taper: Long
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
- Not a substitute for regular drumsticks or brushes
- Fragile and meant for soft playing
- Special effects brushes/sticks hybrid great for all kinds of soft, acoustic music
- Also works well on cajon
- Sensitive sound and play-feel with little chance of drowning out other instruments
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.
I appreciate the uniqueness of the Promark Large Broomsticks, both in functionality and sound. It's nifty how they work well both with regular drums and cajon, and they add a bit of quirk when using them with more quieter styles like jazz, blues and the like. 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 it's not really a substitute for either, more of its own special thing for special situations. Its too light to produce enough volume for amplified music unless your drums are miked up well. These are not meant to be played hard, as they tend to fall apart if you give them even a mild bashing.
If you're looking to expand you're sonic palette for acoustic music, and you're willing to take on something that plays and sounds distinct, then do check these out.
- Tip Material: Broomcorn
- Weight: 4.6 oz
- Diameter: 1”
- Length: 14.5”
- Taper: Not Applicable
Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush
- Angled part of the brushes make it hard for the wires to retract completely into the handle
- Angled bristles provide a smooth and buttery sweep
- Rubber finished handles have excellent grip and control
- Durable and long-lasting
- Excellent weight and feel to the exacting standards of Steve Gadd, one of the most influential drumset players
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.
He is my personal favorite drummer and I'm delighted that these made it on to our list.
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.
This also gives the brushes a smooth and buttery sweep. My old drum teacher used to teach us to bend the ends of the brushes by retracting them slightly then stepping on them! Vic Firth and Steve Gadd chose to do this old drummer's trick for you, making sure you get the perfect angle right out of the factory every time.
I appreciate the angled brush ends, which allow for creamy and never-ending legato sweeps that would be harder to get with regular brushes. There are also no questions about quality, in fact these brushes are bursting in quality from their bristles, rubber coated handles, to their adjustability.
They also use rubber handles which help to prevent your hand from slipping off the handle while playing.
I am very happy with my Steve Gadd brushes, they remind me of my favorite player and never fail to inspire me to play with attention and care. One minor gripe is that the angled part of the brushes made it hard for the wires to retract completely into the handle for storing in my stick bag. Leaving the bristles slightly out opens these to damage and can snag the insides of your stick bag. Not good because stick bags and brushes can be quite expensive to replace.
If you're looking for nothing less than the best wire brushes for drums, then get these from Steve Gadd and Vic Firth, a masterful pairing of two legends in the percussion universe.
- Tip Material: Wire
- Weight: Not Specified
- Diameter: 0.530”
- Length: Not Specified
The Best Drum Mallets
Mallets expand your tonal range by allowing for a softer attack than sticks but provide more impact than brushes. They also bring out the pitch note of your drums more and are the tools of choice for convincing cymbal swells.
Vic Firth T1 American Custom General
- Timpani mallets - not stick/mallet hybrids like some other models
- Expensive - especially if not used often
- Hand selected maple shafts and high quality felt beaters
- Not too hard or soft providing an extremely versatile mallet experience for drumset players
- Rich yet rhythmic sound
- Good balanced feel
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, not just for Timpanists.
You are able to get great floor tom tones and I'm pleased with the build quality of these mallets. The high quality felt material used in the beaters I would describe as not too hard or soft providing an extremely versitile mallet experience most drumset players (such as myself) can appreciate and use to great effectiveness.
Vic Firth himself was quite the accomplished Timpanist and this can be felt in the build quality and balance of these mallets.
Mallets can be a pricey investment, especially if mallets are rarely needed in your repertoire. But these mallets quickly make up for the cost the moment you pull them out and use them to get a sound that only mallets can produce. Unlike some models that double-up as drumsticks on the butt end, these are purely meant to be used as mallets albeit very good ones.
If you need all-around mallets for melodic tom passages to cymbal swells, these are a highly-rated, recommended option that deserve a place in your stick bag.
- Tip Material: Felt
- Weight: 1.44 oz
- Diameter:1. 5"
- Length: 14. 5"
- Taper: Medium
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 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.
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.
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. There are also plenty of different Types of Drums that require different sticks.
Length and Diameter
Why You Should Get Multiple Sets of Sticks
Best Drumsticks Selection Methodology
The first edition was published in 2017.
There are a large number of options on the market so we ended up with 56 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 44,200 sources (a 34% increase over the previous edition) that included ratings, reviews, videos and forum discussions about each set, including the latest data. We then selected the highest rated options in each category above to recommend. 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
I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. I also studied music for 6 years majoring in percussion and jazz studies with a minor in classical piano.
An avid drummer, I studied percussion and drumset performance for Jazz in college (undergraduate) and have played in a few situations such as orchestra pit for musical theatre, high school marching band and quite a few rock bands.
Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of the Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush, Ahead Signature Series Lars Ulrich, Promark PMBRM, 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, except for the SDC Pits photo which was taken by Alden Acosta.