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How to Tape Your Marching Drum Sticks

August 23rd, 2018 by Alex Howley

Taping your sticks is, somehow, way more complicated than anyone signed up for. Everyone in the drumline should do it the same way (but never does), has a different opinion on how it should be done, and the people who are "good" at it can't wait to let everyone else know.

"But the only reason we tape our sticks is to protect them from rimshots, right?" Well, kind of. I guess in the same way we only play our drums to make sound, we only tape our sticks to protect them. But like every other aspect of the marching arts, you've gotta learn to take a little more pride in your handiwork!

Believe it or not, there are actually some pretty well-sculpted opinions on how this should be done - only problem is, they're all totally different. Everyone is pretty sure they're right, but everyone can't be wrong, right?

Eh. I really don't think there's an objectively "best" way to approach taping sticks, even if saying that would cause some people to tape my mouth. I'll tell you about some of the ways I've seen people do it, though, and how, so you can decide for yourself what you like the best!

"How much of the stick should I tape?"

1. Full-Stick Taping

This one couldn't be more straightforward - you just give the whole stick a lathering of tape. Lots of drumlines choose this method for no reason other than how easy it is to make it look uniform.

All-white sticks are easy to make look the same across the line. Combine this with white drum sticks, like the Ralph Hardimon sticks from Vic Firth, and it gets even simpler.

Some people will argue that this method keeps the balance and response of your sticks the most similar to an untaped stick, since the weight is distributed evenly across the stick. I think tape makes your sticks feel different no matter what, but you can decide for yourself!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, taping the whole stick dampens your sticks the most, deadening the sound slightly. It's really hard to notice (at least to me), but it does technically leave the most exposed wood to resonate.

This method of taping adds more weight than only taping part of the stick - if that's not what you want, read on!

2. Playing Zone/Partial Stick Taping

The only part of your stick that really takes a beating is the part of the shoulder of the stick that actually hits the rim (and if it's not, you've got work to do!). The idea here is that you don't need to tape the sticks where your hands go, or any further than where the sticks hit the rim.

Some people do this because they believe it affects the sound of the stick less than taping the whole thing, while some just prefer the feel of holding wood to holding tape. Whatever the reason, this method is a little trickier to make look the same across the line.

That's because there's a ton of variation: some people tape from the shoulder right up to their bead, nothing more. Some only put tape where the sticks hit the rim, with no extra at all (although you'd have to be pretty great at rimshots for this to work for you).

Others tape further down the body of the stick, right to where your fingers touch the tape when you're drumming. On top of all of this, the butt of the stick is a whole separate decision - some don't tape it at all, while others put a single piece, while others still wrap all the way up to the back of their hand. Adding something to your drum sticks will affect the feel, balance, and sound no matter what - experiment and see what works for you.

How much tape should I be using?

1. "Single" Taping

The idea with this method is to get exactly 1 layer of tape uniformly down the stick, with as little overlap as possible. This gives you the protection of tape without making your sticks feel too bulky. It's the least protection tape can give you, short of not using it, but it will also feel the most like untaped sticks.

2. "Double" Taping

This method uses twice as much tape, but also offers twice as much protection. It's basically the same thing, you just wrap at a shallower angle and try to get exactly two layers of tape all the way down instead of just one.

You can also do "one and a half" taping, which is basically single taping but with a larger overlap, creating some slivers that have two layers of tape and some that have one. Some people think this is a good happy medium between protecting your sticks and not changing how they feel too much.

How should I actually tape?

Great hypothetical question, Alex's brain! The easiest way, I've found, is to:

  1. Start with the edge of the tape right under the bead of the stick, with the tape perpendicular to the stick.
  2. Wrap the tape around the stick one time, all the way around, until the sticky part hits the smooth part again.
  3. Start angling the tape down the stick while you rotate the stick, and stop when it looks like it's going to cross over itself. This step is key - you'll want to get the angle right to set up the rest of the stick (single-taped, RIGHT at the edge; double-taped, right at the little bump from the layer of tape underneath the top layer; 1.5-taped somewhere in between). Single-taped will be a steeper angle, and double-taped will be shallower.
  4. Follow the same pattern all the way down, until you get to a point where you want to stop.
  5. Wrap the tape around, perpendicular again, one time, then cut the tape with scissors for the cleanest look.
  6. Push the end of the tape down and make sure everything is sticking, then you're done!

 

What kind of tape should I get?

We carry a few different kinds of tape, each with their own pros and cons. Here are some options:

Lone Star Percussion 3/4" Wide Premium Drum Stick Tape

Affordable, simple, and better than electrical tape.

Shameless plug - this stick tape is super affordable, and at 19mm thick, it’s more durable than standard electrical tape you might find at a hardware store. One roll is 66 feet of tape.

Lone Star Percussion 3/4" Wide Premium Drum Stick Tape

Affordable, simple, and better than electrical tape.

Shameless plug - this stick tape is super affordable, and at 19mm thick, it’s more durable than standard electrical tape you might find at a hardware store. One roll is 66 feet of tape.

Shot Tape Stick Tape

A little more expensive for a whole lot of benefit.

This kind of tape costs an extra dollar or two, but it comes with all sorts of cool features. For one, you can get different colors, including clear. Two, it's thinner than electrical tape, but also more durable - meaning it affects the mass of the stick less while providing even more strength. Finally, it has a matte finish for easier grip and is significantly longer than a standard roll of electrical tape.

Shot Tape Stick Tape

A little more expensive for a whole lot of benefit.

This kind of tape costs an extra dollar or two, but it comes with all sorts of cool features. For one, you can get different colors, including clear. Two, it's thinner than electrical tape, but also more durable - meaning it affects the mass of the stick less while providing even more strength. Finally, it has a matte finish for easier grip and is significantly longer than a standard roll of electrical tape.

Promark Ameritape Stick Tape

Simple, straightforward, and long-lasting.

One roll of this is 108 feet, which can help you cover more ground without having to get multiple rolls of tape. The tape itself is pretty standard, so you can’t go wrong. This is a simple option that will last you a while.

Promark Ameritape Stick Tape

Simple, straightforward, and long-lasting.

One roll of this is 108 feet, which can help you cover more ground without having to get multiple rolls of tape. The tape itself is pretty standard, so you can’t go wrong. This is a simple option that will last you a while.



One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that you should probably re-tape your sticks as they wear down. It's best if you re-tape before the stick starts to chip or fray. When it comes to how you should re-tape, it's really up to you, but it will always look the best if you pull all the tape off and start from scratch.

Hopefully that was helpful for you, and you learned something new about a silly, but important, detail of drumline. How do you tape your sticks? Do you do it a different way? How many layers of tape do you put on your sticks? Let us know!




Alex started working here in 2015. He's a drummer, a producer, a Boston Crusaders alumnus, and a writer. These days, he makes all kinds of different music as a percussionist and an audio engineer.





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