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A Guide to How Drum Stick Design Affects Your Sound

April 24th, 2019 by Jonathan Hobbs

In an ocean of different stick options, it can be challenging to know what you're actually looking for. What could possibly justify manufacturers making this many different drum sticks?

Turns out, a lot - every little detail of a drum stick can change its sound and feel. Some things change the way the stick responds pretty dramatically, and other details are much, much more subtle, but at the end of the day, every part of a drum stick affects its ideal usage.

That's why this guide exists! We'll look at each part of a drum stick and how its shape, material, weight, and more affect your sound on the drums. We'll look at each of the following:

  1. Bead Type
  2. Length of Taper
  3. Wood Type

Your Stick's Bead/Tip

Regardless of if you call it a tip or a bead, the end of your stick that makes contact with the head can be shaped in all kinds of different ways. These different shapes all have a different effect on your volume, articulation, and overall sound. We'll look specifically at the difference between an acorn-shaped bead (sometimes called a teardrop), a round bead, and a barrel-shaped bead.

Acorn Bead

One of the most popular designs out there, this shape gives you an even balance between projection, cymbal definition, articulation, and response. The combination of clarity and depth of tone makes this bead type very versatile, which is why it comes on a lot of "general use" sticks, such as a 5A or 5B.

Round Bead

Round tips tend to be a little bit smaller, with more stick definition and overall articulation than an acorn tip. This bead type provides a lot of clarity, as well as a bit of extra rebound, making this design popular for light and fast styles like jazz or concert snare drum. That said, you'll see it in other, more high-energy styles as well that demand a lot of fast response, including marching drum sticks.

Barrel Bead

Barrel tips feel similar overall to a round tip, but the increased surface area of the longer bead helps provide a slightly drier cymbal sound, as well as more tone and depth from your toms and snare, than a round tip provides.

Nylon Bead

Nylon tips can come in any shape a wood type would come in, and the differences between the shapes remain the same. That said, a nylon tip provides more durability and a lot more articulation than a wood tip alternative.

Your Stick's Taper

The taper of a stick is the part just below the tip/bead where the stick gets larger moving toward the middle of the stick. The taper has a very subtle affect on your sound, but it does play a vital role in determining the overall feel and rebound of your sticks. This is an important consideration that can still affect your sound and how fast you can play!

Short Taper

Short tapers result in sticks that feel front-heavy, which can help you really lay into each stroke when you're playing. You won't get as much rebound as you would with a longer taper, but it can also occasionally provide a little bit of extra tone and punch from each drum.

Long Taper

Long tapers make your sticks feel back-heavy, which gives you a faster and more energetic rebound, as well as a slightly lighter and more articulate response overall than a shorter taper.

Medium Taper

A medium taper is the middle ground between a short and long taper, which gives you an even balance and tone on each drum. If you're not sure what kind of taper you want, this is always a safe bet, as medium tapers make for versatile sticks overall.

Your Stick's Diameter

The diameter of your stick is the overall thickness of the stick. This will affect the overall feel and weight of your sticks, along with the type of wood. A larger diameter will offer more punch, projection, and tone, at the general cost of sensitivity and subtlety at low volumes. This is popular for heavier genres like rock or metal, as well as in marching bands and drum corps, where sticks tend to have a very large diameter. Smaller diameter makes for a lighter response and sound, as well as a little bit of extra rebound, making this more well-suited to lighter, faster styles of playing like jazz.

An Intro to Your Stick's Wood Type

The final consideration for you to make when you're shopping for a new pair of sticks is the wood used to make them. The type of wood used for your sticks affects feel and durability far more than it affects sound, but there is still a change in tone. There are a lot of different wood types, but we'll look at three of the most popular.

Hickory

Hickory is far and away the most popular wood used for drum sticks, because it's very durable without being crazy heavy. This wood type is extremely versatile and can work for just about any kind of drum stick. This is also the standard wood choice for marching drum sticks.

Maple

Maple is a softer, squishier wood than hickory. Sticks made of maple tend to be much more lightweight, and provide a generally more sensitive sound. This wood type is popular for lighter styles.

Oak

Oak is heavier and harder than hickory. This wood type is popular for heavier styles, because it has a more aggressive response with much less flex, and the added weight can dig some extra tone out of a drum.

That's About It!

This guide is designed to help you answer any questions you may have about why sticks are made the way they are, but if you have any more questions, don't hesitate to call or email us so we can help you find the perfect sticks. And be sure to let us know what your preferred sticks are down in the comments!

Jonathan started working at Lone Star Percussion in 2013. He's been playing drums for about 13 years, and is our resident cymbal expert. He's a big fan of playing jazz and regularly plays for musicals.



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