Buying drumsticks can become one of the most difficult parts of drumming if you don’t find the best drumsticks for you. The sticks you use affect everything from your comfort to your sound—and of course, there’s always the question of durability as well.
This article is designed to help you weigh the pros and cons of some of the best drumsticks out there, to help you find both the best drumsticks across the board and the best drumsticks for your personal style. Armed with the knowledge in this article, you won’t find yourself wasting money on replacement sticks as often, and you can focus on taking your playing to the next level and performing at your best every time.
Best Drumsticks of 2018
|5AN||12 Pair||Classic Hickory Drumsticks|
|16-3/8" long||4 Pair||595" diameter, wood tip|
Travis Barker Signature
|Ahead Tommy Lee||17"||1 Pair||Precision alloy core|
Super-hard polyurethane cover
|Vater||5B||4 Pair||Denser, heavy hickory sticks|
Absorb shock & prevent fatigue
|Ahead Lars Ulrich||16.25"||1 Pair||Innovative stickmaker's limited edition|
Lars Ulrich Scary Guy signature
While this article is going to go into a lot of detail about the important characteristics of each of the top five drumsticks I’ve chosen to review for you, this table is the place to keep things simple. Here I’ve listed the most important factors in the decision of what drumsticks to buy—which drumsticks will be best for you.
You can use this table as a rough guide to the rest of the article, and also refer back to it when it comes time to make your decision and get a set of one of the top five drumsticks on the market for yourself.
Vic Firth – Best Drumsticks Brand
The American Classic is one of Vic Firth’s most popular drumstick models.
Versatility Above All
When I ordered these sticks for testing, I was excited to use them in a variety of settings. The American Classic drumsticks are designed for versatility, rather than being specially designed for a specific style of music.
I used these for practice with a few different bands I played with and utilized them at a show in a small jazz club and a much louder show at a local punk club. I was impressed with the sticks’ ability to adapt to a wide variety of situations.
The versatility is great for musicians who are interested in playing a wide variety of musical styles. They’re also great for beginners.
However, some musicians may want a more specialized drumstick suited to a particular music style.
I can confidently recommend these sticks to almost any musician because of their balanced approach that suits itself to a wide variety of musical styles. They’re durable and versatile enough for experienced professional musicians, while they’re also easy-to-use and affordable enough for younger and beginning drummers too.
Zildjian – Best Rock Drumsticks
His extremely creative and often very fast drumming style, combined with his precision and stage presence, has made him one of the biggest superstars in the drumming world.
I’ve also always admired his ability to fluidly move from genre to genre, as he is known for rock and hip-hop drumming, as well as a few stripped-down acoustic songs.
Built for Speed and Accuracy
These are some of the most durable sticks I’ve played with, especially considering their low weight. These are perfect for fast and hard playing styles, from marching band applications to punk rock, but are well-balanced enough to suit themselves to a variety of musical settings.
The visual design of the drumsticks is also really cool. Their white design stands out, especially in darker rooms.
Is Making a Mark Always a Good Thing?
That being said, there is a downside to their bright design, though it doesn’t bother me too much. The white coating on the drumsticks sometimes rubs off on drum heads or cymbals.
It’s easy enough to clean off, but over time may change the look of your kit.
Ahead Tommy Lee – Best Brand of Drumsticks
These strong sticks are made for durability and weight.
From the moment these sticks arrived, I could tell they were of extremely high quality. Even the packaging for these sticks was clearly made with serious care.
Push It to the Limit
That being said, their optimized weight can be really great, especially for less experienced players or those who are not that professional yet in drumming.
These drumsticks are just perfect for you to use regularly, they might be a great practice tool, in that they can help you develop your strength and speed.
Strong and Loud
I used these for a rehearsal and a gig with a punk band I play with, and I have to say that they’re great for coaxing punchy, strong sounds from your kit.
Their durability is also clear from the moment you put them in your hands—from the weight to the texture of the polyurethane cover, you can immediately tell that the Ahead Silver Series sticks are built to last.
One thing that gave me pause while ordering these sticks for testing was their considerably higher price than a lot of other drumsticks on the market. While it’s not my goal to find the cheapest products, I do like to consider my readers’ budgets.
I know many of you are beginners, and that even if you’re more experienced, you might not be able to invest a significant amount of money in these sticks.
I can recommend these sticks to anyone who can confidently handle their ergonomically designed handle. I’d especially recommend them to professional musicians on tour because of their durability—these won’t let you down in the middle of a gig or in the back of the van.
I also recommend them to newer musicians who want to quickly develop their skills, and last but not least to those who want the best volume and punch. These are perfect for marching band members, as well as hard rock and orchestral musicians.
Vater – Best Beginner Drum Sticks
Hickory is a medium-weight wood that many drummers praise for its combination of durability and versatility.
Before playing with these sticks, I inspected them visually for a while and felt them in my hands. I could tell before I even sat down at my kit that these sticks are solidly constructed, and made with durability and balance in mind.
Balance and Composure
I could also tell immediately that the wood was of a high quality, with a tight grain that’s sure to improve durability without increasing the weight.
When I finally got to play with these sticks, I was impressed.
Weight vs Durability
While they are a bit heavier than most hickory sticks, which may give pause to some users, they earned their slightly higher weight with their truly amazing durability. I played my first pair for several rehearsals and gigs before finally wearing them down—and there were still three additional pairs in the pack I bought.
I can confidently recommend these sticks to any musician who can handle their very slightly higher weight. Their size is perfect for me, and their durability and crisp, clean sound are truly impressive features as well.
Ahead Lars Ulrich – Best Quality Drum Sticks
While many other drumstick manufacturers seek to simply make a high quality product that often fits a fairly standard design plan, the company Ahead is known for its more innovative products, one of which is this signature pair of sticks from Metallica drummer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Lars Ulrich.
Value Above All
If you’ve been playing drums for any time at all, you know wood sticks break. I’m not talking about tips wearing out or sticks getting marked up—no amount of innovation can change those things—but about sticks cracking or completely snapping.
This happens to everyone, but especially to marching snare players and drum kit players who rely on heavy rim shots and cymbal usage.
While it is technically possible to break an aluminum stick in this manner, it’s much less likely. While these sticks do cost quite a bit up front, it will be a very long time before you have to replace them.
When the tips wear down, Ahead offers replacement tips in your choice of material at a very reasonable price point: close to two dollars or so for a pair of tips if you buy in packs of ten or more. The same goes for the sleeves that surround the aluminum for comfort and grip.
Do the Math
To decide whether these sticks are right for you, you may need to do some calculations. They are a good deal more expensive than wooden sticks, and there are upkeep costs associated with them.
That being said, the sticks themselves will last much, much longer than traditional wooden sticks. How often do you break or wear down your wooden sticks?
How much do you pay for these wooden sticks compared to the price of Ahead’s aluminum sticks and replacement parts? These are things you’ll have to think about.
Tower of Power
These sticks truly pack a punch and are great for musicians in marching bands and metal or hard rock groups who really want to make themselves heard.
That being said, the loudness and enhanced durability do come at a cost: these sticks’ weight is pretty high. Some musicians, especially those who are not as experienced or physically strong, may have difficulty handling these sticks, especially for very long playing sessions.
These sticks are not made for beginners—though they may make a great practice tool for boosting your strength even when you’re just starting out.
I recommend these strongly to confident, experienced drummers, or to anyone who wants to increase their strength or is especially concerned about durability and the constant replacement costs associated with wooden sticks.
Finding the best drumsticks for you can be a tough job, and it’s even harder if you don’t have a complete and full understanding of everything that goes into a drumstick. This section of my article on the top five drumsticks on the market breaks down some of the key factors that make these drumsticks great—and will help you decide which of them will best suit your personal musical style.
What are Signature Drumsticks?
Signature drumsticks—and other signature instruments and accessories—are endorsed by a particularly popular or respected artist, who has applied their “signature” to the drumstick.
Sometimes the artist actually has a hand in designing these sticks, while in other cases the sticks are simply approved by the artist after their design.
In my list of the best drumsticks, there are two signature drumsticks.
The Zildjian Travis Barker Signature Drumsticks are the signature drumsticks of legendary rock and hip-hop drummer Travis Barker, who is known best as the drummer for pop-punk band Blink-182 and a frequent collaborator with many hip-hop artists.
His signature drumsticks from Zildjian are designed to complement his fast, frenetic playing style.
The other signature drumsticks featured in this article are the Ahead Lars Ulrich Signature Drumsticks, the signature sticks of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, known for his aggressive, loud, and rhythmic playing style.
While any stick is certainly acceptable for any form of music, the stick does affect the sound and feel of your playing. The same is true of signature sticks—the drumsticks match the musicians’ personalities and artistry.
If one of these styles or drummers appeals to you, then the corresponding signature drumstick might be a great choice for you!
What do Drumstick Sizes Mean?
Drumstick sizes can be mystifying to new drummers and are even confusing for a lot of experienced musicians. This is because a lot of information is contained in a single letter and number, and it can take some work to decipher it.
Two of the drumsticks featured in this article, the Vic Firth American Classic and the Vater Hickory Drum Stick, are available in a variety of sizes.
The Zildjian Travis Barker Signature Drumsticks, Promark GNT Giant Drumsticks, and Ahead Lars Ulrich Signature Drumsticks, on the other hand, come in specific measurements that are part of these drumsticks’ unique designs.
While size is not an indication of quality—there are great and not so great drumsticks available in almost every size you can think of—the size does matter a lot to the user.
How Do I Find Out What Size is Right for Me?
Finding your ideal drumstick size is an important part of becoming a great drummer. I’ve known plenty of beginners that have had a lot of troubles picking up the drums until they got the right size stick for them, and even quite a few very talented and experienced drummers who got much better simply by switching up their sticks.
To make your journey into the wild world of drumstick sizes a little easier, let me break down the sort of secret code of drum sizing: the number and letter that follow a drumstick pair’s name.
The letter designates the stick’s overall size and the angle of its taper from its full width at the butt to its thinnest point at the tip. Rather than representing specific measurements, the letter represents a purpose the stick was designed for.
- A—Orchestra: These sticks are smaller and lighter than most, and can be used to play dynamic and intricate beats. They were originally intended for play with orchestras and big bands. However, they are also popular with many jazz, hip-hop, and punk players for their great handling and speed.
- B—Band: Band sticks were originally designed for larger bands, such as symphonic orchestras and brass bands. They are thicker than orchestra sticks, but still fairly light. They focus on durability and versatility and are often cited as a great beginner stick. They are also popular with many rock and blues musicians because they can be played quickly, but also quite loudly.
- S—Street: These are the largest standard sticks, designed for marching bands and drum corps who needed to project a large amount of volume in outdoor spaces. In addition to being the best choice for marching players, they are favored by metal and hard rock musicians for their toughness and volume.
The number is a standard measure of the circumference. Rather than giving you a specific measurement, the number is intended to give you an understanding of the thickness of a given drumstick compared to other drumsticks.
The lower the number is, the higher the circumference, and vice versa. Generally speaking, the largest circumference you’ll encounter is indicated by a 2, while the smallest is represented by a 7.
The circumference of the stick determines its weight and durability. The thicker a stick, the stronger and heavier it is.
Really, finding the right size is all about personal preference. Just as faster or less experienced players may prefer A sticks to S ones, they might also prefer 7s to 2s for their lightness.
On the other hand, marching band and hard rock musicians may favor thicker sticks for their volume and durability.
How Much Do Materials Matter?
The materials used in a drumstick’s construction are very important. To break things down further, let’s look at two different parts of the drumstick—the body and the tip.
The material used to make the tips of drumsticks generally have a significant effect on the sound, while not affecting durability too much.
Generally, tips are divided into two types of material: wood and nylon. If a tip is a wood, it is generally (though not always) made of the same wood as the rest of the stick.
Nylon tips are also more durable in most cases—though the quality and craftsmanship of a given drumstick matter just as much as if not more than the material.
The material that the rest of the stick is made of will primarily affect weight and durability, rather than sound. While the weight certainly changes the range of sounds and volumes that you can get out of a particular drumstick, this has as much to do with handling as with anything else.
Remaining conscious of the weight of your drumstick is just as important as the weight itself when it comes to sound.
However, you will get used to a particular weight, and switching up your drumstick material could throw off your game. Like the perfect size, the perfect weight of drumstick varies from person to person.
You’ll have to find what you’re most comfortable with.
That being said, drumsticks made of lighter material are generally a bit cheaper than similar quality drumsticks of heavier material—so don’t worry too much if your physique or your musical style lend themselves more to a lighter drumstick. It’ll all work out, and quality and comfort are the most important things.
The most common drumstick materials are hickory, oak, and maple. Maple is extremely light, while oak is much heavier.
Hickory is a nice middle ground between the two and is, therefore, the most common material.
If you need to play with a lighter touch or very fast—such as in a folk or jazz setting—maple might be the better choice. Oak, on the other hand, is great for marching band, orchestra, and metal or punk settings.
Many players use different material sticks for different performances or even switch sticks between songs while playing with a group.
Also, many drummers I know recommend practicing with heavier sticks than you’ll actually use to perform. This helps you build your strength—and strength is a huge part of drumming well.
Conclusion: The Best Drumsticks Are…
Choosing the best pair of drumsticks from this list—and therefore the best drumsticks on the market right now—wasn’t easy for me, because I truly love all of these sticks. Ultimately, it came down to a combination of personal preference and what I believe will have the widest appeal.
Why Are These Sticks the Best?
I found these sticks to be the best for two reasons: their versatility and their durability.
Their durability is extremely high relative to their weight, which is only slightly higher than average. This is due to the high-quality hickory used in their construction and the honest craftsmanship of their design.
Their versatility, on the other hand, is the feature that really shines to me. They are heavy enough for all the loudness you need but are light and easy to handle enough to do some truly quick and complex work as well.
While I do believe these sticks are the best across the board, and that they’ll have the widest appeal, they may not be the best stick for you. I’ve got an important honorable mention ahead that may be much better for those taking a more specialized approach.
The Best Sticks for Playing LOUD!
Drums are not a quiet instrument in any setting. Even the quietest electronic drumkits produce some serious noise.
Between their aluminum construction and their size, these sticks pack one of the biggest punches out there. These are perfect for musicians who often play outside or with very large bands, such as drum corps and marching band members, and can also bring all the aggression that heavy metal drummers want.
The Best Sticks for the Value-Conscious
Drums are an investment, and the cost of upkeep, accessories, and drumsticks isn’t low. However, for the value-conscious drummers reading this article, I have to recommend the Lars Ulrich Signature Drumsticks yet again.
While it’s important to do some calculations and make sure you go through enough wooden sticks to justify the higher upfront cost of the Lars Ulrich Signature sticks, I believe most people will save a lot of money in the long run by purchasing these.
What If I’m Value-Conscious But Prefer a Lighter Stick?
Most importantly, please remember to try a variety of sticks, especially the top performers featured in this article. That’s the only way to find the pair that’s perfect for you.
Thank you so much for reading my article. I hope it helps you find the perfect drumsticks for your budget and musical taste—and that it helps inspire you to keep improving your playing.
Have you tried any of the drumsticks on this list? Do you think I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below.