How To Choose The Right Wood For Your Drumsticks
People have different goals of what they want to achieve with their music. Some crave speed, others desire a rich texture. Some wish to achieve the perfect tune, while others want a heavy sound. Many of these different aspects can be traced back to the type of wood used to make the stick, which I will expound upon in this hub.
This article applies whether you are trying to make your own stick from raw wood, going to the music store, or buying online. You can save money by not buying a bunch of random types and trying them out, by breaking them too easily, or using sticks too heavy and clumsy to perform delicate strikes with.
So let's begin!
Types of Sticks
Hickory is an all around, balanced wood to play with. From novice to expert, hickory sticks are the most common to see and probably will feel the most normal in your hands. The sound from them is not overly sharp nor overly sensitive. Beginners or those looking to play a variety of music styles should choose hickory sticks if they don't have an opinion.
For a sweet sound, maple sticks are your bag (or, if you are a female drummer, baguette). They are the lightest wood for sticks, so if you use them, you will probably feel on top of the world for being able to whip them around like a pro...until you break them. Maple sticks are made for light, smooth, sensitive music such as smooth jazz, cool r&b, folk, light pop so you will definitely wasting your money seeing how loud you can rock with them and -- snap! -- they are broken. They are easier to practice more intricate patterns and produce a more mellow sound.
Oak is letting people know that you are around! If you want to take out your frustration, use the hard and heavy oak sticks, as they won't break easily. I like to use the Japanese White Ash Oak sticks from Pro-Mark myself, as I feel little-to-no reverb back from the drum, a solid strike every time, and a great range of volume. They have great bounce back and momentum as well for those that are playing blastbeats.
Birch is much like Oak, but a step down in weight/density I feel. I have not used them very much, but they feel closer to the rock sticks oak are than other types of wood. Birch sticks are less prevalent in stores, and you may not be able to try them out as easily. If you are younger or have smaller hands, oak or birch sticks might be too heavy to start with for the endurance aspect.
S.Smith Bamboo Sticks
Bamboo sticks are called "rods" and actually fairly useful. These are not pure sticks, but a collection of bamboo rods tied together to function as a "stick". They are very low volume and I would not advocate practicing yourself with them on a practice pad or drumset. However, for low volume gigs such as coffee shop/small bar, church, indoor wedding, etc... they are quite useful. If you have a drumset in basement or something like that, and the other inhabitants do not wish to hear it, bamboo rods plus a little sound proofing might do the trick.
Dip and Metal
There are a few novelty sticks out there that non-musicians love but they are surely lacking if your goal in music is to express yourself/feelings. I don't use any of these but you are welcome to.
"Dip" sticks are hickory drumsticks that are dipped in plastic on one end to help you grip the sticks better. I feel the sticks are not weight balanced and do not feel solid in my hands so I don't waste my time with these overpriced novelties.
"Ahead" aluminum sticks look cool, but they do not produce a good sound and I feel produce too much reverb from the drum back into my hands. The stress release aspect of drumming is rather lost, which is a top reason why I play.
Wood! Huh! What is it good for?
The same characteristics explained above can be applied to the actual drums. Selecting the wood for your purpose in music can help rather than hinder your enjoyment of this wonderful hobby. Choose your weapon carefully, and go into battle with confidence knowing that you can give it your all and rely on your weapon!