Different Types of Drumsticks: Ultimate Guide

Different Types of Drumsticks - Ultimate Guide

Drumsticks are the most important tool any drummer can have. You can’t play a drum set without them, so it’s vital to play with the most comfortable size pair for you. 

One issue that often comes up for even experienced drummers is just how confusing the drumstick naming conventions are. You just have numbers and letters, and those mostly describe the features of every stick. 

In this guide, I’ll break down everything you need to know about drumsticks. We’ll look through the letters, numbers, sizes, weights, and tips, and we’ll also look at a few alternative types of sticks to use on the drum kit. 

After reading through this, you’ll have a better understanding of how drumsticks work, and you’ll be able to make a more informed buying decision when choosing drumsticks. 


We’ll start with learning the anatomy of drumsticks. They have four parts, and each part plays an integral role in how the sticks feel when using them. The numbers and letters typically tell you the aspects of these parts, so you need to know what they are. 


Different Types of Drumsticks - Tip

The tip of the stick is also referred to as the bead. It’s the uppermost part of the stick, and it’s what you use to hit the drums and cymbals.

The tip affects how the drums and cymbals sound when you hit them. It also affects how the drumstick feels when you’re playing. However, it doesn’t have as much of an effect on that compared to the other parts of the stick. 

Also, the tip will affect how the cymbals sound more than the drums. Overall, it’s not as important of a factor as the taper or shaft, as most drummers are happy with using all the tip types. The exception is with nylon, which we’ll get to later.


Different Types of Drumsticks - Taper

The taper is the part of the stick underneath the tip. It’s thinner than the rest of the stick, but different sticks have varying taper qualities. Some are thin and long, while others are thick and short. 

Long tapers give you more rebound, while short tapers give more power with less rebound. Medium tapers fall somewhere in the middle, and they’re the most versatile. 

The longer the taper, the less durable the stick will be. Typically, drummers who play lightly prefer sticks with long tapers. Short tapers are good for hard hitters. 


Different Types of Drumsticks - Shaft

The shaft is the longest part of the stick. This is where you’ll find the most variety when it comes to weight and thickness. It’s also where you’ll be holding a stick, so it has the biggest impact on how comfortable it feels to use.

Shafts also have different lengths depending on what kind of drumsticks you get. Sticks with longer shafts are generally thinner, while thicker shafts make the sticks feel heavier. 


Different Types of Drumsticks - Butt

The butt of the stick is the end piece on the opposite side of the tip. It has the least impact on how a stick feels to use, and its thickness will depend on the shaft. 

Drumstick Sizes

The size and feel of drumsticks are what you should be looking at when buying a pair. While the numbers and letters are the best tells, there are a few other aspects to check out as well. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Different Types of Drumsticks

Most drum brands use the same naming conventions for their sticks. They’ve been used for decades, so they’ve become the easiest way of identifying stick shapes and sizes. With that being said, the sizes may differ slightly from brand to brand.

Vic Firth 2B Drum Sticks Size

Here are the most common types of drumsticks available: 

  • 5A – Standard sticks with medium weight and length. 
  • 5B – Slightly thicker and heavier than 5As.
  • 2B – The thickest drumsticks available. 
  • 7A – Much thinner and lighter drum sticks than 5As. 
  • 7B – Slightly heavier than 7As. 
  • 8D – Longer than 7As. 
  • 3A – Longer than 5As. 

There are a few other unique sticks that you’ll find from certain brands, but those are the ones that most stick brands offer. They’re universal, making them easily accessible. 

Drumstick Weight

The weight of a drumstick affects how much volume you get from the drums. With heavier drumsticks, you won’t need to put as much energy behind your strokes to be heard. If you do put plenty of energy, you’ll get stacks of volume, which will be great for heavy music. 

That’s why rock and metal drummers typically gravitate toward thicker sticks like the 5Bs and 2Bs. They’re ideal sticks to use within heavy music settings and they are more durable

Lighter sticks give you less volume, but they allow you to play with more finesse and technicality, which is ideal for styles of playing like jazz drumming.

Jazz drummers often use light drumsticks as they produce a delicate, lighter sound. You also don’t need as much power behind your strokes when playing jazz, so 7As and 8Ds are some of your best options

For something in between those two extremes, you can’t go wrong with the classic 5A drumsticks or 5B drumsticks. If you want a bit more volume and power, the 5Bs will be perfect. 

Drumstick Length 

How long are drumsticks? Most range from around 15” to 18”. The most common size you’ll find is 16”. 

Drumstick Length VATER Hickory Timbale 7/16 Inch

While most drummers are happy with 16-inch sticks, you may find that longer sticks feel a bit more comfortable in your hands. They give you more reach, and they allow you to place your drums and cymbals slightly further out. 

Longer sticks are also good for drummers who like to hold them with a bit of the shaft sticking out the bottom of their hands. 

Other drummers find long sticks quite uncomfortable to use. So, if you’re not sure what to get, sticks that are 16” will be the safest pick. 

Drumstick Materials

Sticks are made from various types of materials, and these materials also affect their weight and feel. While most sticks are made from wood, there are a few unique ones with different materials offered by a few drum brands. 


Hickory is undoubtedly the most common type of wood used for drumsticks. It’s the standard option, and most drummers love how hickory sticks feel.  

Hickory sticks are fairly balanced in their weight, and they have medium strength. They’ll naturally break after frequent use, but they’ll last quite long before getting to that point. 

When looking for a pair of drumsticks, you’ll find that most of them are made from hickory. Vic Firth has stated how 85% of their sticks are hickory, and that gives you a clear indication of how popular the wood is for drumsticks. 


Drumstick Materials - Oak

Oak wood is a lot denser than hickory. This makes oak drumsticks feel a lot harder and heavier. They feel very solid in your hands, and you get amazing cross-stick sounds from the snare drum with them. 

With the wood being denser, oak sticks are also more durable. They’ll last a lot longer over time compared to hickory drumsticks. 

They’re mostly used by heavy-hitting drummers, as their thicker makeup caters well to loud playing. The drawback of oak sticks is that they’re a bit harder on your forearms and wrists. 


While maple is incredibly common with drum sets, it’s not near as popular with drumsticks. However, maple sticks are amazing for the fact that they’re a lot lighter than most other sticks

The cool thing about maple sticks is that you can get thicker ones like 5Bs if you like how they feel in your hands, but they won’t be as heavy as hickory or oak 5Bs. 

Maple sticks are excellent for drummers with a lighter touch, meaning they’re a great choice for jazz drummers. Just don’t use maple sticks if you’re a heavy drummer who needs plenty of volume from your kit. 


Some companies make aluminum drumsticks, with the idea behind them being that they’re almost indestructible. If you don’t like the idea of drumsticks breaking, aluminum sticks will sound like a fairly attractive idea.

However, these sticks are not for everyone. They don’t have the same responsive feel as wooden sticks, as the vibrations don’t flow as smoothly through them when hitting the drums. 

They’re typically used by metal drummers, with Ahead being the main brand that offers these. They’re the kinds of sticks that you need to try out, as you’ll either love or hate them. 

Drumstick Beads/Tips

Drumstick Beads - Tips


There are several types of tips you can get on drumsticks, with most of them being made from wood. Wood tips give you the most natural sounds from the drums. Most drummers also think they feel better compared to nylon tips. 

The shape of a wood tip affects how it feels. It also slightly affects how it sounds, more so on the cymbals than on the drums. 

The less surface area of a tip that hits the drum, the more articulate the sound will be. Tips with more surface area hitting the drums produce less defined sounds. However, the difference is not massively noticeable, so it’s better to choose a tip type for its feel rather than the sound it produces. 

Here are the most common types of tip/bead shapes: 

  • Arrow tip
  • Barrel tip
  • Round tip
  • Teardrop tip
  • Oval tip
  • Diamond tip
  • Acorn tip


Nylon tips are hard plastic tips, and they have a teardrop shape in most cases. The nylon tip produces a brighter sound while playing your cymbals

However, they have the added benefit of durability, considering that nylon doesn’t chip away as wood does. Some nylon tips will occasionally fly off the sticks but that’s usually a design flaw in the specific pair of sticks that you have. 

You should try nylon tips out to see if you like their unique sound on cymbals. If you don’t, there are plenty of wooden tips to choose from. 

Different Drumstick Types

Different Drumstick Types

Signature Sticks

Signature drumsticks usually break the mold of what standard drumstick sizes represent. These sticks are made by drum brands in collaboration with drummers to create unique sticks that combine different qualities. 

For example, you could have a 5A stick with the length of an 8D stick, but it may also have the thickness and weight of a 7B. You’ll find all sorts of combinations like this with signature sticks, and they’ll have the drummer who made them’s name and signature on. 

Signature sticks are also a hit-or-miss kind of thing. They were designed to fit a certain drummer’s preferences, and your preferences may be very different. However, they may just be the perfect sticks that your hands have always been searching for. 


Brushes are most commonly used by jazz drummers, but they have their place in other styles of music as well. They’re unique types of drumsticks that have a handle and metal wires. Those thin wires protrude out the handle, and then you can pull them in to keep them protected when you’re not using them. 

The thin wires hit the drums and cymbals and produce light tones. Jazz drummers also heavily utilize drum brushes by gliding the wires against the snare drum in a circular motion to get that iconic washy sound. 

Most drum brush designs are fairly standard across different drumstick brands, and the difference between various options will be the thickness of the wires. The thicker the wires, the more volume you get. 


Mallets are most often used by orchestral percussionists to play things like xylophones, marimbas, and bass drums. However, drummers also frequently use mallets to play cymbal swells and lighter notes on the drums

The mallets used for orchestral percussion instruments are usually quite hard at the top, whereas drumstick mallets are a lot softer. They don’t have any attack when you play them on the drums

Some have thick handles like 2B sticks, while others have smaller ones for lighter playing techniques. Some brands use the same naming conventions for their mallets. So, you’ll get the same feel as a 2B stick, but it will just have a large felt tip instead of a wooden one. 

Rute Sticks

Rute sticks are also used when the sounds from standard drumsticks are too loud. They have a bunch of thistles tied together, and they can either be made from wood or plastic.

Wooden rute sticks tend to break quite easily, so most professional drummers opt for plastic ones. 

Rute sticks are often preferred over brushes in non-jazz settings, as they feel more like regular drumsticks than brushes do. This makes them feel much better to play if you’re not requiring the washy tones that brushes can give. 

Unique Combination Drumsticks

These are sticks that don’t fall under any single category. Drumstick brands are always trying to innovate and put out products that are very useful, and this often results in drumsticks that are a combination of a few different types. 

A very common example is to have standard drumsticks with mallet felts at the butt. These allow you to play cymbal swells a lot easier than if you were to put the sticks down and pick up a pair of mallets. They’re an essential type of stick for every musical theater drummer to have. 

Another example is standard sticks with brushes at the butt. These aren’t as practical as the previous ones, but they can certainly be utilized quite well in specific settings. 

Wrap Up

When you understand how drumstick sizing works, it will be a lot easier to pick a pair out that you think may work for you. Thin and long sticks may be the best fit, or short and thick ones could fit your heavy playing style. 

The best thing to do is to try them all out at a music shop. You’ll definitely feel when something just sinks into your hands and gives the impression that you were supposed to be using them this whole time. That’s how drummers end up with their favorite drumsticks.

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