For a drummer, drumsticks are extensions of your hands. Allowing you to express all of your creative ideas loud and proud. Finding sticks you like should be easy. But in actuality, sticks differ in material, size, weight, shape, durability, and so much more.
Whether you’re looking for your first pair of sticks or looking for a change from your old standbys, there’s something for everyone and then some. In this article, though, we’ll help break down the world of drumsticks from which are the best to which will simply break!
So, join us on our search for the very Best Drumsticks, starting with the…
Top 10 Best Drumsticks in 2023
1 Vic Firth “American Classic 5A” – Best Standard Drumsticks
Over 50 years ago, Vic Firth, as a professional drummer, wanted better sticks than he could find. So he simply started his own company! Fifty plus years later, Vic Firth sticks are known worldwide, and the company makes over 300 different models of sticks.
Yes, just one company…
In looking for the all-round best sticks for all-round drummers, we chose one that’s more or less quintessentially Vic Firth – the American Classic 5A.
These sticks are made from pale hickory for great durability and strength. They are a standard 16” long and have a diameter of 0.565”. For a 5A stick, this is slightly fat for a 5A but really doesn’t feel unusually heavy.
In terms of shape, these sticks offer a medium-length taper of about 2.5”. This puts them right in the middle between an attacking and a rebounding stick. Combined with the material and dimensions, these sticks are very much all-round sticks, more or less in the middle of everything.
A little different and a little more…
One thing that really stands out about these sticks is the tips. They’re teardrop-shaped, rather than oval, as you may have expected. It’s only a slight difference from oval, but the teardrop shape gives the stick more surface contact for richer cymbal and tom sounds.
One more thing to point out is that these sticks are well-matched and finished. Fine sanding and thin lacquer provide a great feel to these sticks. The pair we tried matches perfectly in grain orientation and weight. It’s obvious that these pairs are hand-matched with care.
- Very standard for size, weight, and wood.
- Excellently matched for weight and grain.
- Nothing to complain about – this is a great all-round stick!
2 Vater “Los Angeles 5A” – Best Heavy Drumsticks
At roughly the same time, Vic Firth started making sticks, so did the company that would eventually become Vater.
In fact, Vater manufactured Vic Firth sticks through the 1980s! But lately, Vater has pushed its own brand, producing numerous all-around sticks. As well as putting out lots of custom designs for big names in drumming.
So how does a 5A pair from Vater measure up against Vic Firth sticks?
The Los Angeles 5As are the same length and only ever so slightly thicker than the American Classics. They’re also both made of good old American hickory. They’re roughly the same price, the Vic Firth’s just a bit more expensive.
While similar they may be, there are definitely some crucial differences to mention.
A big difference in weight…
The Los Angeles 5As are significantly heavier than the Vic Firth sticks. Of course, their diameter is a touch bigger, but this is likely due to moisture content.
Vater tends to produce sticks with high moisture content (before it’s sealed in by lacquer). As a result, the sticks less brittle. But it sure does make them heavier!
A shorter taper…
At just about 2” of taper, the Los Angeles sticks are more forward and attacking. With that added weight, these sticks are aggressive and strike loud and hard. Thunderous – we like that!
The oval tips and forward weighting give an overall fast response and clear sound on cymbals and drums. We’d recommend these sticks for medium-heavy rock and hip-hop styles – maybe that’s what the LA in their name suggests?
- Strong and durable.
- Forward, loud, bright attacking sound.
- Heavy for a medium-diameter 5A stick.
3 Soundking 5A Drumsticks – Best Lightweight Drumsticks
At this point, it’s a good idea to remind you how we do things. For this article, we ordered ten different kinds of drumsticks (two pairs each, just in case). Then bashed away with them on two very different drum kits.
We set up a heavy 5-piece rock kit to smash the heck out of. And, a light jazz 4-piece with lighter cymbals to see how each set of sticks took to the task.
A real let down…
After trying out Vic Firth and Vater 5As, both very standard and all-round durable, quality sticks, Soundking’s 5As were very different.
These sticks are made out of oak, so at the same length and diameter as the Vater sticks, these are much lighter. They have a medium-short taper, just between the length of our first two sticks reviewed. Therefore, these are a bit of forward-heavy sticks.
The tips are round ovals in shape. This gives the sticks more attack than our previous two pairs. This leads to a brighter, cleaner sound on toms and a fairly “pingy” sound on cymbals. All in all, they sound decent and feel well-balanced.
One major complaint…
These sticks simply couldn’t stand up to the battering we gave them. Even on our jazz kit, we saw early chipping in the tips and shoulders. But rocking out on our heavy playing kit, we managed to snap two of the four sticks within half an hour!
Clearly, something’s wrong here – we suspect inferior quality oak if it really is oak at all. Clearly not the Best Drumsticks, but surely one of the cheapest.
- Light-weight for the diameter.
- Cheap – half the price of the Vic Firth and Vater sticks.
- Very poor durability – the chips went flying!
4 Pocket Stix “11-inch 5A Maple Drumsticks” – Best Small-Sized Drumsticks
A real wildcard!
The Pocket Stix catchphrase “The Drumsticks That Fit in your Pocket” shouts out from their advertisements and piqued our curiosity. Though they seemed like just a gimmick set of sticks, we still wanted to try them out.
Well, not sure about you, but we don’t usually have 11” pockets (get your mind out of the gutter – we’re SERIOUSLY just talking about pockets here!) in our pants. Still, these 11” sticks are short, very VERY short.
They’re for kids, right?
Well, we’re not so sure about that. They are made from maple and are therefore relatively lightweight. That might be a good idea for beginners. But, at the same time, they’re the fattest sticks we’ve reviewed yet! Although they’re only 0.6” in diameter, they’re awkwardly fat for being so short.
To give you an idea of how weird that would be, if they were 16” long, they would have a diameter of 0.87”. That’s very nearly an inch!
How do they handle real drum kits?
The basic answer is that these sticks are too short and too awkward to do much of anything with. Yes, they have a medium taper and a nicely-shaped acorn tip, which leads to complex, darker tones. But, it’s nearly impossible to sit normally at a kit and hit anything with these sticks!
We’d like to see a “pocket-sized” stick be a lot thinner and better-balanced. That way, you could at least whip them out anywhere and tap on tables and thighs.
In short, these sticks are just too short!
- Decent wood and nice enough sound.
- Way too short to be used on a real drum kit!
5 Zildjian “Super 7A Maple Green Dip” – Best Jazz Drumsticks
Legendary cymbal maker Zildjian has been making percussion products for nearly 400 years. Knowing how they want cymbals to sound, it seems only natural that the company should branch into sticks (get it, branch!?).
However, this only happened very recently when Zildjian took over Vic Firth in 2010.
So Zildjian sticks are really Vic Firth sticks. Or vice versa?
Now we chose these sticks for a reason. We’ve looked so far at standard sized sticks; now it’s time to look at some of the most common varieties out there. We already looked at pocket-sized sticks without much success. But here, we have a thinner, lighter stick with a grip.
Now that’s something different…
These 7A sticks are thin at 0.525”, but that’s actually slightly thick for a 7A. That diameter is added to ever so slightly by two coats of Zildjian’s proprietary green “DIP,” which also back-weights the sticks somewhat.
Even with a medium taper, these sticks are super bouncy.
So what about that dip?
We’re not entirely sure what it is, but it feels like a slightly rubbery paint that provides an excellent grip. It’s subtle but definitely makes a difference in handling.
These sticks have round ball tips and ping and bounce off cymbals oh so easily! They’re very distinct, but not as bright as you might expect, probably due to the maple absorbing some of the blow.
All in all, these sticks handled really well on a jazz set. But on our rock set, they lacked the oomph to set the cymbals blazing.
- Perfect level of added grip.
- Bouncy and fun to play in a jazzy style.
- Large for a 7A, but lightweight.
- Too light for most types of rock.
6 RockStix “2HD 7-Color 5B” – Best Novelty Drumsticks
Material: polycarbonate, etc.
Polycarbonate drumsticks? LED-light-up technology? These sticks need some explaining!
RockStix really intrigued us immediately. These sticks measure up at 16” long and 0.600” in diameter. They have a medium taper and somewhat acorn-shaped tips. But that’s where the similarities to any other kind of stick you’ve ever played on ends.
Yes, this is another gimmick stick like the Pocket Stix (different brand, same manufacturer). But this one is actually a really cool idea. These polycarbonate sticks are hollow, making room for interior strings of LED lights.
That’s right; these sticks light up.
But there’s more…
Rock Stix makes single-color sticks as well, but the 7-Color sticks are extra special. That’s because every time you strike a playing surface, the stick changes color!
Furthermore, playing with two sticks, sometimes in and sometimes out of sync, makes for one heck of a light show. Of course, these sticks look best at night, or at least in low lighting situations.
How do they sound?
Polycarbonate is harder than wood and, like nylon-tipped sticks, creates a very bright sound on your kit.
Though these sticks are a fairly normal weight, they’re quite back-heavy due to their batteries. Ironically, this actually helps pull back from some of the “pingy” sound and forward attack that could overwhelm any nicer tones.
A superb choice for the encore…
However, we had an issue playing heavily on our rock kit. The bottom casing came flying off! Although we were able to stick it back on with no apparent damage, we’re suspicious about the durability of these sticks. But used sparingly, like in a dramatic final song, they’re bound to wow!
- Really cool!
- Decent sound and feel for plastic sticks.
- Durability is questionable.
- Expensive. Double the price of regular sticks.
7 Promark “FireGrain Classic 5A” – Most Durable Drumsticks
Material: heat-tempered hickory
Promark is yet another well-known brand for drumsticks made by D’addario, the super-well-known instrument maker. For this article, we already had an affordable Promark stick to stack up against the others when we suddenly saw them – the FireGrains!
Heat-tempered to produce a durable outer surface, they remind us of something..? Ah, that’s it! The Japanese “shou sugiban” technique of torching the surface of construction timber to bring out the grain and actually improve durability and fire-resistance.
Well, we didn’t try to light these sticks on fire. Although, we did burn it up on our two test kits.
What was the result?
These sticks look great and sound great, too! At a normal 16 inches, they’re a bit thin (0.551”) for 5As. They have a medium taper and an oval tip. Thus, making them quite playable for both heavy and light styles of music.
We heard some nice warm tones on our drums, and the cymbals sounded nice, not too bright and not too dark.
Well, that heat-tempered surface does two things. First, the grain is brought out of the wood, which provides a “natural” grip that doesn’t slip even in sweaty palms. And second, the tips seemed to be somewhat more durable than untreated hickory.
Most of the sticks we bashed around with showed at few dents afterward, but not these. It’s hard to say whether the extra cost of these sticks, however slight, will add much to their overall lifespan.
Maybe they are the Best Drumsticks. Or maybe they’re worth buying because they look so cool!
- Well-balanced, good sounding sticks.
- Heat treatment provides an enhanced grip.
- Somewhat more expensive than regular sticks.
8 Promark “LA Special 7A” – Best Value for the Money Drumsticks
Length: 15 3/8”
Here’s our original Promark selection, something to directly compare with the Zildjian 7As on our list. Although, LA Special is actually a discount brand made by Promark, which is made by D’Addario.
Isn’t modern business confusing?
Incredible price point…
We weren’t confused about anything when we ordered up these sticks, except for the price. At easily half the price of regular Promark sticks, we had to wonder, “What gives?”
The answer is that LA Special is the discount brand stamped on to sticks that don’t pass Promark’s superior quality control tests. Does that mean these are inferior sticks that are bound to break?
What we learned…
According to their brand’s explanation, these sticks weren’t 100% perfectly straight or perfectly matched in size, weight, and grain. That’s what our testing discovered as well.
Of the two pairs we ordered, one seemed really evenly matched in all regards. In the other, the sticks looked identical in size, but one was noticeably heavier than the other.
They still played really well, though. These sticks are thin, even for 7As, but weighty enough due to being hickory and only having a medium taper. The oval tips made these into quite normal sticks.
To compare directly with the Zildjian 7As, these sticks are far less bouncy and provide more muted warmer tones. They weigh about the same, but the Zildjians are much more back-heavy.
Great for more delicate drumming…
Neither really did well on the rock kit, but with finer styles of playing, these “Promarks” worked just fine.
- Good feel and medium sounding sticks.
- Not bad for half price!
- Pairs are not perfectly matched by weight, size, and grain if that matters to you!
9 FF “Elaine Maple 2B” – Best Budget Drumsticks
Ready for something totally different?
So far, we’ve had a look at some high-quality brand name sticks, short and light-up gimmick sticks, and discount brands. Why not scrape the bottom of the bargain barrel for a comparison?
These Elaine Maple sticks were hands down the cheapest sticks we could find out there. Four pairs still cost less than a standard pair of brand name sticks. So, guess how well these sticks held up to punishing blows.
Just to be on the safe side, we chose FF’s 2B logs, er, sticks to play around with. These things are massive, but not actually as heavy as you might expect. They’re made from maple, after all.
Or are they?
Playing in a light, jazzy style was basically a no-go with these sticks. With short tapers and strangely-pointed oval tips, these are designed to attack.
Onto the rock kit we went and – oops – it took just five minutes to snap the head clear off one of these things. One of the remaining three sticks broke, and the other two were badly chipped after just 20 minutes of heavy playing.
At the same time, they sounded OK. We got warm, dark tones out of the cymbals and nice responses from our drums.
- Incredibly cheap!
- Big and thick, but decent-sounding for heavier musical styles.
- Too big for gentler styles, and not much rebound.
- Way too easy to break – not worth it!
10 GripStix “15-inch Non-Slip Drumsticks” – Best Grip Drumsticks
Since we’ve tried all the other gimmick sticks out there, except for flaming sticks, why not try a special grip stick?
GripStix offers up a few versions of their Non-Slip Drumsticks, and they’re definitely not going to be accused of false advertising. These sticks are only 15” long and ½ an inch in diameter, but the rubberized grip adds to that somewhat.
This slightly textured rubber sleeve over the brightly lacquered maple sticks is absolutely non-slip – to the point of being a problem.
A grip that sticks…
For doing work that requires loosening your grip or changing it slightly, you need to be able to change your hold on the sticks quickly and smoothly. But with this rubber grip, there’s no movement at all. Your fingers stay put, and sweat makes no difference either.
Now, if you’re a heavy-handed, straight-ahead smasher, these GripStix (or perhaps their heavier 16” hickory model) might be for you. But for the rest of us, these sticks are really hard to use and generally uncomfortable.
A gimmick that falls flat…
Their acorn-shaped tips actually create nice full cymbals tones. And the grip definitely pushes the balance back to the grip. But at the same time, the stickiness of the grip makes any sort of detailed work more or less impossible.
It seems that these sticks are not really designed for drums but “Poundfit” style exercise classes.
Well, there’s a place for everything!
- Decent sound from cymbals.
- The grippiest grip you’ll find short of glue!
- Pricey considering the quality.
- Too grippy for most styles of music, and too light for heavy styles that might need grip.
Best Drumsticks Buying Guide
Sticks are never, ever just sticks. From construction material, to size, to shape, to special features, drumsticks vary wildly. Let’s take a look at how each of these features can contribute to stick performance and help you choose the best sticks for your style.
Most drumsticks are made from hickory and for good reason. Hickory sticks are strong, dense, durable, and shock-absorbing but also heavy. They can tire you out faster, especially if you prefer thicker diameters.
Oak is as strong and durable as hickory, but about 10% lighter. It doesn’t absorb shock as well, though, which might not make this a good option for real heavy hitters.
Maple is up to 15% lighter than hickory, flexible, and absorbs shock well. On the downside, it chips more easily and will break faster.
These days, 16” long is an industry-standard. Kids and shorter drummers find 16” sticks too long and heavy. They have to choke up on them, and that ruins their balance, so shorter sticks would be better.
Diameter is a delicate balance between weight and grip comfort. Unfortunately, stick numbering is confusing and not standardized. Generally, larger numbers represent thinner sticks, while A sticks are slightly thinner than B sticks. So 7A sticks are thin, while 7Bs are slightly heavier, especially in relation to 2B sticks, which are nearly clubs!
Generally, thinner sticks are for more detailed, dynamic work, and big, thick sticks are for heavy-hitting loud rock styles.
From the start of the tip back to the start of the full diameter of the stick is called the “shoulder.” If this zone tapers off quickly, we say the stick has a short taper. This would make it a forward, attacking stick that’s tip heavy for loudness and sharp strikes.
A longer taper moves the stick’s balance back to the grip. This allows the stick to bounce more easily and is well suited to jazz and other styles with lots of cymbal work.
The tip shape is important for two main reasons; sound and durability. Rounder (ball, barrel shapes) tips have less contact with the surfaces you strike, making for more attack and punchier sounds.
Flatter or elongated tips (teardrop, acorn shapes) give more contact, bringing out darker, richer tones from drums and especially cymbals. Oval tips give a good middle-of-the-road sound.
As for durability, the rule is this – the smaller your tips, the weaker your sticks. Also, angled tips like acorns will be more likely to chip than smoother oval tips.
All sorts of grip-coatings exist to help you when your hands get hot and sweaty. Just remember, a coated grip is great for heavier hitting but can be a hindrance for rolling, bouncing, and changing your grip on the fly.
In general, heavy hitters choose thicker hickory sticks with short tapers and flatter tips. Lighter, more detailed work might require thinner, lighter sticks with rounder tips, possibly in maple or oak.
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What are the Best Drumsticks?
There are so many combinations of shape, weight, size, and material out there to choose from, not to mention gimmick sticks. But if we put our hands and minds to it, our choice for best the drumsticks really isn’t all that hard.
…might be the best jazz drumming sticks. The RockStix was definitely the coolest thing we’ve seen lately. But for the price, feel, sound, and all-round playability, we chose a classic.
The best of the best is, therefore, the (drumroll, please)…
These sticks have a lot to offer almost anyone in almost any style of music – see for yourself!
There you have it.
With nothing left to say, we’ll just beat it.