The Right Stick for the Right Job: Choosing Drumsticks that are Best Suited for Your Style of Playing

By Victor Salazar

Drumsticks are one of a drummer's most vital tools. They're our direct connection to our drum kit. Without the right drumstick, many drummers can't play comfortably or to the best of their abilities.

Over the years, I've spoken with drummers - from beginners to pros - who've had issues with their drumsticks. Either they were experiencing cramps in their hands or their drumsticks were literally flying out of their hands because they were unable to hang onto them while drumming. Interestingly, many of these drummers only experienced these situations during live performances. And in almost every situation, it turned out that each drummer was simply using the wrong size stick. Once they chose the right size stick, all of their problems disappeared.

A lot of drummers select sticks based on how fast they can play with them. Many of us want to blaze around the kit displaying dazzling single stroke rolls. So it would seem logical to select the lightest drumstick with the least amount of size/weight in order to play with maximum speed and agility, correct?

Not necessarily.

The main reason why you may have hand cramps is because you're using a drumstick that's too thin and light for your playing style. The harder you hit, the more relaxed your grip should naturally become. This will prevent injury and allow the stick to absorb more of the impact. However, if you play hard with a thin and light drumstick and try to loosen your grip, one of two things usually occurs: either you develop a cramp or you lose the ability to hold onto your stick.

You can't hold a thin stick in a loose and comfortable manner and play hard: it's physically not possible, and the result will be drumsticks that will fly out of your hands. Conversely, if you try to hang on tightly to a light and thin stick while you play hard, you'll quick develop cramps.

The best solution is to select a heavier and larger drumstick: you won't have to grip it as tightly and it won't go airborne on you. You'll also be pleasantly surprised that you won't lose speed/power/accuracy despite the increase in mass and weight.

In terms of why drummers have specific problems that only happen in a live setting, it's because many drummers unknowingly morph their playing approach. Their adrenaline surges, their blood pumps, and they reflect the crowd's energy by hitting harder than they normally do during rehearsals and practice sessions.

That's when the glitches kick in, and as you can imagine, playing live is the worst time for things to go wrong with your performance. Heavier sticks offer a solution to these common problems.

To see if heavier sticks are right for you, try this experiment: when you're trying out new sticks on a practice pad, try a model that's a little heavier than you think you need. You'll be surprised to learn that you'll be able to play with authority, ease, and plenty of speed/power. Your sticks will also probably even last a bit longer (saving some green is just an additional bonus of using the right drumsticks).

(BTW, Dave Grohl drums hard, plays with speed, and almost never seems to miss where he's hitting. While in Nirvana, he used Aquarian Power-Sleeve 2Bs, a durable, heavy drumstick. Today, he still uses a large stick, his Zildjian Dave Grohl Artist Series model, which is well-suited for his raucous style.)

Should you have any questions or need specific advice regarding your stick decisions or dilemmas, feel free to reach out. I'm always here to help!

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