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The best drumsticks 2021: wooden and synthetic drumsticks for pros and beginners alike

The best drumsticks 2021: wooden and synthetic drumsticks for pros and beginners alike
(Image credit: Future)

You've got your drum kit and you've chosen your cymbals. Now you need the next link in the percussive chain - drumsticks. They're one of the most important tools in a drummer’s arsenal - the main point of contact with your beloved gear - and they have a real impact on the way you play. 

If you've got the right drumstick in your hand, it should feel like an extension of your arm, so choose carefully. And if you're not sure where to start, fear not; the drumsticks in this guide include options for every style and budget.

The best model for you will be determined by a number of factors: the genre of music you play, the hardness with which you hit your gear and your overall budget will ultimately dictate which drumstick is right for you. 

Nearly all drumstick brands – including the ‘big five’ of Vic Firth, Vater, Zildjian, Regal Tip and Promark – offer a similar range of standard models, which are great starting points. Most will agree, for example, that a well made 5A model is the best drumstick for rock. 

The good news is that drumsticks aren't that expensive, unless you go for some of the more exotic synthetic sticks, so you can reasonably affordably invest in a few pairs to experiment...

Best drumsticks: everything you need to know

Most often, wooden drumsticks are made from hickory. This medium weight hardwood is a trusted, durable material, while alternative woods such as oak and maple obviously offer different weight and density.

For even more durability it might be worth trying sticks made from still-tougher materials such as aluminium or graphite. This added strength reduces the need to regularly replace drumsticks, but inevitably costs more on a one-off basis.

Cheaper budget drumsticks, commonly made from B-grade hickory, come in at a fraction of the price of premium sticks, and are well worth considering. Even if these aren’t your go-to a-grade stage model, it’s worth grabbing a few pairs of budget sticks as back-ups in case of mid gig or session breakages. These are often more than good enough drumsticks for home practice or kids, as well.

Drumstick terminology explained

So that’s the overview; now let’s run through the terminology to help inform your purchase of the best drumsticks for you. When searching for your next pair of drumsticks, you’ll see a number of key words used to describe features: thickness, length, taper and tip.

  • Drumstick thickness has an impact on the overall weight of the stick, and how it feels in your hand. This translates to playing comfort and the amount of power you can unleash on your drums and cymbals. Generally, thicker sticks are more durable, too. Length dictates the potential reach you have between your hands and your drums and cymbals.
  • The taper is the part that gets increasingly thinner towards the tip of the stick. 
  • Taper length impacts how the stick feels to play. Longer, thinner tapers promote faster, lighter playing, but these sticks tend to be more fragile.
  • Stick tips come in all shapes and sizes, in nylon and wooden guises. Each style extracts a different sound from your your drums and cymbals. Ball tips tend to elicit more precise, articulate sounds, especially when it come to cymbals. Acorn tips are fuller and warmer. For the best of both worlds, we’d recommend an oval tip. Nylon tips produce more attack than wood tips.

For something as seemingly simple as buying a pair of drumsticks, there’s actually plenty to chew over. But ultimately, the best approach is to visit your nearest drum shop, feel a range of sticks in your hands and give them a play. You’ll soon home in on the right model for you. 

Now let's take a look at some of the best drumsticks available from the likes of Vic Firth, Promark, Vater and more...

The best drumsticks to buy today

Best drumsticks: Promark Hickory Junior Wood Tip

1. Promark Hickory Junior Wood Tip

The best drumsticks for kids and younger drummers

Price: $15.67/£11.90/€13.94 | Stick material: Hickory | Length: 13” | Diameter: .531" | Tip: Oval

Shorter length for younger players
Made from durable hickory
Versatile oval tip
Ideal balance and rebound

When younger players start learning to play the drums it’s important that they use a drumstick that feels comfortable and manageable in their smaller hands. Full-size sticks can be too long and heavy, making them difficult to control. This can impact technique and, at worst, put off aspiring young drummers before they’ve had a chance to develop fundamental skills and start enjoying the drums. 

At a pint-sized 13”, Promark’s Hickory Junior Wood Tip sticks are the best drumsticks for kids. They’re shorter than standard models, promoting a more comfortable, natural feel, while a medium taper helps deliver an even balance and rebound, meaning key techniques are picked up quickly. The oval tip is ideal for extracting a well-rounded, warm tone from the drums, no matter what style is being played.

Best drumsticks: Vic Firth Nova 5A

2. Vic Firth Nova 5A

The best drumsticks for drummers on a budget

Price: $8.94/£6.79/€7.95 | Stick material: Hickory | Length: 16” | Diameter: .565” | Tip: Tear drop

Much cheaper than regular sticks
Weight and pitch-matched
Versatile tear drop tip

Drumsticks might be one of the cheaper purchases for drummers, but if you play regularly and find you break a lot, the cost of replacements soon mounts up. Vic Firth’s Nova Series sticks are made from B-grade hickory, which helps reduce the cost, but they’re no less playable than premium sticks. 

As with all Vic Firths, Novas are weight and pitch-matched before they leave the factory, so each pair is guaranteed to feel balanced in your hands. At a fraction of the price, it’s even worth keeping a few pairs in your stick bag as back ups in case you run out of your first-choice sticks. In addition to the 5A model, Vic Firth also offer 5B and 7A Novas in a number of different colours.

Best drumsticks: Vater Manhattan 7A

3. Vater Manhattan 7A

The best drumsticks for beginners

Price: $13.78/£10.47/€12.27 | Stick material: Hickory | Length: 16” | Diameter: .540” | Tip: Round

Manageable dimensions
Vater is renowned for quality
Smaller round tip for articulation

If you’re a full-size human coming to the drums for the first time, it’s vital that you choose a drumstick that gives you the best in feel, length, balance and power as a solid starting point. Then, as you develop, you can start exploring different models that suit your particular playing needs. 

The 7A size doesn’t feel too big in the hands and is light enough to help you master key techniques early. Vater’s Manhattan 7A is the perfect example of this. It’s a premium quality stick that feels comfortable to play, with a small round tip for neat and defined cymbal playing. In fact, it’s such a versatile drumstick that you may never need to play another model. Vater offers this stick with wood or nylon tips.

Best drumsticks: Vic Firth American Classic 5A

4. Vic Firth American Classic 5A

The best drumstick for playing rock music

Price: $12.74/£9.68/€11.34 | Stick material: Hickory | Length: 16” | Diameter: .565" | Tip: Tear drop

The rock drummer’s favourite
Vic Firth is known for stick quality
Unrivalled durability

Playing rock music requires drummers to deliver plenty of power and attack. To achieve this, a solid starting point for any rock drummer is a 5A model stick, and there’s no better example than Vic Firth’s American Classic 5A. These sticks are universally acknowledged as the best for rock, offering decent length, a medium taper for added strength and substantial diameter for the average drummer’s hands. 

The tear drop tip delivers a potent combination of attack and warmth, helping everyone from softer players to hard hitters coax bombastic tones from their drums. Each stick is coated with a smooth lacquer, which improves comfort and aids grip when your hands get sweaty during long periods of playing.

Best drumsticks: Promark Shira Kashi Oak 7A wood tip

5. Promark Shira Kashi Oak 7A wood tip

The best drumsticks for playing jazz

Price: $23.04/£17.50/€20.50 | Stick material: Japanese oak | Length: 15 ⅜” | Diameter: .512” | Tip: Oval

Shorter length and lightweight, ideal for jazz
Japanese oak is dense and long-lasting
Oval tip helps produce darker tones
Great for cymbal articulation

Hickory is the most common drumstick material, however there are plenty of alternatives worth considering. Shira Kashi Oak is dense and heavy – both great attributes for cymbal articulation – making it a great choice for jazz drummers. Japanese oak is also known for its durability, so these Promark sticks should last longer than hickory alternatives if treated with respect – we’re big fans of this considering the higher price. 

The shorter length and reduced diameter of the Shira Kashi Oak model enables the player to inject greater nuance and dynamic into their drumming, whilst retaining a feeling of balance and control in the hands. At the business end, the oval tip helps extract a darker, warmer tone from your drums.

Best drumsticks: Ahead Classic 2B

6. Ahead Classic 2B

The best drumsticks for hard-hitting heavy metal drummers

Price: $42.11/£31.99/€37.48 | Stick material: Aluminium/nylon | Length: 16” | Diameter: .595” | Tip: Oval

Most durable sticks out there
Ideal for metal drummers
Replaceable sleeves and tips
Vibration control

If you’re a heavy metal drummer who finds you’re constantly breaking drumsticks, you may need to explore alternative materials to ensure there’s nothing getting in the way of you and your blastbeats. Ahead is known for making extremely durable drumsticks, built around an anodised aerospace-grade aluminium core, and finished with durable polyurethane covers and ‘unbreakable’ nylon tips. Inside each stick you’ll find a vibration reduction system to help absorb the shock of heavier playing.

Ahead’s 2B model feels substantial in the hands and is perfectly balanced to promote powerful playing, whilst being light enough to pull off faster beats. Ahead claims their sticks last up to 10 times longer than wooden drumsticks, which takes the sting out of the higher price tag.

Best drumsticks: Meinl Stick and Brush Hybrid 5A sticks

7. Meinl Stick and Brush Hybrid 5A sticks

The best drumsticks for modern players

Price: $17.90/£13.60/€15.93 | Stick material: Hickory | Length: 16.25” | Diameter: .565” | Tip: Hybrid

Designed for modern drummers
Unique Hybrid tip design
Longer stick for enhanced reach

Modern drummers don’t really subscribe to one particular style anymore, encompassing everything from rock and pop to hip-hop and dance music, often within the same track. As such, they need a stick that can handle the demands of diverse and dynamic drumming. Meinl’s Stick and Brush is a fairly new brand on the scene, but the company is renowned for its forward-thinking approach to percussion products. 

Their new Hybrid model sticks – including 5A, 5B and 7A models – feature a unique Hybrid tip which starts life as an acorn shape, before being trimmed down to a barrel, enabling dark and smooth cymbal articulation, while the extended length and taper make these sticks ideal for fast fills and intricate grooves.

Best drumsticks: Zildjian Artist Series sticks

8. Zildjian Artist Series sticks

The best brand for artist series sticks

Price: Various | Stick material: Hickory | Length: Various | Diameter: Various | Tip: Various

Large range of artist models
Designed directly with your favourite players
Options to suit your individual style

Cymbal giant Zildjian has a huge artist roster, which includes everyone from Dave Grohl and Ringo Starr, to Dennis Chambers, Travis Barker and Josh Dun. Many of their artists also play Zildjian-branded sticks, which says a lot about the quality and diversity of the drumsticks they offer. 

Delve deep into the Zildjian artist drumstick line-up and you’ll find multiple gauges, tip-types and colours to suit your individual tastes and needs. It’s worth trying out the stick of your favourite drummer first, but who knows, maybe you’ll discover the perfect stick bearing the name of a drummer you’d never considered before? It's worth a shot.

Best drumsticks: Regal Tip Nylon Series sticks

9. Regal Tip Nylon Series

The best nylon-tipped drumsticks around

Price: Various | Stick material: Hickory | Length: Various | Diameter: Various | Tip: Nylon, various shapes

Nylon adds definition to your playing
Improves life of the stick
Range of models available

Nylon-tipped drumsticks produce a very distinctive, defined sound from your drums and cymbals, and it’s an effect that many drummers search for; not to mention the fact your sticks should last longer thanks to the durable nylon tip. 

Regal Tip founder Joe Calato was the brains behind the original nylon tip back in 1958, and their Nylon Series offers multiple stick models covering multiple genres, all bearing the famous tip. The drumstick brand also guarantees that their nylon tips won't budge, even under the most high pressure playing situations.

Best drumsticks: Promark Classic 5B Firegrain

10. Promark Classic 5B Firegrain

The best drumsticks for long-term durability

Price: $24.09/£18.30/€21.44 | Stick material: Hickory | Length: 16” | Diameter: .590" | Tip: Oval

Heat treated for durability
Mainstream sizes available
Look great

Stick durability is an issue that has been addressed by every drumstick manufacturer on the planet, all to varying degrees of success. If breaking sticks is a regular occurrence behind your kit, but you don’t fancy going down the fully synthetic route, Promark’s Firegrain sticks could be the most convincing solution yet. 

These unique-looking drumsticks have been treated to a heat-tempering process that hardens the hickory and boosts strength and durability, all without impacting the feel and tone of the stick. It’s a solution that works, and certainly justifies the slightly higher-than-average price tag.

Chris Barnes

I'm MusicRadar's eCommerce Editor. It's my job to manage buyer's guides on the site and help musicians find the right gear and the best prices. I'm a guitarist and a drummer and I've worked in the music gear industry for 16 years, including 7 years as Editor of the UK's best-selling drum magazine Rhythm, and 5 years as a freelance writer working with brands including Roland, Boss, MusicRadar and Natal. In my spare time you'll either find me up a mountain on my bike, or in the ocean on my surfboard.