multiple pair of drumsticks

How to Choose Drum Stick Size: Comprehensive Guide

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Drumstick Size Chart

Small (7A)Medium (5A)Large (5B)Extra Large (2B)
Starts at 12mm / .512”Starts at 14mm / .551”Starts at 15mm / .590”Starts at 16mm / .630”
Lightweight with a small diameterMedium weight and diameterHeavy weight and diameterExtra heavy weight and diameter
Quick and responsive. Light, subtle sound. Good for drummers with small hands.Sturdy and extremely versatile.Used for various styles of music.Heavy and durable. Ideal for rock and pop.Extra-heavy. Perfect for heavy metal and to produce a loud sound.

Have you ever noticed how many different types of drum sticks there are? There’s a bunch.

When you start looking around, it’s like a whole new world of possibility opens up before you. And if you’re like me, you get into the music store and want to take them all home and try them out for yourself. Do they really make a difference? And are some better for certain types of music than others? Why not drum with any stick? 

To choose the right drum stick size, first you need to know the general dimension differences in sticks and which sizes are typically used for specific musical styles.

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself, and today, I set out to answer all that and more. 

In this post, we’re going to cover:

  • Why Size Matters in Drumsticks
  • How Drumstick Size Impacts Musical Style
  • What Different Types of Drumsticks Do
  • Which Drumsticks Are More Durable
  • How to Choose Drumsticks for a Beginner

Follow me on this journey, and by the end, you’ll know everything you need to know about buying the ideal drumsticks for your needs. 

Let’s get started!


Why Size Matters in Drumsticks

Shopping for drumsticks seems like it would be the simplest thing in the world, right? I just need a stick to hit the drum. Done.

But you actually have quite a few options, and size matters.

Let’s explore various measurements that impact the sound you’ll get from your drumset.


Drumstick Length

Length is one important measurement to consider when you’re buying drumsticks, but it’s not the only one. Naturally, the length of the stick affects things like leverage and reach. But really, it all comes down to comfort. 

Even if you have two sticks that are the same thickness (or diameter), they’ll feel completely different if they’re of varying lengths. 

This is why it’s essential to try out drumsticks of different lengths. No one can tell you what’s going to feel more comfortable for you, so try out a few different lengths and figure out what’s best for you. 

Drumstick lengths typically vary between 15 and 17.5 inches, and the one that works for you will depend on your hand size, arm length, and overall comfort level. 

Some drummers may tell you that you’ll have a better fulcrum to work with when you have a longer stick, but this simply isn’t true. 

The fulcrum is the part of your grip that creates a stable point of contact with the stick and a pivot point. When this connects, the stick can rotate like a lever from its axis. 


Drumstick diameter and weight

The drumstick’s diameter and weight impact its strength and projection ability. Naturally, a thicker and heavier stick will produce a stronger sound. That stick will also be more durable. 

On the contrary, the thinner stick is lighter, faster, and easier to play. While you’re shopping for an appropriate drumstick diameter and weight, you’re probably going to want to consider the style of music you play. Your music volume also plays a role, so if you’re practicing in a residential area, you may want to get lighter sticks regardless of music type. 

Drumsticks come in what we can call “weight classes” that are actually different series. And within each series, there are different sizes. 


7 Series

This is a lighter series that’s typically used for jazz, marching bands, or any other type of light music. 7A is the thinnest stick, and if you want something thicker, you can opt for a 7B.


Review 7 Series Drumsticks


5 Series

The 5 series are slightly thicker and heavier than the 7 series. These drumsticks are the most popular, so there’s a good chance these are the drumsticks you currently use. They’re incredibly versatile and can be used in various music styles, especially when you account for weight within the series. For example, 5A sticks are lighter than 5B. And even though the 7 series is considered most appropriate for jazz and soft music, you can get away with using 5A. 5B is typically used for rock or pop.


Review 5 Series Drumsticks


2 Series

You’ve probably noticed that the sticks get heavier as the series numbers get lower, so it should come as no surprise that 2 series sticks are considerably more substantial than 5 or 7 series. These are the sticks used to produce loud and heavy sounds typically associated with hard rock and heavy metal. 


Review 2 Series Drumsticks


Custom Size Drumsticks

Most companies that make drumsticks adhere to the 7, 5, 2 series, but there are a few that make custom drumsticks to suit customer demand. These typically mimic the custom drumsticks used by a famous drummer. Neil Peart drumsticks are a great example of a custom size that’s available without having to order custom-made drumsticks yourself. 


Taper and Tip Shape on the Drumstick

When you’re just starting, taper and tip shape aren’t necessarily things you need to pay much attention to. If you can get the weight, diameter, and length right, you’re doing just fine. But when you get to a more advanced stage, you may want to start playing around with sound. 


Taper

Taper impacts the way the drumsticks feel in your hand, but it also affects the way they behave. Sticks that have a longer taper produce more flex and a faster response. Sticks with shorter tapers are stronger and produce a stiffer response. 

You can gauge the stick’s taper by the location of the “shoulder.” This is where the stick starts to taper, and you can see how it impacts the stick’s balance. A stick with a shorter taper will feel heavier on the tip and therefore have more power than a stick with a longer taper. 


Tip Shape

The shape of the drumstick tip may seem like a trivial thing, but it’s quite critical to the sound the stick produces on drums and especially on cymbals. 

Here are a few types of drumstick tips and the sounds they produce:

  • Small round – Produces a brighter sound on the cymbals with more enhanced highs
  • Large round – Creates a fatter sound (fills more of the sound field)
  • Nylon – Produces brightest available sound with improved durability
  • Teardrop – Produces a dark, rich sound on the cymbal with enhanced lows
  • Barrel – The barrel tip creates a broader and more balanced sound. Ideal for studio drumming


How Drumstick Size Impacts Music Style

If you’re just starting on the drums, you’re probably going to want to start with 5A drumsticks and a barrel tip. This will give you the most versatility, so you can play around with different styles as you decide what feels right to you. 

As for length, you’re going to have to try out a few sizes to see what feels most comfortable. I’d suggest heading to your local music shop to try a few different lengths. This will give you the best feel for what it’s like to drum with them. You probably won’t be able to go nuts on the drums there (especially as a beginner), but if you can narrow down the size, you can purchase a few sticks that you can play around with more at home. 

Once you start playing more seriously, you’re going to want to invest in drumsticks that are the right size for the style of music you’re playing. 

Lighter drumsticks are ideal for softer styles. Mid-size drumsticks are more versatile and can play most popular music, like rock and pop. The really heavy sticks are perfect for louder music like heavy metal. 

If you’re in a metal band, you may want to practice with smaller and lighter sticks at home (like 5B) and upgrade to the heavier stick (like a 2A or 2B) when it’s closer to showtime. It will give you a softer sound that won’t disturb your neighbors quite as much. You will want to get used to the feel of the heavy stick, naturally, but you can practice with sticks that are a little lighter and create a quieter sound. 


What Different Types of Drumsticks Do

Different drumsticks create different sounds. And as you might imagine, the heavier the stick, the louder and fuller the tone. 

The lightest sound you can produce on a drum will be with a 7A stick. And the heaviest possible sound is with a 3B stick. 

But, with that said, the majority of drummers remain in the mid-range with 5 series sticks. I use the 5A sticks to play jazz and I really like using a 5B for rock and pop playing.

Other factors that can change the sound your drumsticks produce are taper and tip. See the section above about drumstick size for more information on how taper and tip shape can alter the sound. 

Here’s the rub: Drumstick taper has an impact on how nimble you can be on the drums. A longer taper is lighter at the tip and can allow you to move more quickly. Drumstick tip shape impacts the sound you’ll get from the cymbals. Currently, I’m falling in love with the round tips on my Vic Firth sticks. I never used round tips until recently.


Which Drumsticks Are More Durable

Hands down, the most durable drumsticks are in the 2 and 3 ranges. But you should keep in mind that these are for hard drumming that produces a loud sound. 

You may be concerned about durability if you’re a jazz drummer, but you wouldn’t want to use the most durable sticks. These are reserved for heavy metal and loud music. For jazz, I typically play with 5As, but larger sticks with a round tip work well too.

If you’re looking for a nice, durable drumstick that’s also versatile to play almost any type of music, look at the 5 series. You can use 5A sticks to play jazz and soft music, and you can use 5B sticks for most music that’s a bit harder. 


How to Choose Drumsticks for a Beginner

When you’re just starting, sticks are important. You’re going to want something that feels comfortable in your hand and can play various types of music. 

For most adults learning to drum, this means choosing the 5A size because it’s lighter. That would be my overall consensus for adult beginners.

But if you have particularly small hands or are buying for a child, the 7 series is probably a better fit. 


Drumstick materials

Wood is the most common drumstick material you’ll find in drumsticks, but there are different types of woods you can choose from, and some are better for beginners than others.

  • Hickory – This is the most commonly used material for drumsticks because you can achieve different levels of durability and response. 
  • Oak – Oak drumsticks are very dense and heavier than hickory, but they also transmit more vibrations and are incredibly durable. 
  • Laminated birch – This is an extremely thick and heavy drumstick material, but that also makes it very durable. Laminated birch produces dark tones on the drums and cymbals. 
  • Maple – This is a much lighter wood than hickory, and it’s also less durable. It probably isn’t the best choice for beginners, but it does have a place. Maple drumsticks produce a brighter sound and give drummers more flexibility because of their lightweight. 

There are some drumsticks made of aluminum and graphite, which some drummers swear by. The benefit to these is that they’re very durable and have a replaceable tip, so these drumsticks tend to last longer than wood. Still, they’re probably not best for beginners as you’re still figuring out your style and honing in on the ideal length. 

If you’re a beginner or buying for a beginner, consider a 7A (for small hands or kids) or a 5A (for adults) in hickory. From here, you can refine as you get more experienced and figure out what style you like most. 


Conclusion

Drumstick size is a significant consideration when you’re buying new drumsticks, but it shouldn’t be a difficult decision. After reading through this guide, you should know precisely how to find the ideal drumstick size for your needs. 

And if you still aren’t sure, don’t stress. Simply opt for the 5A size that’s the most popular and start drumming. You could have some 5Bs in your bag too. Before long, you’ll figure out what feels right for you and whether you need a longer or shorter, lighter, or heavier drumstick.