Choosing the right type of drumstick is a decision that becomes easier the longer someone has been a drummer. There are a variety of widths, weights and tips in the drumstick world. There are also different lacquer options available. However, the first item to look at when considering drumsticks is the type of wood used, as different types of wood produce different types of sound.
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Hickory is the most common type of wood used to make drumsticks because it is a very durable wood that can sustain a significant amount of damage before breaking. Under duress, like during cymbal-play or rimshots (playing the edge of a drum), hickory drumsticks are likely to chip away instead of splitting or breaking in two. Hickory sticks are also very good at absorbing shocks. When drumming, the shock from hitting the drum will stay in the wood instead of being transferred to the drummer's hands, wrists or arms.
Hickory sticks have a medium weight and as such are easy to handle and are useful in most musical applications, from rock to jazz. They produce a clear, crisp sound.
Maple is a very lightweight wood and maple drumsticks are usually thicker to offset the wood's weight. Because the wood is so light, maple drumsticks are useful when playing musical applications that require a significant amount of speed and precision. These types of drumsticks are frequently used in classical music and in soft jazz situations because drummers have more control over the volume and resonance of the drumbeat. Maple drumsticks produce a quieter, more staccato (short and crisp) sound than heavier drumsticks do.
However, because maple is such a light wood, the drumsticks will break if used too frequently or with too much force on cymbals or on drum rims.
Oak is the heaviest wood of the three and because of that, oak drumsticks are usually thinner in diameter so that they do not feel clunky or heavy in a drummer's hands. Oak's weight also makes drumsticks more durable. They are able to sustain more damage than hickory before breaking. But unlike hickory, oak drumsticks are likely to split in two, instead of just chipping away, when they are exposed to excessive force or impact.
Oak is not a very good shock-absorbing wood. Drummers who play with oak drumsticks are likely to feel the drum beats resonating in their hands and up into their arms. Oak drumsticks are best in quieter musical applications, as their sound is more muted than that of other types of drumsticks.
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