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When jamming out on a set of drums, the type of drumsticks used are a key factor and can even make or break a sound. But with a plethora of options on the market, it’s hard to know which are worth the money.
That’s why we talked to five professional drummers who have played with some of today’s biggest stars to get the scoop on the drumsticks that help them find their ultimate power and groove behind the kit.
See the best drummer-approved drumsticks (all under $15) below.
1. Vic Firth American Classic 5A Vic Grip & Vic Firth American Classic Extreme 5B DoubleGlaze
For a versatile drummer who has worked in a variety of genres and with artists including Alessia Cara, Nelly Furtado, Blue Man Group and Carly Rae Jepsen, Adrian Passarelli is an expert at deciding which drumsticks provide the specific musical benefits he’s looking for, especially when playing the world’s biggest stages. That’s why he has not one, but two top pairs — both from renowned drumsticks and mallets company Vic Firth.
“I’ve used Vic Firth drumsticks for over 30 years and I actually have two go-to models depending on which artist I’m working with,” he explains to Billboard. “For Alessia Cara, I tend to reach for my American Classic 5A Vic Grip (a red anti-slip finish). For some extra power with Blue Man Group, I use the Vic Firth American Classic Extreme 5B DoubleGlaze. It’s become one of my favorites.”
“The Extreme 5B is slightly longer that a regular 5B giving it a great balance point. It offers a special Double Lacquer Grip that feels great in my hands,” he adds. “I tend to have dry hands, so I love the added grip options Vic Firth offers.”
2. Vic Firth American Classic HD9 & Vic Firth American Classic HD4
From rocking out with Benjamin Booker and Chet Faker to keeping an effortlessly cool ambiance surrounding Sharon Van Etten and Deb Never, Sam Hirschfelder is a master of rhythmic mood. He’s also a big fan of Vic Firth drumsticks, which provide the just the right feel and weight he needs.
“I have played a lot of different sticks over the years and I pretty much will only play the Vic Firth American Classic HD series,” he shares. “I use wood tips for a warmer sound. I love the feel, weight and length of the HD9s, which I switched to when working with Benjamin Booker. Ben’s music required a heavier more durable stick (these are made of hickory) and I haven’t looked back since. With a thicker girth than most sticks, the HD9s fit perfectly in my hand with enough weight to get a huge sound out of while exerting minimal effort. The weight distribution in this stick is spot on.”
For a “softer and more controlled sound,” Hirschfelder opts for the American Classic HD4s. “They are particularly great for R&B and jazz,” he notes.
3. Vic Firth Extreme 55A
Playing with high-energy artists like The New Regime, Barns Courtney and Cher Lloyd, Rob Ketchum needs a pair of drumsticks that can keep up. That’s why he loves the extra length that the Vic Firth Extreme 55A sticks provide.
“I’ve used Vic Firth sticks for as long as I can remember!” he shares of Vic Firth, a drummer’s most reliable brand. “I’ve gone through quite a few options from them and have stuck with the Extreme 55A’s for a few years now. They are the perfect in-between of regular 5A and 5B sticks, but just with a little extra length. I can use these sticks for everything!”
Shop the Vic Firth Extreme 55A here.
4. Vater 5A Stretch
As the drummer for indie rock band The Jacks, Josh Roossin appreciates a classic pair of drumsticks that provide consistency and versatility as the band grows into their new sound — both on stage and off — following their 2020 EP Remember You. For him, the Vater 5A Stretch drumsticks are simply everything a drummer needs, thanks to the additional length that give some extra reach around the kit.
“When I was 10, I started playing the drums with Vater 1As because they were the sticks my drum teacher used,” he recalls. “About three years ago, I switched to the 5A Stretch because I wanted a lighter and slimmer version of the 1As. The Vater 5A Stretch is the perfect solution for me. It’s a longer drumstick with a wooden acorn tip (like the 1A) but just a little lighter.”
“I’d recommend these sticks to anyone that likes longer sticks and is looking for something that’s versatile and durable,” he adds. “They hold up during long heavy-hitting sets on tour and always feel consistent, reliable, and have a steady weight distribution. They are the only sticks in my stick bag and I haven’t found a reason yet to change that. They just feel like a no-frills classic pair of drumsticks.”
Shop the Vater 5A Stretch here.
5. Vic Firth Signature Series: Peter Erskine “Ride Stick”
Rob Humphreys lives for the unconventional, and often opts for hitting the drums with his hands or even chopsticks while working with artists like Kacey Musgraves, Leonard Cohen, Karen O and Nikka Costa. That’s why a drumstick like the Vic Firth “Ride Stick,” designed by Grammy winning jazz drummer Peter Erskine, is his go-to choice, as the unique small teardrop tip allows for a free-spirited, effortless sound without sacrificing power to lay into a groove.
“I definitely use a ton of different objects and funky things to play the drums with, like my hands, brooms, shakers, chopsticks… but if it’s a stick, it’s Vic Firth,” he explains. “I find that a great stick isn’t just about it feeling good while you play it. They can really change the sound and tone of the drums and cymbals. My go to is the Vic Firth Peter Erskine signature ‘Ride Stick.’ To me, it has the best balance of feeling effortless to play and achieving the best sound out of the instrument.”