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There are many brands of drumsticks to choose from nowadays and they come in a variety of styles, weights, woods, and colors. Two heavyweights of the drumstick world are Vic Firth and Promark, and they tend to dominate the shelves of most drum stores. In this article, we will examine some of the main differences between the two brands while also exploring their vast range and what they offer the modern kit drummer.
Main Differences (5A Hickory)
- Vic Firth has a teardrop tip while Promark has an oval tip
- Promark has a slightly thinner diameter
- Vic Firth branding is at the butt of the stick, and Promark is in the middle
- Promark is forward-weighted with a short taper
The Vic Firth company was established in 1963 in Boston, Massachusetts USA by the man himself, Vic Firth. Already an established drummer and percussionist, Vic went on to become the author of several books on the instrument. His company provides sticks for all musical occasions, from kit playing to orchestral percussion and more.
Promark is another American company, based in Texas and founded by Herb Brochstein in 1957. Like Vic Firth, Promark caters to all types of percussionists, while offering a wide range of stick types. Promark was also instrumental in bringing about the introduction of routes to drummers, more of which we’ll delve into later.
When dealing with sticks for drum kit playing, you might have noticed that there are several different stick sizes, each with separate labeling. A few common sizes of drumstick are 5A, 5B, 2B, and 7A. Of course, there are other popular sizes, but too many to list here. So, what can we take away from these sizes?
Well, a good rule of thumb is to say that the higher the number, the thicker the stick will be. Let’s start with the smallest of the above-mentioned sticks – 7A. These sticks are quite light and a little shorter than an ‘average’ drumstick. It’s hard to say what is an average stick, but it seems that both 5A and 5B are among the top two (with ‘A’ being thinner than ‘B’). 7A is often favored by jazz drummers as the lighter stick allows for versatility, speed, and dynamic control.
5A is a bigger stick than 7A but it’s not quite as heavy as a 5B drumstick. 5A tends to be favored by drummers who need to project their instrument but like the response of a lighter stick. 5B is a good stick for pop and rock music as the extra weight allows for higher volume playing.
If we consider both 5A and 5B to be ‘moderate’ sticks, then 2B is entering the heavyweight territory. If you like your sticks to last long and you need a heavy stick, then the 2B might be your type. This stick almost resembles a marching band snare drumstick in its size and weight. Many metal drummers like to play 2B as the stick size offers volume and longevity.
There are several important features to a drumstick and they all add up to give a different feel and response. One of the most important aspects of a stick shape is the taper. The taper refers to the change in thickness measuring from the tip of the stick to the main shaft of the stick. A taper can be short or elongated, straight or curved.
So, what effect does a taper have on the stick when it comes to playing? Well, primarily the taper affects where the balance point of the stick is. This means that it will dictate to you where exactly the optimum point to hold the stick is.
A stick with a short taper will shift the optimum fulcrum point closer to the tip. Conversely, a drumstick with a longer taper will mean that the balance point will be closer to the butt of the stick. The consequences are far-reaching (pun intended). Gripping closer to the tip of the stick will naturally reduce your potential reach on the drum set. Gripping closer to the butt of the stick increases your reach.
The type of tip on a drumstick will mainly affect two things: the tone of your sound and the response of the stick. Wooden tips were the norm for many years with manufacturers as this is the easiest way to create a drumstick. You simply lathe the shape you want from a block of wood.
As time went on, the demand for alternative tips took hold, and so manufacturers experimented with different materials. Nylon is a prime candidate as it is durable and dense enough to produce a strong tone. Nylon tips offer longevity (practically impossible to chip) and sound projection (more attack). Nylon tips are generally more consistent when it comes to sound response too. This is because with wood being an organic material, there may be small inconsistencies in the material. Wood tips are also more prone to becoming damaged.
Tips come in many shapes and sizes too. Larger tips tend to produce ‘darker’ responses, as there is more tip in contact with the drum/cymbal. Similarly, smaller tips will naturally produce a ‘brighter’ response. Acorn tips are bigger than barrel tips.
Check out the difference in the Vic Firth 5A and 5B barrel tips here
Drumsticks can be made from many different kinds of wood and just three examples are maple, hickory, and oak. Each wood type offers a different weight, strength, and tonal quality. When it comes to price, hickory drumsticks are usually priced below maple, with oak sticks being the most expensive option.
Vic Firth has popular models in both maple and hickory. Their all-maple American Custom SD9 Driver is popular amongst jazz players, while their hickory American Classic is a big seller amongst rock and pop players.
Playing-wise there is a big difference between maple and hickory, and it is recommended that you try out the different woods to find your playing preference. You might find that maple suits a lighter style of playing as it is not as hard as hickory. The sticks feel less dense in your hands and they tend to dent easier than hickory.
One of Promark’s most popular maple sticks is their Todd Suchermann model. These 16-inch sticks are lightweight with an acorn wooden tip. The acorn tip is said to produce a ‘darker’ tone. What this means is that when played on the likes of a ride cymbal, the acorn tone produces a less prominent ‘ping’ sound. This is due to the acorn shape covering more area of the cymbal surface compared to a smaller tip.
Promark was the first drumstick manufacturer to introduce the Japanese Shira Kashi white oak to American drummers. Oak is a heavier wood than hickory and is usually around 10% heavier than typical American hickory. Check out the Promark Shira Kashi Oak 7A model, which makes up for its slimmer shaft with more density.
Drumsticks are not the only option when it comes to playing the drum set. The first set of jazz brushes is claimed to have been invented by Jelly Roll Morton after he suggested using a fly swatter on the kit instead of a regular drumstick to keep the volume down. Jazz brushes were soon patented and invented and have gone on to become an essential part of jazz drumming in particular.
Hot Rod by Promark
In 1985 Promark created the ‘Hot Rod’ which is a cross between a regular drumstick and a set of jazz brushes, which are also known commonly as routes. The Hot Rod combines many slim rods of wood to produce a stick with many points of contact on the drum head. Hot Rods are often adjustable with a movable band which essentially controls the compactness of the rods, to offer many different sound possibilities.
Vic Firth also produces their rutes. The Vic Firth VFRUTE Rute Brushes are one such product. Each VFrute has 16 rods in total at a length of around 41cm and a handle diameter of 2cm. The rute is often heard in pop music and can be utilized as a practice tool as they allow drummers to play at a decreased volume. You’ll hear rutes used on famous tunes such as Oasis’ hit single ‘Wonderwall’.
Neither Vic Firth nor Promark limit themselves to solely manufacturing drumsticks. Each company prides itself on being able to offer many different products to a wide range of musicians.
If you need any drumming accessories, you’ll find that there is a wealth of options available. Both Promark and Vic Firth offer their stick bags which are ideal for the drummer on the move. The Promark Transport Delux Stick Bag is a portable carry bag that holds up to 8 pairs of drumsticks and comes with two compartments. It is made from durable Nylon and comes with hanging tom mounts.
The Vic Firth SBAG3 Professional Stick Bag is a heavy-duty bag and considerably larger than the Promark Transport Delux. This bag will hold up to 24 pairs of sticks and has a padded lining, meaning could hold even a tablet (up to 9.5 inches).
Another product worth mentioning is Vic Firth’s SIH2 Headphones, which are ideal for drummers who like to play along with music or metronomes. The SIH2 is the successor to the hugely popular SIH1 Headphones and comes with a minijack connector and up to 25 decibels of noise reduction.
- Easy to find the perfect stick with their online site
- Harder to find options in oak
- Nice selection of different woods available
- It May be a little more expensive in your local drum store
Notable Vic Firth Drummers
- Gavin Harrison – Porcupine Tree
- Carter Beauford – Dave Matthews Band
- Benny Greb
- Abe Laboriel Jr. – Paul McCartney
- Chris Coleman
- Questlove – The Roots
- Butch Vig – Garbage
- Colin Woolway
Notable Promark Drummers
- Phil Collins – Genesis
- Neil Peart – Rush
- John Bonham – Led Zeppelin
- Mike Portnoy – Dream Theater
- Chris Adler – Lamb of God
- Joey Jordison – Slipknot
- Bill Bruford – Yes/King Crimson
Answer: Promark offers their TXJRW Junior stick which is lighter and has a shorter length. Also, check out Vic Firth’s Kidsticks.
Answer: It depends on the drummer. Some heavy hitters go through several pairs per show. Others can get months out of the same pair.
Answer: Nylon tip drumsticks tend to give more definition and a consistent attack, especially on cymbals such as the ride. Wooden tips offer a warmer sound all around the kit and have a nice natural feel. Nylon tips tend to last longer whereas wooden tips are prone to breaking, so it depends on your preferences.
Answer: Not necessarily although they are quite handy. Most stick bags allow you to mount them onto drum hoops for convenience. You can purchase clip-on stick holders which will attach to stands around the kid to give you easy access, but a stick bag makes transporting easier.
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a pair of drumsticks. For drum set players, being versatile is a must nowadays. It’s not always the case that you find yourself playing just the ‘one type of music. Quite often you’ll need to be more of a chameleon on the kit, adapting to many different styles.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to look at finding a stick size that you can use for (almost) all occasions. A good drumstick should be like an extension of your arm. Playing with a stick that is either too heavy or too light, can lead to injuries.
You can test the quality of your pair of drumsticks by lightly tapping them together. Hold one stick extremely loosely and hold the other with a firm grip. Tapping against the loosely held stick should produce a lightly audible tone. This tone is produced because you are allowing the stick to resonate with your loose grip. Now reverse your grip on the sticks and repeat the test. You should hear that the sticks produce roughly the same tone. This is a sign that they are a good match – it’s usually a good idea to have sticks that are equally balanced to match your hands.
Good luck in your search for the perfect drumstick!
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