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I tend to obsess over specific guitar strings, but I’m always open to new discoveries, and when I decided to expand my musical abilities by switching to drums, I did the same thing with drumsticks.
Drumstick tips come in different shapes and sizes and before you get too specific with the kind of drumstick tip you want to settle down with I think it’s important to explore all the options out there.
So, what are the different types of drumstick tips?
Drumstick tips come in different shapes, and the most common tip shape options include round, oval, barrel, acorn, butt tips, and pointy tips like teardrop and arrowhead. You can find more variations and sizes of these tip types, and each will have a different effect on the tone your drums and cymbals produce.
So, let’s take a deeper look at the different types of drumstick tips and the sound they can help you achieve!
What Are The Different Types Of Drumstick Tips?
Drumsticks of whatever material come with various options for tip shapes, so let’s see the most common types out there and why they matter.
The drumstick tip is designed to hit the drumheads, the cymbals, and hi-hats and one of the most common types is the round tip.
This shape in particular will help you produce a brighter and more crisp sound that’s articulate and depending on whether the round shape is small or large you will typically get more volume on the cymbals.
While any tip on this list can be played with any kind of music, and there are no strict rules here, because of their great bounce and response, you will usually see Jazz and Funk players use a round tip, especially the smaller kind.
While large round tips also maintain clarity and brightness, they produce a fatter sort of sound that you often see rock and metal drummers use to their advantage.
Oval drumstick tips are actually more versatile because they have a larger spectrum of sound, and their dark and warm tone is suited for most styles.
This means that if you choose this tip you will most likely get the most well-rounded frequency response, that’s your highs, mids, and lows.
You will also notice that oval tips have a greater bounce and compared to the bright tone and defined sound of round tips this type actually has a softer tone because of the larger surface of oval tips.
I also want to mention the fact that when it comes to floor toms smaller oval tips don’t sound as full as larger oval tips.
If you are going for a fuller sound that is punchy and loud, then barrel tip drumsticks are the way to go.
While there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to drumstick tip shape, I definitely gravitate towards barrel tip sticks when I’m performing live.
You can get the advantage of the wide sound this tip produces and that’s because the barrel shape will come in contact and activate more surface area of your drums and cymbals.
The thick sound and additional volume can also sound great for those of you who are in a rock band.
Some of you might be looking for a drumstick tip that can produce a lot of warmth and darkness and in this case, teardrop-shaped tips are definitely worth your attention.
Teardrop tips will give you a really focused low end and full rich tone that can work beautifully for different music styles, and if you are more of a rock drummer then I’d still suggest you gave teardrop tips a try.
If you’re new to drums you might not be aware that double butt end drumsticks are a thing, or perhaps you have heard of them but you’re not sure what they’re good for.
Well, these bad boys are ideal for heavy drum play, and because they are kind of unconventional the butt tip drumsticks are the perfect tool for experimenting with new sounds, on drums and cymbals, even with bucket drumming.
Depending on the brand, of course, butt tip drumsticks tend to be more durable especially when it comes to reliable rimshots. This is a percussion technique where you hit the rim and head of a drum with a stick at the same time to produce an accented snare drum backbeat.
If you do prefer a little punch and attack or you tend to incorporate the cowbell in your music then you should definitely give double butt end sticks a try, for that “I need more cowbell” effect!
But if you are a cautious drummer then these might not suit you.
Another quite popular drumstick tip is the acorn and that’s because acorn tip sticks offer a full tonal response to cymbals and a very clear and defined sound on the drums.
If you’ve ever played a stick with an acorn tip then you’ll know that the tone is definitely full, rich, and fat, but I must add that there is also a darkness to it.
This shape in particular also provides the drummer with responsiveness and articulation precisely because there is an increased amount of contact between the acorn tip and the drum.
Arrowhead or arrow tip drumsticks have a more tapered shape compared to the rest of the tips on our list and that can give your sound versatility.
These arrow-shaped tip sticks are responsive and the broad surface area the shape provides is great for pulling lots of complex overtones out of your cymbals.
You can get light and sharp tones from arrowhead tips, but the flat surface can also get a woody sound specifically from a ride cymbal. When it comes to drums the sound arrowhead tips create tends to be “fatter.”
What Material Are Drumstick Tips Made Of?
When it comes to the material you have two popular options, wood tip drumsticks, and nylon tip drumsticks. Both nylon and wood tip sticks can come in a variety of different shapes, including the ones we’ve already talked about.
So, it’s important to keep in mind that both the shape of the tip and the material itself will have an additional effect on the sound your sticks produce.
Wood Tip Drumsticks
Wood tip drumsticks produce a soft and warm sound, and since they offer a greater rebound than nylon tips they work better with toms and snare drums. However, the wood does wear out over time and this can affect their consistency on cymbals.
I also want to add that wood tip drumsticks are not made the same, and the type of wood used will also affect their durability, playability, and sound.
The most common woods are hickory, maple, and oak. Maple is the lighter option and it mostly suits soft-handed players that look for speed.
Oak is the heaviest option and offers a louder beat without requiring much strength, but it lacks flexibility.
Hickory is somewhere in the middle, this wood is dense and heavy but it still maintains its flexibility and provides you with plenty of feedback.
Nylon Tip Drumsticks
Nylon tip sticks sound much sharper and brighter, they also have more projection and are more consistent, especially on cymbals. Aside from their distinctive sound nylon tips are also more durable!
It’s important to also mention that in terms of sound there is an in-between option, and that’s the Regal Tip E-Series drumsticks which are a variation of nylon tip sticks.
Instead of a distinct bright sound, they produce a warmer and darker cymbal tone that is closer to wood tip sticks. That’s because the e-series sticks have grooves which means that less nylon comes in contact with the drums.
Unfortunately, unlike regular nylon tip drumsticks, the e-series sticks are mostly manufactured with an oval tip shape which only changes in size.
How Can Drumstick Tips Affect Your Sound?
When you start playing the drums it’s easy to overlook the significance of drumsticks, and how much they can influence the sound your every hit produces.
Part of the whole drumstick’s importance does come down to your technique, but the anatomy of the drumsticks, the size and length, the weight, and of course the tip shape and material are all factors that need to be considered.
The tip shape has an especially important part to play, and while we know that there is great variety between the different shapes, the most distinctive feature is whether the tip is more or less pointy if it’s large or small and whether the flat surface is rounded or flat.
The bigger the surface that comes in contact with the drums the less defined the sound will be. This comparison is crystal clear between a small round tip that produces a brighter sound compared to an arrow tip stick that sounds fatter.
To an untrained ear, the tone difference might be quite subtle, but the more you experiment with different drumstick tip shapes the more differences you will end up detecting.
How To Choose The Right Drumstick Tip For You?
Just like the choice between wood or nylon tip drumsticks is subjective and personal the same can be said about the shape of the drumstick tip.
When it comes to drumsticks there’s no right or wrong choice, and to find out what drumstick tip suits you best you need to perhaps consider what music you want to play.
For some drummers, it’s easier to base their choice on the sound they want their cymbals to produce. So, by being more decisive on the type of sound you want to achieve you can narrow down what drumstick tip shape actually works for what you’re going for.
However, I do think that it’s important to try out as many drumstick tip shapes as you can, as well as drumsticks from different brands.
The first time I tried teardrop sticks I ended up disliking them and decided that they weren’t for me, but it so happened that my buddy convinced me to give this shape another try only this time from a different brand and I ended up loving them!
This video is a nice and brief introduction to drumsticks, and I think it’s worth checking out.
But videos aside, my advice to you is that before you write off a drumstick tip shape go to your local music shop, if there is one, and ask them if they have a practice pad in their store where you can try a few drumsticks, so you can make the decision on a budget.
I think it’s clear that experimenting with different drumsticks will eventually bring you closer to the drumsticks that work for you and your music.
Often times this means that you have to look at the drumstick, not as a whole, instead, you need to pay attention to the stick’s anatomy.
In this case, we explored how different drumstick tip shapes can be and what each shape brings to the table when it comes to music and sound in general.
But reading about their differences is not enough, you also need to try them out. Remember to listen carefully so you find the ones that speak to your heart.