4 Best Drumsticks for Bucket Drumming

bucket drummer using drumsticks

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One of my favorite parts about my job is that I never know what’s coming next. I’m a freelance musician, and I take projects and gigs as they come. It can be kind of stressful, and I know that a lot of people would not be happy to live this way- there’s a lot of uncertainty and blind faith involved.

And it’s not like I’m an investment banker over here, I have to live a pretty minimal and non-materialistic lifestyle, and work a lot, to make ends meet. Even though I really do enjoy getting into the recording studio to make music, helping someone perfect their home studio set up, or just mixing and mastering tracks I still can’t help but be inspired by the buskers I see around the city, especially the bucket drummers.

I mean, they take the musician lifestyle to the next level. I even got a taste of the busker and bucket drumming lifestyle when I played with a bucket drummer in New York once. I played my ukulele and he provided the rhythm with his bucket drum. And even though it might come off as unplanned, imprecise, and low-skill…it’s anything but that.

Sure, a bucket drumset isn’t going to cost you as much as a brand new DW set and you might be sitting on one of your “drums” but you still need a get set of drumsticks to get the most out of your buckets.  We’ll look at everything you need to know about picking out the perfect set of bucket drumming sticks along with a few of our favorites but if you just want to get to the list you can see our top three favorites here:

Best Overall
Vater Power Hickory 5A Sticks

Vater Power Hickory 5A Sticks

  • A great balance of speed and durability between the hickory design and the option for a nylon tip
Best for Beginners
Vic Firth Heritage 5A Sticks

Vic Firth Heritage 5A Sticks

  • Lightweight maple is easy for beginner bucket drummers to use
Best Bundle Sticks
ProMark Hot Rods

ProMark Hot Rods

  • The bundle design works really well with bucket drums
Best Novelty
Rockstix Light-Up Sticks

Rockstix Light-Up Sticks

  • Light-up sticks can help your bucket drumming stand out in crowded areas

Choosing Bucket Drumsticks: What To Consider

Bucket Drummer on Subway PlatformBucket drumming’s appeal is pretty obvious and doesn’t require much untangling. It’s so inexpensive and lofi. It’s an ingenious upcycling of humble materials.

Lightweight and easy to transport. Heck, even stackable. A great opportunity for showmanship, with the obligatory stick flips and technical fast rhythms. You can be a one-person show or jam with others. And it’s an inexpensive and fun activity to bring into a classroom and teach children.

And come on, you can sit on one bucket while playing on another, how great is that?!

So when you’re getting ready to give bucket drumming a try, you might suddenly realize that choosing sticks is a more complex proposition than you expected. I mean, in its purest form, bucket drumming has about two elements- the bucket and the sticks. You might be tempted to avoid putting any thought into stick choice. After all, isn’t the whole point that you are using whatever you have lying around to make music?! Making a carefully considered selection of sticks seems counterintuitive.

But musicians can always play their best, and feel their best, when they are using the right gear. Once you have something that legitimately feels better to play, you’re never going back!

Shopping for drumsticks is surprisingly complex, with about a half dozen parameters that vary between sticks. So read on for some untangling.

Stick Size

As I said, sticks vary based on their size, material, tip material, tip shape, and more. But the size of the sticks is the most immediate and important aspect of buying them. Playing with sticks of different sizes has the most noticeable effect on the drumming experience- and that’s no different when you’re drumming on a bucket.

But stick sizes are weird!

They’re hard to understand at first but here’s a quick rundown. They are denoted with a pairing of a number and a letter.

The higher the number, the thinner the stick. So a 7A is thinner than a 5A and so on. Heavier sticks usually (but not always) are used for heavier sounds. So a metal drummer that’s slamming his sticks is usually going to use a heavier stick compared to jazz drummers that usually prefer lighter sticks for cymbal work.

Then there’s the letter and this is where things get a little confusing. The letter system goes way back and it’s pretty dated at this point but “A” stands for orchestral music, “B” for concert hall drumming, “S” for marching bands and similar drumming scenarios, and “D” for dance but that one is much less common these days. Yeah, it’s anything but intuitive.

The size 5A is basically the default- it’s the most common size, and the recommended starting point for beginners. 5A sticks can be adapted to pretty much any playing style. 2B sticks are fat and heavy, popular for powerful genres like punk and metal. 7A sticks are the lightest common size, recommended for expressive and dynamic genres like jazz.

When choosing stick size, there are no firm rules for any genre, including bucket drumming. However, there are good starting points and it’s important to understand the effect stick size has on your drumming. Lighter sticks are easier on your hands and faster to play with. But they are more prone to breaking if you are a heavy player.

For most bucket drummers, it’s a good idea to start with sizes 5A or 5B. These are the same stick sizes that just about any new drummer would begin with and there’s no reason it can’t work with bucket drumming either. It’s also okay to start with 7A or 7B if you have a smaller build or just want to start with more speed.

You probably should not go any thicker than 5A or 5B, lest you risk damaging your bucket over time, and hurting your hands as you play on very hard surfaces (striking the bucket’s rim and the concrete ground are common bucket drumming techniques.) Remember, the smaller number is thicker so you’d want to avoid drumsticks with a size lower than 5 to avoid going too thick.

Tip Type

Drumsticks can have wood or nylon tips. Wood usually gives the fullest and richest tone, but nylon has a sharper attack that could be satisfying for speedy technical playing.

However, the big difference is that wood tips are much more prone to knicks, knocks, and other damage when you play. As a bucket drummer, it should be obvious that your sticks will take a beating, especially if you’re working in other surfaces like pots, pans, or the sidewalk during your performance.

On the other hand, nylon can take a beating which makes them the ideal tip choice for bucket drumming. I’ve also noticed that legendary bucket drummer Gordo seems to prefer to nylon tips and that’s enough for me. You can check him out here if you haven’t already seen one of the many masters of bucket drumming:

Tip Shape

Bucket drumming presents a unique challenge when choosing the tip type.

Typical drumstick designs, with the shaft tapering to the tip, are prone to damaging the bucket, as well as breaking themselves. Many bucket drummers solve this problem by turning the sticks around and playing with the back ends, or by playing with headless or timbale sticks.

For traditional drumming, that would be a little crazy but for bucket drumming, it’s just right. There are a lot of drum tips including round, diamond, barrel, teardrop, acorn, and more.

The exact tip you use isn’t going to be super important (even though it’s a big deal for traditional drumming) but you do want to avoid tips that are going to damage your buckets. That means sharper tips like diamond and teardrop are usually not a good choice but you still make them work.

Stick Material

The three most common materials for drumsticks are maple, hickory, and oak. Maple is the lightest and most flexible material, while oak is the hardest.

Considering bucket drummers usually do best with light sticks, I’d recommend maple or hickory sticks. However, this one is much more up to preference and style. If you prefer to drum hard, then you might prefer something tough like oak. But bucket drumming doesn’t really require a hard touch so for the sake of your hands I’d stick with the maple or hickory recommendations.

Best Drumsticks for Bucket Drumming

Now that you know what you’re looking for, let’s get into the recommended sticks starting with the best overall.

Best Overall: Vater Power Hickory 5A Sticks

Best Overall
Vater Power Hickory 5A Sticks
  • A great balance of speed and durability between the hickory design and the option for a nylon tip
  • 5A is an excellent starting point for bucket drumming regardless of your experience
  • Easy on the budget

There’s a lot to like here and these Vater sticks are a clear winner for the best overall. To start with, they’re easy on the budget which definitely fits the bucket drumming aesthetic.

But you’re not cutting corners when you play with Vaters- pro drummers and amateurs alike speak highly of them. Vater’s Hickory 5A sticks are an excellent starting point for any drummer, bucketeers included.

They’re available with nylon or wood tips- even though I’d recommend starting with nylon tips you can always try out the wood too and see if you strongly prefer one over the other.

These sticks are also made of hickory which is a good balance between the lightweight maple and the heavy-duty oak. Hickory, and these 5A’s, are light enough that you can hit the speed solos that are so important with bucket drumming sessions but they’re still heavy enough that they can handle being used to drum on buckets, pots, pans, and concrete without breaking. Especially if you opt for a more durable nylon tip.

Overall, these are great around sticks and they check all our boxes as far as bucket drumming is concerned. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the specs and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best for Beginners: Vic Firth Heritage 5A Sticks

Best for Beginners
Vic Firth Heritage 5A Sticks
  • Lightweight maple is easy for beginner bucket drummers to use
  • A wooden head isn't ideal for hard drumming but can still work great for lighter play

Vic Firth is another musicians’ favorite brand. I’m one of those music nerds that spend hours reading forum posts about drumming, music production, and anything audio. Everything I read about the Vic Firth brand is not just good, but really good. In a field as subjective as music, that’s really hard to do.

They’re a relatively new company, founded in the mid-60s by a percussionist who wanted to create the best sticks for musicians he possibly could. Vic Firth sticks are still 100% manufactured in the US.

Vic Firth’s American Heritage series 5A sticks are an excellent first stick for bucket drumming. Made of maple, they’re lighter than the best overall pick and that can be a good thing for bucket drummers that are just getting started out since lighter sticks move faster.

If you find yourself turning your sticks around and beating the bucket with the back ends, maybe you ought to try the Alex Acuña Conquistador timbale sticks, in a flashy crimson at that! It also helps that most of Vic Firth’s sticks are easy on the budget. 

The tip shape on the Heritage sticks isn’t the most bucket-friendly but the sticks are light enough that you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Overall, it’s the lightweight design with the classic 5A style that makes these a good starting point for newer bucket drummers. You can read more reviews and check out the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Bundle Sticks: ProMark Hot Rods

Best Bundle Sticks
ProMark Hot Rods
  • The bundle design works really well with bucket drums
  • No tip to worry about means even more durability
  • Major styles points and the bundle design fits the bucket drumming vibe

Rod or bundle sticks are a unique approach that might work great for bucket drummers.

These sticks are actually made of about a dozen thin dowels banded together. They were developed as a middle point between brushes and traditional sticks, and are ideal for quieter and acoustic jam sessions. Bucket drummers may appreciate the variation in tone they provide, as well as the lightweight feel.

The lack of a more fragile tip also means you can really beat these sticks up and don’t have to worry about warping your drumstick tip on buckets or other surfaces. I also love the look and I think these bundle sticks look right at home with a Home Depot bucket.

There are multiple drumsticks in the rod line, and they’re all pretty solid for bucket drum drumming but I’m recommending the Hot Rods which are the lightest of the bunch. You can take a closer look at the bundle design, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Novelty: Rockstix Light-Up Sticks

Best Novelty
Rockstix Light-Up Sticks
  • Light-up sticks can help your bucket drumming stand out in crowded areas
  • More than 1,400 five-star reviews on Amazon which is great for a novelty product

Here’s a recommendation that veers away from musicianship into showmanship but bucket drumming is often just as much about putting on a show and standing out, as it is about playing music for its own sake.

Rockstix sells color-changing motion-activated light-up sticks that can really level up your busking game. Still, I must warn you that these are relatively heavy and not exactly durable. In other words, you’re not going to get the best sound possible out of these sticks but you will attract some attention and sometimes that’s the point with bucket drumming.

So, if you want to put on a memorable show, give them a try! Who knows, if you are playing for tips, your increased revenue might offset the cost of the light-up sticks. It’s show business!

It also helps that there are more than 1,400 five-star reviews on Amazon which is honestly a lot for a novelty product- especially one related to music. You can take a closer look at these sticks in action, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Closing Thoughts: An Ode to Percussion

I think people tend to take for granted just how powerful percussion is.

When we think of the members of a typical band for instance, we might think of the vocalist as the most important, and the other members as all equally contributing to the sound. Bass, guitars, keyboards, drums, maybe a horn section. And the drummer is usually hanging out in the back of the band, happily beating away.

But as a producer and songwriter, I’ve gradually come to realize that after vocals, the percussion is the most important element of the overall sound. Musicians and non-musicians alike respond really strongly to the drums! It’s what gives the song a heartbeat, it drives the rhythms forward. Adding or subtracting drums from a song makes a huge difference as to how the overall song feels.

And the amazing thing about drumming and percussion is how many ways there are to approach it! Sure, we tend to think of the drumset, and that’s definitely the standard approach. There’s no limit to what you can spend on making the fanciest imaginable drum setup.

Don’t ask me, ask Neil Peart! But for every ridiculous over-the-top drum setup that rivals the cost of an upmarket sedan, there’s somebody slaying it in a subway station with about $15 worth of buckets and sticks. Trading in the budget for raw spirit and enthusiasm.

Bucket drumming is something of a return to form, really.

Stretching back through history, drumming has been a simple and communal affair. Everyone gets together, beats animal skins stretched across wooden bodies, and dances and sings. After the ostentatious extravagance of expensive drum sets on huge stages, there’s something refreshing about a person on a street with a bucket. Flowing with the bustle and rhythm of the city, improving everyone’s mood as they pass by. Isn’t that what music should really be about?

Living in the moment, touching people in their daily lives? So grab your bucket, buy some great sticks, and practice those stick twirls and foot-lifts. Keep working, and always keep the joy of the music alive!