RangeOfSounds.com is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
When it comes to playing drums, drumsticks might seem like something small and trivial compared, well to the drums themselves.
That of course is not true, and nothing in music and musical instruments is truly trivial. Just like with guitar strings, when it comes to drumsticks, you have so many options and so many things to think about, like the size, the shape of the tip, and the material.
So, is there a difference between nylon and wood tip drumsticks?
Wood tip drumsticks sound great when you play the drums, they produce a softer and warmer sound. However, the sound of nylon sticks is more defined and consistent when used on cymbals. Nylon sticks also sound brighter overall, with a harder attack and bounce, and they’re more durable and affordable compared to wood sticks.
If you’re not sure whether nylon or wood tip drumsticks are the right choice for your style, then you can learn more about their differences below!
What Is The Difference Between Nylon And Wood Tip Drumsticks?
To figure out which drumstick tip is right for you, you first need to learn more about their possible differences or similarities.
So, let’s see if there are any!
Drumsticks were first made of wood and that’s why they are considered the more classic or traditional tip option.
To this day the most common woods used are hickory, maple, and oak but you can also find drumsticks made from rosewood, ebony, birch, ash, and lancewood.
Nylons drumsticks, on the other hand, are a more recent invention, and we can thank Joe Calato who decided to put a plastic top on his drumsticks in the late 50s and the rest is history!
Nylon sticks usually have a wooden body, but instead of a wooden tip, their tip is hollow and made from nylon that is glued or mounted at the end of the wooden drumstick.
Drumsticks are the extension of your arms and while they might not look as much, they do have a serious impact on the kind of sound you produce.
The type of material the tip of your drumsticks is made of plays a major role in the tone and sound you create each time it comes in contact with the toms, cymbals, and Hi-Hats.
Wood tip drumsticks sound great on toms, and the sound is more consistent from handle to tip. However, when it comes to cymbals the sound is not as consistent because of the natural variations in the wood grain.
Wooden sticks also work better with snare drums that you often see in orchestral music, or on parades and marching bands, where you have lots of rolls, and that’s because the wooden tip rebounds better.
Wood sticks lack projection and they produce a much warmer, softer, and dark sound. You can also characterize it as vintage, but that doesn’t mean it’s not used today, a great and unexpected example is Lofi Hip Hop music.
Another thing to note is that, unlike nylon-tip drumsticks, wood tips wear off over time which can affect the sound they produce and their consistency.
The main difference is that nylon-tip sticks produce a much sharper and brighter sound. If your music incorporates a lot of cymbal work then the sound of nylon tips will have more projection and be more consistent.
Compared to the softness of wood tip sticks, nylon-tip drumsticks produce a far more distinctive sound that stands out and they are a better choice if you want the cymbals to cut through when you’re playing on an outdoor gig or a large venue.
It’s not easy to imagine the difference, so take a moment to listen to the video that demonstrates how nylon and wood tip drumsticks sound different on cymbals.
As I’ve already mentioned both nylon and wood tip drumsticks have a wooden body, so they should both feel the same when you hold them and play them.
The tip material itself won’t majorly affect the feel or playability of the drumsticks, so you have to look at the stick as one entity and how it can affect the playability as a whole, especially when it comes to wooden tip sticks.
Hickory is a wood that is dense and heavy and it maintains enough flexibility to absorb more vibrations, so it’s not surprising that hickory drumsticks have built a big reputation.
When it comes to playability the density and flexibility of hickory provide the drummer with good feedback and feeling and it’s a good option for beginners and experienced musicians.
Oak is a heavier option and without putting too much strength in your hits you get a louder beat. However, it lacks flexibility, and this stiffness and weight can hurt your wrists in the long run, plus a wooden tip can also damage the cymbals.
Maple is the most delicate and light of the three, and if hickory is considered to be somewhere in the middle, maple is the opposite of oak.
If you plan on playing softly and you need more speed, then maple is a great option from tip to bottom. However, it provides small feedback, and the rebound is stronger, thus maple is generally not ideal for novice drummers.
For the most part, nylon-tip sticks with the above wooden handles will also offer the same feel and playability.
To be honest, it can be tricky to differentiate between wood and nylon-tip drumsticks when it comes to durability and longevity because both materials have their pros and cons in this department.
Nylon-tip sticks are considered to be more durable, the synthetic tip is less likely to disintegrate, but they can crack and fall off midplay.
The good thing about the nylon tip itself is that it’s usually uniform, compared to wooden tips whose surface is usually not as perfectly smooth and consistent. With time the wood tips will chip away and as soon as there is a chip on your stick, it’s basically useless.
While there are woods like hickory and oak that are more resilient and can withstand intense playing styles they will still wear down eventually.
Nylon-tip sticks on the other hand are more likely to withstand a good beating, you can even use them for bucket drumming, but as long as you’re careful you could also go with wood sticks!
This is another aspect of nylon and wood tip drumsticks that is difficult to compare simply because you can find high-end wood tip drumsticks and high-end nylon-tip sticks that are equally expensive.
Likewise, there are both affordable options for wood and nylon-tip sticks. Usually, the price range is anywhere between $9 and $30.
The manufacturer, length, and overall material used are the main factors that dictate the price of drumsticks.
Usually hickory wood is more expensive compared to oak or maple. So, a nylon-tip stick with a hickory handle is more likely to exceed the price of a maple drumstick with a wood tip.
Of course, durability is the main reason why nylon-tip stick can be considered more affordable.
Are Wood Or Nylon Tip Drumsticks Better?
This truly comes down to personal preference, both wood and nylon tip drumsticks bring something different, especially when it comes to sound, and that is, if not the most important, then one of the most important things when it comes to playing the drums or any instrument for that matter.
Whenever I do play the drums I tend to alternate between the two.
I usually go for nylon-tip drumsticks when I know I’ll be incorporating more cymbals in that particular music session and most importantly if I’m looking for that consistent bright sound.
In a lot of ways, you can base your choice between wood and nylon tips on the desired sound of the cymbal.
That’s why you will hear a lot of rock and jazz musicians nowadays use nylon tips, precisely because they do a lot of cymbal work and they want that crisp, bright sound.
If however, my band is in the mood for some older music, let’s say a vintage aesthetic and we’re playing in a bar or a small venue where the audience is going to be up close and personal then I’ll most likely go for the wood tip sticks that produce softer and warmer tones.
More so, if you’re playing heavier music like metal, or there’s a lot of drum rolling going on, then a pair of wood tip sticks could work better for you.
For those of you who feel like you have to make a decision now then my advice would be to actually take your time. Try both wood and nylon-tip drumsticks, not for a day, but for a consistent period of time.
Switch between different brands and even if you end up settling for one tip over the other, try to change things up occasionally just so you can actually see whether you made the right choice.
Are E-Series Tips Better?
If you feel like the wood tip drumsticks are too warm and the nylon drumsticks are too bright then there is an in-between option, the Regal Tip E-Series.
This type of drumstick was another innovation from Joe Calato who invented the nylon-tip sticks.
The E-Series tip has a wood handle and the tip is also made from nylon, but if you look closer you will notice that the tip has grooves. This way it produces a warmer and darker cymbal tone compared to regular nylon-tip sticks.
The grooves also offer more speed and control, and they basically ensure that there is less nylon coming in contact with the cymbals when you hit them, so it creates a warmer sound without lacking the durability and longevity nylon offers.
Whether the E-series drumsticks are better than wood or regular nylon tip sticks is something subjective and it comes down to your personal preference and style.
Which Drumstick Tip is Better For Electric Drums?
While going with either a wood or nylon-tip drumstick is usually a preference thing, you might want to be more careful if you’re playing on an electric drum kit.
In fact, a nylon-tip drumstick is the best and safest option here because wooden tips could potentially damage your electric drums.
This damage I’m talking about won’t happen overnight, but if the wood tip drumstick becomes frayed, it starts wearing down unevenly and even acquires a few splits then you might scrape the electric drum pads.
If you don’t like the sound of nylon-tip sticks and you prefer wood then consider trying the E-Series sticks that can give you a warmer tone.
If you’re just starting your drumming journey then you may notice that most drummers can be very particular about their drumsticks and that includes the material of the tip.
As you explore both the nylon and wood tip option, some of you might find that the bright sound of nylon-tip sticks works best for your style, and some of you will lean towards the warm tone of wood tip sticks. It’s also completely normal if you end up in a place where you keep going back and forth between the two options.
Either way, there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s all about the type of music and beat you want to create. So, embrace that journey of exploration and give wood and nylon-tip drumsticks a try, as well as the E-Series sticks!