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Wooden sticks or metal sticks?
In recent times, new versions of drumsticks have arrived on the market, offering today’s drummer an alternative to wood sticks. What are these sticks actually like, and are they worth you giving them a try? Well, the crucial factor that these sticks are trying to overcome is the issue of durability. Sure, on the face of it, these sticks are way more expensive than wood sticks in the first instant, but with their extended life, could in fact last way longer than the same amount spent on wooden sticks. Let’s look at the options…
The most obvious and widely known type of stick is the Ahead brand. These are clever sticks in that they have an aluminium core, with rubber sleeves, and plastic tips. These plastic tips screw off, so when your rubber sleeve has worn out, simply screw the tip off, swap the sleeve, put the tip back on and carry on! Sleeves are just around £4 to replace, so much cheaper than buying new sticks altogether. So after a few changes of sleeve, you’ll have outlasted the economic life of a pair of wooden sticks by a long way. Ahead sticks are also guaranteed against breakage for 6 months, such is their confidence in the product.
As well as the durability factor, Ahead make the bold claim that playing with their sticks reduces hand fatigue, owing to the material of the stick absorbing the repeated impacts from striking drums and cymbals. Different drummers will experience different levels of benefit from this claim: when I tried them for a while, I noticed a little difference, which can go a long way if you’re a heavy hitter who virtually collapses at the end of each gig!
Ahead sticks seem to be favoured by hard rocking drummers such as Lars Ulrich, Joey Jordison, Tommy Lee and Travis Smith among many others, who all have signature sticks within their range. However, Ahead make many other standard models, so pop and jazz players can pick from the usual selection of 5A and 7A for lighter work, should they require, as well as some new models of brushes and hot rods.
The other major brand making alternative sticks is Carbostick. These sticks are made from carbon fibre but the difference to the Ahead sticks is that they do not have covers. Again, the key feature that Carbostick aspire to is durability. These sticks are not quite as expensive as Ahead sticks, around the price of two decent wooden pairs, but again can outlast wooden pairs many times over. The carbon fibre does not chip away easily, so the sticks actually have a guarantee against breaking!
Carbostick also absorb vibration in the same way that Ahead do, but they also absorb excess sweat and moisture, owing to the porous carbon surface they have. They are particularly also resilient halfway down the shaft of the stick where contact with the hoop occurs.
The third, lesser known stick is actually made by the drum head giant Aquarian, which is steadily becoming more recognised across the board. Aquarian make graphite sticks, which perform similarly to the Carbosticks. The Shock Grip version they make has a rubber butt end which absorbs vibration, which while very good on acoustic drums, can be particularly useful if you play electronic drums, or on rubber pads and practice kits.
A word on metal sticks and cymbals.
There are a lot of arguments about how these metal sticks increase the likelihood of cracking your cymbals. Many of the cymbal companies actively discourage the use of such sticks, and some even go so far as to say this will void your warranty. In fairness to the stick companies, they go some way to educate the drummer on the caution required using their products. My own opinion is that if you are using these alternative sticks, you should exercise extra caution when playing. The crucial factor, which is in fact the same as with wooden sticks, is the angle at which you strike the cymbal. If you hit with the stick angled up against the edge, this is attacking the cymbal’s weakest point and is likely to result in damage. Also, ensure that you don’t hit “through” the cymbal: rather glance sideways or strike and release instantaneously. Ensure that you’re careful with this, and you should reduce your chances of cracking a cymbal.
Next time you get chance, maybe have a tap with some of these sticks on a pad. Admittedly they’re not for everyone, but if you like the feel of them, they could serve you extremely well.