Category Archives: My Drum Blogs

Stuck in the sticks

By Tim Kane

Sturbridge, MA – Call it an identity crisis of sorts, but my bag was chock full of odd-sized drum sticks to the point where I just had to purge them the other day.

I used to prefer playing the skinnier, lighter and shorter 5A nylon tips, which were invented by Joe Calato, by the way. Then, dear wife gave me custom drum sticks with 5B wood tips for Christmas with my website address laser written onto them. Sweet! They just sounded better on cymbal bells, produced stronger shell resonance, and created more bounce while playing buzz rolls on the snare.

By simplifying what I own for models, however, I am slowly rediscovering the best types of drum sticks in terms of weight, length, finish, taper, durability, color, and tip in order to match my particular needs.

Like highhats, drum sticks are one of the most important elements of your drum set. Take the time to experiment with various types, though one challenge you’ll encounter is a growing number of local music stores don’t carry a great diversity of brands these days.

What should you look for? In my opinion, the top five drum stick manufacturers in the world include Vic Firth, Zildjian, Pro-Mark, Vater and Regal Tip. If you get the chance to test drive some pairs, roll the sticks on a flat surface before using or purchasing them. Like 2X4s at the lumber store, drum sticks are not all cut perfectly straight. The more warped they are, the less efficient they perform around your drum set.

There are specific wood types and outer coatings to consider as well. The most common drums sticks are made from Maple, Hickory, and Oak – Maple being the most apt to break and Hickory drum sticks being the most popular. I have never liked synthetic sticks such as aluminum. Drums are meant to be played with real wood.

Varnished or lacquered sticks are important considerations as well. If you sweat a lot, you will want to avoid slippery coatings, or sand them down after purchase. There are a growing number of sticks with tacky surfaces embedded over the butt ends now. You can even buy sure grip wraps for them. I stay away from painted sticks, as they tend to taint my heads with that particular color.

As for drum stick tips, I still prefer wood, though nylon is the standard today. The problem I have with nylon is they tend to sound too pinging and brilliant on certain cymbals where wood produces much warmer tones. There are actually four types of tip designs and tonal qualities to consider, including: rounded (focused for cymbals), pointed (triangular shaped for medium tones), teardrop shaped (diverse sounds), and barrel (larger area for bashing). I have found the most success in playing distinct patterns with teardrops.

Size and taper wise, traditionalists will tell you that 5Bs and 2Bs are intended for hard rock drummers while 5As and 7As are best suited for jazz and funk. Though originally designed for such uses, I use 5Bs during practice to build my endurance for live gigs employing 5As. I have even used a 5B in my left hand for more punch on the snare while playing a lighter 5A on the ride and vice versa.

Choose the drum stick best fit for your hands and drum set positions, not just the musical style you are playing. Stick selection is an often-overlooked process to being the complete drummer, and is actually a critical ingredient.

– Tim Kane is a professional writer, editor and drummer of 30-plus years residing in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

Here’s some kick drum help

BY TIM KANE

One of the main problems new drummers have with playing double bass is that they see extreme metal drummers and they try to play at their speed. Speed is something that you can’t just learn. You need to practice every day and build up.

Start heel up and play with your entire leg, keeping your ankle semi-stiff and bending at the waist, practice there at a comfortable speed and develop those hip-flex muscles until you’re comfortable playing (120bpm or so) for a good 10 minutes without getting tired.

You’ve only just started, the technique you’re using right now is referred to by George Kollias as “level 2”, and this is only going to get harder.

As you progress upwards in speed it will eventually become a waste of energy to keep up the up down motion through your hips; this is where you want to try level 3.

At this speed (should be up to 180 or so bpm, semiquavers of course), you want your hips relatively relaxed, and your ankles doing all the work. It will feel very awkward at first, but you need to just practice and let it happen. Adjust the ball of your foot’s position in relation to your pedal until you find that sweet spot (again, it will just come to you), practicing at this speed and position is even more uncomfortable than level 2, but you’ll find once you’re used to it it’s actually easier for a long period of time, assuming you’re not going for full power strokes.

When you get even more intense (and you won’t, for a long while), level 3 is putting too much pressure on the center of your calf muscle; this is where level 4 comes in. the idea behind this is that you’re rotating your heel back and fourth about the ball of your foot. This sudden motion will both increase your speed as well as force yourself to use the entirety of your calves to remain steady for a long time.

don’t try to skip levels. Make sure you’re perfectly comfortable for the longest period of time at each level before trying to move on.

-Position your drum throne further back than you might find normal; you want the front of the chair as close to your knees as possible while remaining comfortable seated, and you want your knees bent slightly forward, so that your legs are closer to straight than bent. Putting the throne up higher can also help with this.

-Adjust those pedals. The faster you get the more annoying that throw is going to be. Make the beater travel a smaller distance by putting it closer to the hinge, and loosen up those bolts so it’s easier for your calves to do the action.

-Adjust that drum head. You want it tight, very tight. Reducing the throw and tightness of your pedals just made it difficult to get the pedal back started, and the solution is making a good snare-like surface for it to bounce off.

You might be interested in the heel toe, dribble, or double swivel techniques.

The heel toe technique puts your toe at the top of your pedal and allows you to play in a 4-way motion (left heel, right heel, left toe, right toe, repeat)

The dribble technique is very fast and loud, but also very uncomfortable and difficult to sustain. If level 2 is your comfort zone, you might like this one. The technique is done by holding your feet off the pedal using your hip flexors and tapping your toes up and down like you’re dribbling a basketball. I’d recommend starting in level 2 and then lifting up to accomplish this, just like you would with a basketball.

The Double swivel technique, sometimes referred to as level 5, is just like level 4 but accomplishes a Mueller-like concept within it but hitting each side of your swivel twice (right heel leftleft, left heel leftleft, right heel rightright, left heel rightright, repeat)

Having practiced each of these, I’d recommend the double swivel, although if you’re comfortable with heel toe, it can be one of the fastest methods around, and Tim Waterson holds the world record at some 1300+ single strokes using this method. However, I wouldn’t recommend you even get close to any of these until level 4 is doable, and by then you probably won’t even be interested in getting faster, after all many drummers have been clocked at over 180bpm semiquavers with a single foot using this technique.