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  #1  
Old 05-13-2013, 03:55 AM
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Default Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Am I missing something here? I have never put much focus into this. When I pick out a new pair of sticks, I try to at least make sure both sticks feel the same and they aren't curled like a banana.

I bring this up because I was in a music store the other day and couldn't help but notice some kid in there trying literally every stick in the store's inventory of the model he was looking for. He went through a painstaking process of playing every one of them on the counter, A/Bing them against each other.

I wonder how critical this is. I don't think I've ever had two sticks that sounded identical. I use traditional grip, so just the way I hold my hands makes the sticks sound different, especially on a countertop. Maybe on a practice pad too. But on a drum where we actually play, I don't think anyone could hear the difference.

Is this a big deal in the studio? I would assume you could probably hear the difference in a studio recording, maybe not.

Anyway, I just wonder how many of you go to such lengths to get your sticks pitch-matched or is just a straight pair of evenly weighted sticks good enough for you?
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:06 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

The term anal retentive springs to mind. I will roll my sticks on the counter to make sure they're straight, but pitch? I'm not that picky.
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:34 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Matching pitch is important for certain applications, orchestral work comes to mind. Actually, just orchestral. For everything else, it's far less critical. That's not to say you need to tolerate a large difference between your sticks, as markedly different weights can cause feel problems. That may or may not manifest itself in your playing, or the sound (given that one stick is typically on the hat opr ride, and the other on the snare...) but it may be annoying or distracting that the sticks behave differently. I like to have my sticks within 4 or 5 grams of each other, any more than that and it bothers me. The Vic Firths are pretty consistent, but I have no problem re-purposing noticeably lighter or heavier sticks.

Re warpage, a little doesn't bother me, but if it's enough where the rotation of the stick yields dfifferent feels as I'm playing, I'll toss or re-purpose that stick.

Drums are a very tactile instrument, and the sticks are our primary connection to them. Feel is very important to the overall comfort level when playing, and if anything is off, it can have an adverse effect, depending how sensitive we are to that connection.

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Last edited by bermuda; 05-13-2013 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 05-13-2013, 05:01 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

I've done the pitch matching thing before but it wasn't for sonic reasons. The lower pitch ones will feel a little softer in your hand when struck on a hard surface like a counter and are more likely to break prematurely as they aren't as strong. At least that's the way it was explained to me and always kinda made sense. I never painstakingly A/B'd sticks to death, but I'd leave the softer-feeling ones behind. Nowadays, I don't bother and just grab and go.

There's the feel angle, too, as Bermuda mentioned. My sticks don't break the way they used to when I was playing full-force rimshots all the time on die cast hoops (pretty rare that I break sticks these days). Now they wear away up at the shoulder from playing the hats. After a while, they start getting that soft feeling and that's when I chuck 'em and grab a new pair. But I can't really tell the soft from the hard when they're new as they just don't vary that much when they're new. That why I don't bother going through that exercise anymore.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:57 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

I guess one issue I'd have is I remember seeing a video of one of the drumstick companies, and they actually do a weight and pitch matching before they send out the pair. I don't remember which company it was to tell you however. Anyway the problem is if someone is basically dragging out a bunch of sticks and laying them out, wouldn't they basically be messing it all up for the next guy? Because all of the prematched sticks would now be in a totally mixed up order.
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Old 05-13-2013, 02:10 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Is it important? I advise anyone to go to the Vic firth website and take the video tour of the factory. It takes a while, but you will know more about drumsticks, and what makes a good pair, than you ever thought possible. I was blown away by it, and it was well worth my while to watch it. He discusses the very issue of pitch matching. Check it out!

http://www.vicfirth.com/tour/
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Old 05-13-2013, 05:04 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

It seems to me that pitch-matching probably helps ensure an evenness between a pair of sticks, so from that standpoint, it can't hurt. I know it's a lot of marketing noise, but the VF videos showing how they accomplish all this stuff do impress me. Hey, I'm not made of stone here :) I just think that kind of attention to detail pays off in lots of ways.

That said, pitch-matching is not going to get in the way of me grabbing a new, mis-matched stick out of the bag when I drop one during a performance.
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Old 05-13-2013, 06:54 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

I'm not so hip to sticks being 'pitch matched' as much as I am that they weigh the same. I suppose if weighing the same makes their pitches match, I guess that's a pleasant by-product.

When I go buy sticks, in addition to rolling for straight ones, I take all the heaviest ones too.
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Old 05-13-2013, 08:19 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
I'm not so hip to sticks being 'pitch matched' as much as I am that they weigh the same. I suppose if weighing the same makes their pitches match, I guess that's a pleasant by-product.
I tried to say this in my last post, but failed. This is exactly it for me.
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Old 05-13-2013, 09:26 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

a trick i was taught was to knock each stick against the side of your head above each ear and listen for pitch. If i remember correctly though the pitches are never really perfect unisons, they are normally a 3rd apart I believe but can be worse
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Old 05-13-2013, 10:05 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Originally Posted by rstix View Post
a trick i was taught was to knock each stick against the side of your head above each ear and listen for pitch. If i remember correctly though the pitches are never really perfect unisons, they are normally a 3rd apart I believe but can be worse
Do you do this REALLY HARD against the side of your head? ;)
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Old 05-13-2013, 11:02 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
I'm not so hip to sticks being 'pitch matched' as much as I am that they weigh the same. I suppose if weighing the same makes their pitches match, I guess that's a pleasant by-product.

When I go buy sticks, in addition to rolling for straight ones, I take all the heaviest ones too.
Same here. As long as they are similar weight, I don't care.

Another thing about pitch-matching. If it's so critical, why isn't every stick pitch-matched the same. I know this is impossible. For me this is where the whole pitch-matching thing falls apart. If you're playing and either break a stick or drop one, you reach in your bag to grab a...(gasp)...NON pitch-matched stick!

What's the point of buying a matched pair if you don't always play with THAT pair. I have a few pairs in my stick bag and play with whatever two sticks I happen to grab. I've never had anyone say, "Dude, your left hand is way higher pitched than your right. What's up with that?"

@ larry...Yeah, that kid was super anal. I couldn't look away from his process. It was like a trainwreck. I couldn't believe someone would spend that much time messing with drumsticks.
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:31 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rstix View Post
a trick i was taught was to knock each stick against the side of your head above each ear and listen for pitch. If i remember correctly though the pitches are never really perfect unisons, they are normally a 3rd apart I believe but can be worse
Hmmm,
(a) physics would tell me you would require a significant blow to get the stick to ring an audible pitch from wood
(b) it sounds like (a) would hurt a lot, and cause headaches after any stick purchase
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:44 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Originally Posted by rstix View Post
a trick i was taught was to knock each stick against the side of your head above each ear and listen for pitch.
Nah, that's not stick pitch mate......it's your ears ringing from belting yourself sensless with a block of wood.


I've always thought the new fangled idea of "pitch matching" to be a bit of a wank really. I still roll and tap every stick I ever buy, but that has more to do with ensuring that nothing sounds inherently "wrong" with the stick as opposed to wanting the pitch to match. I also pay little attention to supposed factory pitch matched sticks. I grab the sticks that fit my personal tolerances and put them in the bag......that way when I grab two they'll always feel like a pair.

Like others, as long as the feel is more or less the same, they are straight and with no audible or visual defects, that's all I need.
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:09 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

As Bermuda said, in orchestral work.

At the drum shop I used to work in, the guys who played light jazz were into pitch matching. The concept being at light volumes, you can hear the tonal differences between sticks.

And if you're just working on a practice pad, and trying to get your rolls even, the differences in pitch between the sticks will become apparent given the pads themselves produce very little volume.


But in rock and roll ? forget it. No one is ever going to hear the sticks aren't pitch matched.

When I used to gig a lot in a loud volume band, I bought sticks by the box, and simply just pulled out the next pair when I needed to.
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:34 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

As Bermuda and DrumEatDrum already said, it is pretty important in orchestral snare work to have sticks that match in pitch, since a large enough variation is audible in the sound of the drum when playing.

As for lifespan issues, I played the same "carefully selected" pair of SD1s for seven or eight years before changing to a pair of Tom Gager snare sticks that I'm still using today.
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  #17  
Old 05-14-2013, 03:58 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

orchestral ? Maybe. But there may be another requirement....

There was one venue I had a regular gig at (jazz standards, fairly low volume) and the "stage" (meaning over-sized riser) was surrounded by glass (in back) and brick wall (either side). The floor was oak. The onstage sound was beyond anything I have experienced.

I heard overtones in my cymbals that I never heard before and many I didn't like. For the first time, I HAD .... absolutely HAD ... to have sticks that were close in pitch for all the ride work. Maybe I got a bit fixated on it, but I could tell instantly, when changing from brushes to sticks, which stick I had in my right hand. This was an unusual scenario, I'm sure.

And no, I didn't spend hours at the music store checking out sticks. I'd grab a pair, tap on a ride cymbal and get a set that were close enough. (why did he tap on the counter???)

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  #18  
Old 05-14-2013, 04:35 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

I started playing drums when I was 9 and I started hearing this kind of stuff (pitch matched sticks) shortly thereafter. Seriously, one of the main reasons I went to engineering school and then engineering graduate school was to get the real facts behind stuff like this.

Theoretically, the same angular momentum can be produced from sticks of different mass (and different pitch). It's the mass times velocity that produces momentum and both can be altered. Technically, it isn't necessary to pitch match sticks. Practically, it make them easier to play, but even then, there are limitations to how well they can be matched, Trees grow differently and have slightly different densities. Some shop QC can mitigate a lot of that variation, but it isn't that exact. Structural engineers need to use lumber grading and species property data all the time, and the species variation is considered when publishing design values. There is a lot higher standard of deviation in the material properties of wood than in most man-made building materials, like steel.

The type of music played - orchestral, jazz, whatever - doesn't make trees more uniform. This is largely just marketing and in the end, we all like a nicely matched pair of sticks. But from a technical standpoint, the whole idea of pitch matched sticks is kind of trivial.
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:27 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Theoretically, the same angular momentum can be produced from sticks of different mass (and different pitch). It's the mass times velocity that produces momentum and both can be altered. Technically, it isn't necessary to pitch match sticks. Practically, it make them easier to play, but even then, there are limitations to how well they can be matched, Trees grow differently and have slightly different densities. Some shop QC can mitigate a lot of that variation, but it isn't that exact. Structural engineers need to use lumber grading and species property data all the time, and the species variation is considered when publishing design values. There is a lot higher standard of deviation in the material properties of wood than in most man-made building materials, like steel.
great point. Indeed, the physics of wood and pitch of course ultimately depends on its biology, within and between tree species, so impossible to pitch match consistently. It makes you then think how we can speak of different woods and their pitches consistently in shells, at least in mass produced drums.

For example, would two different multi-ply birch shells rolling off the line have quite a bit of variability in fundamental tone for this same reason?
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:46 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Years ago I used Regal Tip and when I bought new sticks I would roll them and pick out what felt best in my hands. Now I use VF and the technology has changed so much I don't even roll them anymore. I buy a brick at a time and put the all in my stick bag facing the same way, play a few tunes with a pair, put them back facing the opposite way and grab another pair. This way they wear evenly. Last me about 6 months. Every now and then I might feel one that feels a bit difference in weight, I'm only banging a drum, not performing brain surgery, no big deal.
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:32 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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For example, would two different multi-ply birch shells rolling off the line have quite a bit of variability in fundamental tone for this same reason?
I guess that depends on what you consider "quite a bit", but essentially that's true. Again, practical.considerations are more important. You tune the head, not the shell so the variation isn't going to cause anyone to throw out a drum. The real point of my post is that marketing claims of dubious substance seem to gain a lot more traction than they should.
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Old 05-14-2013, 03:33 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

i just dont think non pitched match sticks are what is lacking from all of our drumming to get anyone to run out and fall for this marketing ploy. Bonham didnt use em, IM not usin em!
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:54 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

The only purpose for pitch matched sticks is on the practice pad in my opinion, the sticks still produce different pitches because I'm hitting at different spots, my hands still work a bit differently etc.

Well, I weighed 3 pairs of VF 5a on the kitchen scale, the new ones were all 47g and the slightly used ones were 46g... pretty damn good.

Are other manufacturers this good in making "identical" sticks?
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Old 05-15-2013, 03:14 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Well, I weighed 3 pairs of VF 5a on the kitchen scale, the new ones were all 47g and the slightly used ones were 46g... pretty damn good.

Are other manufacturers this good in making "identical" sticks?
That's an easy calculation. The specific gravity of a wood is its weight in g/cc. Take that and hit the button on your calculator that says "1/x" and that's how many cc's are in a gram. For hickory, the s.g. averages about 0.83, so a gram is 1.2 cc's. A good batch of wood and a CAD/CAM lathe can do that easily. They are expensive, so only the better stick manufacturer's would have them, but VF certainly isn't the only one who can get those results.
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Old 05-15-2013, 08:14 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

I do believe pitch matched sticks are a good idea (if I'm playing on a pad or a ride cymbal I can often here the difference in sound between two non-matched sticks) but I trust the stick manufacturers to match the sticks for me. I don't try every stick in the store to find a match. I think the stick companies, in my case Vater, do a good job tone-matching the sticks.
I think weight and banana-ness is more important to check yourself...
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Old 05-16-2013, 03:39 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Eh... I wouldn't care so long as they feel right in my hands.

Besides, most of the time, you're not hitting the same surface with both sticks anyway so you'll never notice.
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:59 PM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

Like Bermuda said, Orchestral yes, and marching band yes.
But drumset? No.

Think about it, you break a stick on a gig... you grab another one real quick... that one you grabbed probably isn't going to match the pitch of the one in your other hand, right? So who cares.

The only thing I care about with my sticks is are they straight, and is the weight okay.
As long as mine all weight around the same, I'm fine. I like them a little on the heavy side, 3 or 4 lines of grain on the butt-end or less. Any more and the stick will be too light.
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Old 05-21-2013, 07:16 AM
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Default Re: Pitch-matched sticks - How critical is it?

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
The term anal retentive springs to mind. I will roll my sticks on the counter to make sure they're straight, but pitch? I'm not that picky.
Better to be anal retentive than anal expulsive, I always say!

Anyway, I think matched sticks are a bunch of hooey. Assuming you get perfectly matched sticks, the first thing you will do is play them on radically different surfaces (cymbals vs. drums). So what's the point?
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