A Jazz Drummer's "Stickitis"

jazzerooty

Junior Member
I played nothing by Vic Firth SD4 Combos for 25 years. When I moved back to St. Paul, began to try other sticks...and other sticks...other sticks. I like the Vater Sweet Rides, the VF AJ-3 Jazz sticks, Keith Carlock's VF, and Dennis Chamber's Zildjian model. But I always end up playing my VF Combos, because it's what I'm used to. Nevertheless, I find myself switching sticks on gigs. I should've just stayed with what I had. Do any of you suffer from his compulsivity?
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I use one only model (AHEAD 5B Light Rock) for everything I do, even pad practice. I've never been much of a stick-switcher. I like an all-purpose pair that covers my bases so I don't have to give the topic further thought. When something works for me, I leave well enough alone.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Jazz drummer = one who uses Combos, or is trying to find something to use other than Combos.

I used them for many years, and eventually started feeling like the sound was kind of dull, so I've been looking around ever since. Other people sound great with them, I just got psyched out. Visiting @Griener in Berlin he convinced me to try some light hickory sticks. Specifically Bopworks Birdlands-- also the West Coast and Swing Classic models are good. The Birdlands are very light and very interesting-- it's like they're perfectly sized to balance with the piano and bass.

I wrote a couple of posts rounding up some jazz sticks, and reviewing Bopworks sticks. I didn't like any of the specialty cymbal sticks-- the Sweet Rides, or Erskine's stick, or the VF AJs. They seem to be made to make bad heavy cymbals sound good. Right now I'm using some Vater Bebop 500s, which are OK. I probably won't buy them again when this current three pairs are done.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
GC forces me to try different sticks, they never have what I like in stock (VF HD4). I will buy VF Steve Jordan model and shorten them to HD4 length and it basically becomes the same stick. I just bought some VF Steve Gadd sticks because they had neither the HD4s or the Steve Jordan's. The Gadd sticks are an HD4 that is about 1/16" shorter.

So yes and no. I dont like having to find a different stick, but am glad that there are 2 other options I can use that are of the same specs more or less.

Still playing with the idea of giving AHEAD another go. The 7A is almost the same size as what I like.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
VF AH5A is a maple 5A. More durable than the SD4, different tip.
Hope you like them if you try them. They are maple so you get a similar cymbal attack to the SD4.

Oh, and yes. I have a box of sticks that I tried before I found these.
 

ToneT

Well-known member
Vic Firth American Classic 5B Nylons for me. It's my go-to everything stick.
I do have a few pairs of 5A Nylon lying around, and that's just what they're doing; lying around.
I buy a brick of 5Bs at a time.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
Nowadays I have several different "perfect" sticks... Some days I'm feeling one over the other, and I've decided there's nothing to be gained by overthinking it. Use what feels good that day, that song, that section. Sticks are just a tool to get you to play your best, and if slavish loyalty to a particular stick isn't doing you any favors you should feel free to switch it up.
 

bongoman

Junior Member
I didn't like any of the specialty cymbal sticks-- the Sweet Rides, or Erskine's stick, or the VF AJs. They seem to be made to make bad heavy cymbals sound good.
That’s an interesting and funny criticism. I play the Erskine Big Band partly because they sound great on all my cymbals (mostly premium Agops and 50s Zildjians). Did you find that those sticks made “good light cymbals” sound worse?
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
That’s an interesting and funny criticism. I play the Erskine Big Band partly because they sound great on all my cymbals (mostly premium Agops and 50s Zildjians). Did you find that those sticks made “good light cymbals” sound worse?
The Erskine "ride stick" is what I played-- does he have another model? I think the Vater Sweet Rides were the worst that way— all body and zero definition.
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
Nowadays I have several different "perfect" sticks... Some days I'm feeling one over the other, and I've decided there's nothing to be gained by overthinking it. Use what feels good that day, that song, that section. Sticks are just a tool to get you to play your best, and if slavish loyalty to a particular stick isn't doing you any favors you should feel free to switch it up.
My philosophy exactly. I switch up sticks regularly just like I switch drum set configurations around every few weeks. I like to be adaptable and not easily thrown by changes, big or small.
 

bongoman

Junior Member
The Erskine "ride stick" is what I played-- does he have another model? I think the Vater Sweet Rides were the worst that way— all body and zero definition.
He’s got “ride” and “big band” models. Aside from that though I’m still confused—what do you mean by body vs definition?
 

Yamaha Rider

Well-known member
I use one only model (AHEAD 5B Light Rock) for everything I do, even pad practice. I've never been much of a stick-switcher. I like an all-purpose pair that covers my bases so I don't have to give the topic further thought. When something works for me, I leave well enough alone.
Nylon tips?
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Nylon tips?

Yes, all AHEAD sticks come with nylon tips, but different shapes are available (oval, ball, and so on) to customize your sound. The sticks I use (5B Light Rock) have a relatively soft tip that mimics the feel and tone of wood.

AHEAD sticks are pricey, but they last a LONG time. For me, they're more economical than wood. Here's AHEAD's website if you'd like to explore:

 

Griener

Member
I used to play Maple sticks for years, although I went for SD2 (Bolero style) instead of SD4 Combo.
I ended up with the now discontinued Gregg Field endorser model, which was a maple stick in between a SD2 and a SD4.
But as nice as Maple sticks feel, those sticks tend to make a darker sound which is pleasant for you as a drummer listening to yourself, but the cymbals tend to get buried in the mix.
When I met with Pete La Roca, he used small Regal Tip 7A's with nylon tips, because he wanted his cymbals to get heard without overplaying.
I found that drummers with bigger sticks (more mass, not necessarily more weight) tend to play louder and overpower thin jazz ride cymbals.
That's probably one reason for those unlathed cymbals came into fashion a couple of years ago since you can't overpower them.
They have an in-built limiter and my students used to like them when they weren't able to control a cymbal.

Those Bopworks Birdland @toddbishop was mentioning were built after an old Roy Haynes model and all the older sticks I came across had a long taper which was the reason why sticks started to break after drummers had to match their volume with amplified instruments.
So stick design changed in the early seventies. I think Pro Mark was the first company to make their sticks thicker around the taper, but that threw off the balance of the sticks. Drummers had to work harder to play a fast ride pattern and played louder as a consequence.
I had Frank Kincel of LA Backbeat make me a special stick model which is .505 thick with a very long taper and I haven't broken one of them yet.
Great sticks, especially for piano trios.
When I need a bit more beef, I use LA Backbeat's JBX 535 (J=Jazz= lighter wood, B=Bounce= longer taper, X=extra length=16"), but then I usually play with acoustic instruments only.
But with those sticks I can control lighter cymbals and don't need to hold back.

I want a clear sound to make my time be heard in the band. I never could understand why people liked nylon tips at all, but now that I don't break sticks anymore the wooden tips wear off after some months. I now use clear finger nail hardener to convert my worn tips into nylon tips temporarily, but that needs to be redone every couple of weeks. The only problem is that my sticks now last so long that I'm afraid my favorite stick companies will go out of business since I'm not buying enough.
So, people, please seek out people like Frank Kincel of LA Backbeat and Chris Bennett of Bopworks and buy their sticks!
Keep them going!
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
I used to play Maple sticks for years, although I went for SD2 (Bolero style) instead of SD4 Combo.
I ended up with the now discontinued Gregg Field endorser model, which was a maple stick in between a SD2 and a SD4.
But as nice as Maple sticks feel, those sticks tend to make a darker sound which is pleasant for you as a drummer listening to yourself, but the cymbals tend to get buried in the mix.
When I met with Pete La Roca, he used small Regal Tip 7A's with nylon tips, because he wanted his cymbals to get heard without overplaying.
I found that drummers with bigger sticks (more mass, not necessarily more weight) tend to play louder and overpower thin jazz ride cymbals.
That's probably one reason for those unlathed cymbals came into fashion a couple of years ago since you can't overpower them.
They have an in-built limiter and my students used to like them when they weren't able to control a cymbal.

Those Bopworks Birdland @toddbishop was mentioning were built after an old Roy Haynes model and all the older sticks I came across had a long taper which was the reason why sticks started to break after drummers had to match their volume with amplified instruments.
So stick design changed in the early seventies. I think Pro Mark was the first company to make their sticks thicker around the taper, but that threw off the balance of the sticks. Drummers had to work harder to play a fast ride pattern and played louder as a consequence.
I had Frank Kincel of LA Backbeat make me a special stick model which is .505 thick with a very long taper and I haven't broken one of them yet.
Great sticks, especially for piano trios.
When I need a bit more beef, I use LA Backbeat's JBX 535 (J=Jazz= lighter wood, B=Bounce= longer taper, X=extra length=16"), but then I usually play with acoustic instruments only.
But with those sticks I can control lighter cymbals and don't need to hold back.

I want a clear sound to make my time be heard in the band. I never could understand why people liked nylon tips at all, but now that I don't break sticks anymore the wooden tips wear off after some months. I now use clear finger nail hardener to convert my worn tips into nylon tips temporarily, but that needs to be redone every couple of weeks. The only problem is that my sticks now last so long that I'm afraid my favorite stick companies will go out of business since I'm not buying enough.
So, people, please seek out people like Frank Kincel of LA Backbeat and Chris Bennett of Bopworks and buy their sticks!
Keep them going!
Try crazy glue for the tips. It soaks in deeper yet the "crust" on the outside that affects sound wears off more quickly. The cheapest super glue are often best, and most watery. I feel the same way about how long it makes my sticks last.
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
I got this really bad this year. So bad that I did a spread sheet of 3 different brands and all the different 5A/5B/747 & signature models available.
Even went as far as doing cells for weight, diameter & material based on my Thomas Lang STL's as a baseline.

It'll help me be selective, but man...I need to take a break. :LOL:
 

prokofi5

Junior Member
Jazz drummer = one who uses Combos, or is trying to find something to use other than Combos.
It's funny because it's true. I only quit because they sounded dead on my new main ride which is a mini-cup and went through all the models you listed. Ended up landing on an old maple Jim Rupp model which of course is discontinued.
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
Nowadays I have several different "perfect" sticks... Some days I'm feeling one over the other, and I've decided there's nothing to be gained by overthinking it. Use what feels good that day, that song, that section. Sticks are just a tool to get you to play your best, and if slavish loyalty to a particular stick isn't doing you any favors you should feel free to switch it up.
I'm with you. I have several varieties kicking around from 7a's up to 2 and that includes 2 weights of VF combo
with mallets. Actually some days when my Osteo acts up I find the VF 5a combo work very well especially with my left hand..trad grip. I think that the mallet end gives me more balance and takes some pressure off of the tip.. but maybe I'm not firing on all cylinders or just plain strange. While I'm working out I'm try different sticks to see what feels right that day.
 
I’m so happy that I found this thread. Over the past few years I thought that I was losing my mind. I’ve purchased so many different stick sizes, brands, types of wood, nylon & wood tip sticks that I can probably open up my own drum shop. The problem for me is that I developed psoriatic arthritis. I’ve been playing on and off for 40 plus years; but the last 10 years more on a regular basis. Where I used to love a thinner stick, now, because of my medical condition, I need a stick with more beef so I can actually get a better grip. I really like the weight of maple sticks, so I tried the Vic SD10’s and Vater 5A sugar maple. Unfortunately, I’m having an issue with the Vater sticks slipping out of my hands due to their finish. I like the sounds I’m getting from my cymbals with the Vater sugar maple 5A’s better than the SD10’s though. It seems as though this is going to be a constant battle. At least I feel better knowing that there are other drummers out there who change up their sticks from time to time.
 
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