You can do a huge amount with a standard set of sticks – but these alternatives to drumsticks will extend your sonic palette further…
The range of tones and textures that can be wrung from a drum kit with a standard set of sticks is staggering. From soft and light, to full-on, juggernaut-like sonic assaults, this time-tested combo runs the full gamut.
There is much more drum tone to be explored, however. All you need to do is change what you hit it with…
Here are some alternatives to drumsticks, and what you can expect them to do for your sound…
Drum brushes are one of the stick alternatives. Drums are, as I’m sure you’re aware, very loud. In New Orleans, in the early years of the 20th century, jazz drummers were in need of an alternative to the stick, as their playing was drowning out the other musicians.
In the absence of anything else, they used flyswatters (honestly!). This led to the development of the drum brush, and by the ‘30s, these were pretty standard.
Essentially, the shaft of a stick is attached to a fan of long wire or plastic bristles. Aside from greatly reducing the volume, the result is a tone with a far softer attack. In addition, whilst they can be played like a typical set of sticks, they can also be used in ways that sticks cannot: swishing, scraping and slapping are all standard brush techniques.
Take a look at the Flix plastic brushes.
Drum rods are, in a sense, an evolution of the drum brush. One of the issues with drum brushes is that all of the feel and rebound that drummers are used to from playing with a rigid pair of sticks is gone. Rods go some way towards rectifying this (but don’t entirely…)
They also provide a sound that has a sharper attack, more akin to a standard stick, but still with the softer, quieter feel of a brush.
Essentially, a rod is a bundle of thin, dowel like rods of wood or plastic, that are bound together for around half of its length, but left open for the, er… ‘Business end’.
What does it sound like? You remember the drum sound used on Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’? Like that.
Mallets have become increasingly popular with adventurous drummers of late. And, before anyone goes and raids the tool-shed, we’re talking about percussion mallets here- the kind you might play Tympani with.
The soft, felt heads provide a soft attack, but the weight of the mallet ensures a full, warm tone.
Why not give them a try, and extend your ‘tonal palette?’
You can find a full range of drumsticks in our online store here.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.