A drum stick is a type of percussion mallet used particularly for playing the drum kit. It is also used for other non-pitched percussion instruments. Beaters used with tuned percussion such as the xylophone are usually referred to as mallets. Drum sticks generally are supplied and used in pairs, usually one in each hand and used only for non-tuned percussion. The drum stick is made from a single piece of wood, although modern materials are also used and the tip is known as the bead. This is usually made from wood or nylon and come in a variety of shapes, including acorn, barrel, oval, teardrop, pointed and round.
Brushes are also commonly used with drum kits and in particular the snare drum, but also used with many other instruments. Brushes are a set of bristles connected to a handle so that the bristles make a rounded fan shape. They are often used in Jazz, Swing, or Blues music. The bristles can be made of metal or plastic; handles are commonly made of wood or aluminum, and are often coated with rubber. Some brushes are telescoping, so that the bristles can be pulled inside a hollow handle and the fan made by the bristles can be of variable length, width and density. Retracting the bristles also protects the brush when it is not being used. The non-bristled end of the brush may end in a loop or a ball.
Conventional numbering for drum sticks
Plain wooden drum sticks are most commonly described using a number for the weight/diameter of the stick and a letter(s) to describe the tip. E.g. a 7A is a common jazz stick with a wooden tip, a 7B is a wooden tip with a different tip shape (rounder and shorter than a 7A), while a 7AN is the same weight as the jazz stick but with a nylon tip. A 5A is a common wood tipped rock stick, heavier than a 7A but with a similar profile. The numbers are most commonly odd but even numbers are used occasionally, in the range 2 (heaviest) to 9 (lightest).
That said, sticks are not always coded and simply refer to the genre e.g. a "Jazz" stick is typically a 7A, 7AN or 8A, and a "Heavy Rock" stick is typically a 4B or 5B.
The most general purpose stick is a 5A with a wood tip, to generate snare tone. However, in the final analysis it becomes a matter of preference for the musician.
A percussion mallet is a hand held item used to hit a percussion instrument in order to produce sound usually used in pairs. Mallet shafts are commonly made of rattan, birch, or synthetic materials such as fibreglass. Some percussion mallets, such as a triangle wand, are normally used only with a specific instrument, while others are used on many different instruments.
There are three main mallet types:
Mallets come in a wide range of sizes according to the their use and the size of instrument to be played.
- Unwrapped mallets - used on glockenspiel, xylophone and other instruments with keys made of durable material, have heads made of brass, rubber, nylon, acrylic, wood, or other hard materials.
- Wrapped mallets - mostly used on marimba, vibraphone and other instruments with softer keys (though they can be used on more durable instruments as well), have heads of, rubber, nylon, acrylic or other medium-hard materials wrapped in softer materials like yarn, cord or latex. Wrapped mallets are also the mallets of choice to play suspended cymbal, though drum set players typically simply use drum sticks instead.
- Felt mallets - or cartwheel mallets have heads composed of layers of felt, held between two steel washers. They are mainly used on non-tuned percussion, and in the context of kit drumming are referred to as soft sticks.
Some mallets, such as xylophone vibraphone mallets, are simply named "mallets", others have specific names such as a "wand" for a triangle and "Rutes" used with a wide range of percussion instruments. A rute consists of several thin sticks that are bound together to form one stick. The sound it makes is a cross between a stick and a brush.