Jazz is one of the most nuanced styles of music when it comes to drums. It isn’t common for a beginner to play jazz, since it can get quite technical. Mixing technicality with feel can be daunting. Although that shouldn’t stop you, even if you are a beginner!
A jazz drummer’s stick bag should include quite a few things. However, the main thing should be a few pairs of great drumsticks that are going to cater to the music and help you express yourself in a jazz setting.
Here’s my list of the best drumsticks for jazz.
5 Best Drumsticks for Jazz
Peter Erskine is a legendary jazz drummer. He’s played with a lot of well known jazz musicians over the years. He helped designed the Vic Firth Ride sticks specifically for jazz drumming.
They have a beefed up shaft for extra power, allowing you to play loud dynamics without having to hit too hard. The long taper and back-heavy feel gives them really good rebound. This rebound lends itself well to articulate jazz drumming.
The sticks have a wooden tip in a teardrop shape. This shape makes them sound great on cymbals, especially the ride.
They hold up pretty well when playing other styles of music, as long as you don’t hit too hard for too long.
The Vic Firth 7A sticks are one of the most widely used pairs of drum sticks in the drumming world. I know that I’ll be able to pick up a pair from almost any music store I go to. Vic Firth is at the top of the drumstick game and the American Classic 7A is one of their best sellers.
I’ve put the nylon tip version on this list since the nylon tip makes the sticks sound brighter on cymbals. The cymbals are almost more important than the drums in jazz, so it’s great to have sticks that accent the cymbals.
The Vic Firth 7ANs have a nimble and thin build, yet are somehow very strong. They’re extremely durable and don’t splinter often like other drumsticks. They also have a firm grip and great weight balance.
The one downside to these sticks is that the nylon tips can sometimes fly off the sticks, never to be seen again.
Promark’s FireGrain series of sticks are heat tempered. Heat tempering is a process of slowly heating the wood with a flame to remove moisture and increase durability. The FireGrain Classic 7As are durable sticks that are great for playing jazz.
The heat tempering doesn’t affect their balance or weight, meaning they feel just as light as other 7A drumsticks. They have a light feel in the hand and allow you to control dynamics fairly easily.
The FireGrain 7As bring out a great tone from the drums and cymbals, while looking pretty cool at the same time!
The one con that these sticks have is quality consistency. Some models seem to be more durable than others.
These sticks were designed by the legendary percussionist, Trilok Gurtu. Trilok plays on a percussion setup instead of a standard kit. However, these sticks work great for playing jazz on a drum kit.
The unique thing about them is that they have a thumb groove at the fulcrum point. This is an innovation that helps with grip. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea though, since the thumb groove may give you blisters.
These sticks are very thin, making them a great option for nuanced jazz playing. They’re responsive when playing loud and soft dynamics.
The hickory wood helps give clarity to your drum strikes, meaning every note you play is going to have a full sounding tone.
Vater has established itself as one of the leading drumstick companies in the drumming world. They are known for producing high quality drumsticks that last. I’ve put the Vater Manhattan 7A wood tip sticks on this list for a few reasons.
Firstly, they are slightly longer than your typical 7A sticks. This gives you a greater reach when playing the drums. The extra length is especially good for playing bells of cymbals, which happens a lot in jazz drumming.
The wood is slightly lighter than other 7As, meaning the sticks produce less volume and are great for jazz dynamics.
The rounded tips offer a defined edge, allowing for very articulate strokes.
The one questionable quality about Vater drumsticks is that they have flat butt ends. This won’t feel comfortable for drummers who hold their sticks near the bottom.
What to Have in Your Stick Bag for Jazz
With jazz being such a diverse style of music, you need to have a few things in your stick bag for different situations. The first thing would obviously be sticks.
The next thing you should have is brushes. These are used when the drums need to be really soft, or if you’re playing classic jazz standards that need brushes.
The last thing you should have is mallets. Mallets can be used for dramatic cymbal whooshes or for musical tom playing.
Wood vs Nylon Tips
You’ll notice that some drumsticks have wood tips and some have nylon. There has always been a great debate between drummers over which tip is better. They both have their uses.
Wood tips are more common. They produce a natural wooden sound. Cymbals played with wood tips will blend and sound dark.
Nylon tips produce a brighter sound from cymbals. The hard plastic tip brings out the cymbal tone and gives a pingy sound. This pingy sound is great for playing swing rhythms on the ride cymbal.
Nylon tips also work great on electronic drums. They tend to be more kind to mesh heads, allowing them to last longer than if played on by wood tips.
Most drummers tend to prefer wood tips, but it’s important to try both and make a decision on which one you like. It could be beneficial to have both types of sticks in your stick bag.
Drumsticks are a drummer’s most important tools. They should feel like extensions of your arms. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. So, if a drumstick doesn’t feel really comfortable for you, you should keep looking for one that does.
Once you have your sticks for jazz, you’ll need a kit. I've written about the best jazz kits here.
Just remember that drumsticks aren’t meant to last forever. Some are more durable than others, but they all break eventually.
Jazz is a lot of fun to play. So, go get yourself some sticks that will help you play it.