Every so often, young drummers might get their first interaction with these musical instruments while trying out for a marching band. Although having to play just one piece of a larger ensemble may seem easy, there’s a lot of skill and gearing required to sound good and deliver an impactful performance.
For marching percussionists, it all starts with the sticks. The snare sticks used are not the same as what you may see in the hands of a concert drummer. They have different lengths, diameters, and a variety of tip styles and tapper designs, each adding its own pros and cons.
5 Best Marching Snare Sticks for Beginners and Pros
If you’re unsure about what you will be required to play in the near future and what sticks are best for you, check out my favorite picks and learn what each of them has to offer.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Marching Snare Sticks for Beginners and Pros
- The Importance of Quality Craftsmanship
- Tip Styles
- Stick Size – How Much Does this Matter?
These sticks are instantly recognizable thanks to their predominantly white color. Ralph Hardimon Signatures are highly popular in the drums corps community, and for good reason.
Firstly, they have barrel tips that give forceful punch to the snare drum when you hit it. The force makes the sticks feel like powerful tools.
The taper is longer than most other marching sticks, providing more balance throughout the stick. The weight is distributed very evenly while keeping the rebound of the stick quite nicely.
These sticks were designed with the help of Ralph Hardimon. Having such an experienced player involved with their creation gives you plenty of reason to put your trust in them. While the longer taper can be an acquired taste, most percussionists will find that these sticks fit naturally into their hands.
While the white paint on the sticks looks quite cool, I found that it tends to come rub off and mark my practice pad. It has no effect on the sound or feel, but it does get frustrating at times since I like the clean look.
I found that the solution was to use a white practice pad. The rubbed off paint can’t be seen on snare drums as most snare heads are white.
While most of the drum stick market is dominated by Vic Firth, Promark is not a company to brush aside. They make some seriously high-quality sticks and these Scott Johnson sticks prove it.
Scott Johnson is a legendary figure in drum corps and these sticks are his legacy. They’re pretty versatile thanks to the combination of a medium taper and ball tip.
While the sticks are highly popular amongst some of the top drum lines in the world, they’re a great option for beginners as well. They’re light to hold and the ball tip provides musical response.
These sticks are quite durable, allowing you to dig into the snare drum as much as you’d like without worrying about breaking them too soon.
A downside to them is that the sticks have slightly different pitches. One sounds higher than the other, causing an uneven sound to be heard if you listen very closely. It’s not a game breaker, but it may bother some people. Especially if you’re trying to work on getting even strokes between your hands.
These sticks don’t have as much rebound as the Ralph Hardimon sticks. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on who you ask.
The MS5 snare sticks offer an interesting combination. They feature a larger diameter than most of the other sticks in the Corpsmaster series. However, they’re still slightly lighter than the Ralph Hardimon sticks. The large diameter is paired with a medium taper, giving the sticks a good balance between power and control.
The sticks are made of hickory which guarantees reliability in outdoor settings. The feel is smooth and allows the users to hold the sticks with comfort and confidence. This is also where the medium taper comes in handy as it provides superior control over a shorter taper, even if it comes at the cost of some volume.
Of course, it’s the reliability of Vic Firth music gear that seals the deal on the MS5 snare sticks. Overall, these are the standard pair of marching sticks to get. You could compare them to the Vic Firth 5As for the drum kit.
One small issue that I found with these is that they have a slightly orange color to them. It didn’t quite match the image from where I bought them that looked like the standard wooden color.
The differentiating factor between this stick and the others comes mainly in how the tip has been designed. It has a large knob head that falls somewhere between a teardrop and a barrel tip, making it a unique stick on this list.
The medium taper provides a balanced feel to the stick, making it a good option for most percussionists out there. Just know that these sticks are a bit lighter than all the other options on this list.
The weight is light because the diameter of the stick is slightly smaller than the others. If you’re a fan of lighter sticks, these are the perfect choice.
Using light sticks is a great way for a drum set player to transition to marching snare. Marching sticks are significantly heavier than standard drum sticks, so using a lighter pair of sticks will make it a bit easier to deal with at first. They’re also great for children who are starting to get into marching percussion.
If you’re an experienced player, I wouldn’t recommend getting these. It would be better to get something a little heavier to fit in better with the rest of the drum line.
While the previous sticks are all staple options for the drum corps market, these Innovative Percussion FS1 sticks are a great budget option. If you’re looking for something with good quality that isn’t attached to the expensive brand names, these may suit your needs.
The oval tip will give you a balanced tone. It’s almost neutral as it won’t favor the low end or the natural brightness of marching snare drums. It’s not a popular tip style but it is very suitable for practice and for anyone that doesn’t hold a lead position.
The control is great due to the balance of the stick. The 17” length doesn’t put too much weight on the front end, which means you could get a perfect rebound even with complex rhythms.
It’s often a gamble with durability when you buy sticks that aren’t attached to a big brand name. Unfortunately, these sticks don’t last as long as the more expensive sticks on this list. However, the cheaper price will allow you to buy more of them to have in your stick bag. So it evens out.
The Importance of Quality Craftsmanship
Marching percussion sticks require a different level of durability than regular drum sticks. Almost exclusively used outdoors, these sticks must endure sun, rain, humid environments, and a whole host of elements that can quickly affect the integrity of the wood as well as ruin the percussionist’s ability to handle complex rhythmic lines.
There’s a lot of variety in tip styles. Of the five currently in use, three are the most common in marching bands. Teardrop tips let you create a warmer tone by compensating the already bright sound of marching snare drums.
Ball tips have great articulation and enhance the crispness of the snare tone. Barrel tips are used to get the most punch and volume out of the snare drum. It comes down to skill level and personal preference when choosing a tip style for your sticks.
Stick Size – How Much Does this Matter?
Size refers to both length and thickness. Each feature impacts the playing style and sound in different ways. Thicker sticks can give you more projection but the sound will likely be less crisp. They’re also somewhat harder to control.
In contrast, thinner sticks allow you to play faster and produce a brighter tone. They’re more suitable for complex lines, fills, rolls. However, they also don’t last nearly as long.
The length can affect the sound as well but more in the way that it affects the feel. Longer sticks will be front heavy, which may make it harder to control the clarity of soft notes. Shorter sticks, on the other hand, don’t pack enough power because they lack leverage and may require a higher skill level to use effectively.
Time to Take the Lead
As you can see, to the untrained eye all marching sticks may look and feel the same. But, upon closer inspection, it’s the tiniest of differences that separates these sticks.
Each set of snare sticks on this list excels in at least one or two areas. But, no matter how well you’re geared for the occasion, no amount of craftsmanship and balance can substitute technique.
Are you ready to take your commitment to the next level?