The Search for the Perfect Stick-Pt. 2!
Well, here we are again! Since I posted almost 2 years ago on this same subject, I have gone through yet another period of searching for that one perfect stick for all of my musical needs. I know that by the end of my last post I had settled on both Vic Firth 85A and AJ3 models and believe me, at the time, I really felt that that was going to work. However, the 85A’s proved to be just a bit too light for louder playing situations and as much as loved the tones the AJ3 pulled out of my dark, washy ride cymbals, I couldn’t get the solid, meaty sound I was looking for on the actual drums. Now, this is not to say that another drummer might not find these sticks perfect for their needs. In fact, there were certain times when each WAS the exact stick for what I wanted at that moment. More often than not, however, I had to sacrifice feel for sound or volume for speed.
So once again I set out to find “the perfect stick”. This time however, I vowed to learn more about what goes into making a stick feel and sound a certain way. I focused on how length, taper, front or back weighting, type of wood, and tip design all come together to make a stick feel the way it does. Why, I can spout off all kinds of specs that are guaranteed to boggle the mind and bore any non drummer in the room! And as before, I even investigated other brands. I just wouldn’t know if I had found the best stick for me if I hadn’t allowed myself to at least LOOK outside the Vic Firth catalog a little bit (spoiler alert: Vic Firth IS the best stick for me. Stay tuned!).
So after trying probably 20 different models in a variety of settings, here’s what I learned: ANY stick could feel exactly right and/or totally wrong at any given moment. Changes in volume, how agile my hands felt that night, or even if my ears were more sensitive for some reason are just a few of the variables that can make a stick that feels perfect one night, seem like a foreign object the next. It was finally becoming clear to me that what I needed was to find a model that would feel good in my hands MOST of the time. and that, with just a slight amount of adjustment in technique, could get ANY sound out of my drums and cymbals. I also realized that I personally felt more comfortable playing a slightly heavier stick a little softer when needed vs. trying to play a lighter one harder. In short, I needed something that worked for everything I do without it being so specific that I couldn’t use it for something else. After all, trying to find individual models for each and every specific situation was what led me to carrying 4 or 5 different sizes in my bag and making myself crazy in the first place!
So what was my final decision? What rare, cutting edge design finally won me over? Well, it was non other than the good ol’ Vic Firth American Classic 5A! This makes perfect sense since this was the stick that I had played off and on since high school and had brought me back to Vic Firth after a long period representing another manufacturer. Simply put, I can do whatever I need to with this stick and it just feels like home. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. After all, there’s a reason the Vic Firth 5A is the #1 best selling stick in the world! Just looking at it inspires me gives me confidence that I can tackle anything thrown at me. Having said that, I am often in environments where I have to play incredibly soft and this stick is just too much. But since I am trying to keep things consistent, changing to a different size just isn’t appealing to me right now. What’s the answer? Well it just so happens that Vic Firth makes the same stick in maple: the American Heritage 5A. Compared to the hickory used to make the American Classic version, maple is less dense and thus lighter in weight a softer, more “airy” sound. So it’s a perfect option when you need to reduce your volume but don’t want sacrifice the overall feel in your hands. So that’s it! The Vic Firth American Classic 5A in hickory and the same size in the American Heritage line. I should also mention that I play the 5ADT. Which is a 5A stick with soft, tympani stile mallet on the butt end.
Now, it should be clear that I am not necessarily suggesting that these particular sticks are going to work for EVERYONE. But it is my hope that in presenting my findings and revelations, others may be able to make a more informed decision in this highly personal quest. Best of luck in finding YOUR “perfect stick”!