Guitarists tend to obsess about picks, strings, straps, tremolos, pedals, pedal boards: the list is endless. This may at least partially be due to the wide range of choices available. That is unfortunately a luxury that in Bangladesh drummers are simply not afforded. The availability of equipment is scarce and they often tend to be too expensive. There is no doubt that the importance of finding the right sticks to play with is underplayed, and therefore I have decided to share some of the struggles I have come up against when stick-shopping across Dhaka over the years.
By no means do I consider myself to be an expert at identifying different wood species. That being said, over time I appear to have developed a taste for classic American Hickory or Japanese Shira Kashi Oak. Being comfortable around the kit is of utmost importance, and my inference is that identifying a preferred stick type early on goes a long way in establishing that.
“If people knew how KFC treats its chickens, they'd never eat another drumstick.”- Pamela Anderson
The above statement made me realise how important a role drumsticks have played in my life. Of both varieties, chicken and wood. In fact I sort of remember mentioning them in the first article I wrote that got published sixteen years ago. Apparently KFC is no longer KFC in Dhaka. In that case why does it still look like KFC? As a fan of fried chicken, as well as KFC, that brings a certain amount of disappointment to my life.
Getting back to wooden drumsticks, any piece of equipment that is a part of a ‘signature’ series is no doubt a bit of a novelty item, and it is not reasonable to expect them to be widely available. Unfortunately, I find myself most comfortable drumming while playing Zildjian's Travis Barker ‘signature’ series drumsticks, sticks that are impossible to find in Dhaka. I really wish I could write ‘almost’ impossible here. Maybe someone will read this and let me know where they are available. Or just gift me a pair. That would be ideal. Oh no I didn’t!
People tend to frown upon ‘signature’ series instruments. It is however different when it comes to drumsticks. The way I look at it, these expert musicians help design something that they believe can assist their playing. And quite often they do. One of my favourite drummers told me once that his favourite sticks were the Virgil Donati and Mike Mangini signature series. In my experience, the Stewart Copeland series sticks are also great. Just like an amp is almost as important as a guitar when attempting to achieve juicy tones, your tone as a drummer will also depend on the type of sticks you use, not just how you use them. Same goes with bass-drum pedals, as well as hi-hat pedals. Also, the clamps for that extra cowbell set. Hopefully by now you have some idea of what I am trying to get across.
I like the weight of the Travis Barker sticks, as well as the reach. They are slightly heavier than my preferred 5B's, but because of the length, the whip feels ideal when playing rock music. The whip, or the friction against gravity is one of the key things I consider when selecting drumsticks, as I believe it assists me a great deal when trying to hold on to a rhythm. Gravity is key. Just ask John Mayer.
These days I find myself using Tama Hickory sticks, and they are size 5B. Oddly enough I have been using them for four years now, mostly because I can get them at most instrument shops and maybe also because I have not played as much drums as I would have liked to in that time. It appears to be the size with the fewest variations available in Dhaka (the market is flooded with 7A’s), and hence I find myself being forced to use sticks that are embellished with pink flowers. Not that I mind too much: despite their obvious lack of subtlety, I consider them to be aesthetically pleasing. When it comes to embellishments, I prefer flowers to flames any day of the week. Too many sticks in the market right now are embellished with flames, and that often adds to further disappointment.
At the end of day it goes without saying that what you play is more important than what you play with, and it is also possible to practice drumming anywhere, with or without drums. At a time when we are constantly looking for ways to give ourselves the smallest of edges which may or may not eventually help our lives flow that little bit smoother, time after time, I keep seeing that it is the smallest of things, accumulated over time that make all the difference.