Numbers and letters that may appear on drumsticks.

If you’ve played drums for any amount of time, you have used drumsticks with 5A, 2B, or 8D printed on them.  However, most of us have not contemplated the meaning or history of those letters and numbers.  We often find our sticks through trial and error, without using the system that is in place for determining the size of the stick.  While this numbering system is not perfect, it can be beneficial in narrowing down your search for the perfect stick.

Numbers on Drumsticks

The numbers are fairly straightforward – the larger the number, the thinner the stick.  A 5B will be a thinner diameter than a 2B .

Letters on Drumsticks

The letters originally specified the desired use of the stick.

“B” stands for “band,” originally recommended for concert band playing.

“S” stands for “street,” or marching band.

“D” stands for “dance” band applications.

“A” was recommended for orchestra or big band applications.  It has been said that the letter “A” appeared better in print than “O” on the sticks.

While the labeling system will allow you to get a feel for the size you prefer, each manufacturer is a bit different.  For instance, while the 5As from Vic Firth, Vater, Pro Mark, and Regal Tip are all 16″ in length, the diameters are different.  The Vic Firth 5A is 0.565″, the Vater model is 0.570″, the ProMark is 0.551″, and the Regal Tip 5A is 0.580″.  Other factors that will affect the feel of the stick are taper and tip shape.

Hopefully, this information will help you on your search for the perfect stick – if such a thing exists!

What does the letter “N” on a drumstick mean?

Sticks may have the letter “N” after the initial number and letter (for example 5AN). This indicates that the stick has a nylon (plastic) tip. Nylon-tip sticks will produce a brighter sound. The nylon tips are also less prone to damage compared to wooden-tipped sticks. Visit my article on this site for more suggestions on making drumsticks last longer.

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