You'll be hard pressed to find a drummer who isn't interested in cheap drumsticks. As any drummer can attest, drumsticks simply don't last forever, and considering the abuse they take on a regular basis, it's probably a minor miracle they last as long as they do. But regardless, replacing drumsticks (and even keeping a few spares around) isn't just a luxury, it's a necessity. Without drumsticks, a drummer can't play his instrument, and that means the show can't go on. Regardless of your skill level, from beginner to a seasoned touring veteran, keeping sticks in your hands is of ultimate importance.
When looking for cheap drumsticks, I've always had the best luck online. Of course I have a solid decade of professional touring experience under my belt, so I know exactly what kind of drumsticks I want without shopping around and trying new brands and sizes. But even if you've just picked up the 'skins recently, you can still find what you need online and save some decent money in the process.
Online retailers don't mark their product prices up nearly as high as local music shops. And while I do understand that local merchants need to cover their costs in ways online stores don't, I've never felt that paying upwards of $20 for a pair of drumsticks that I can buy online for under $10 is ever justified. Again that's coming from a guy who goes through a couple of sticks per show (which can mean upwards of three or four pairs per week). Maybe your situation and philosophies are different, and if that's the case, by all means, buy where you feel most comfortable. While I still support my local music shops, I simply can't afford to buy drumsticks at Mom & Pop retailers - I'd be bankrupt in months!
Where To Buy Drumsticks Online
Fortunately there are several places that stock drumsticks, and almost all of them carry a huge selection to choose from. Because drumsticks are like pants: What fits one drummer isn't going to fit another. Here are just a few of the places I've personally bought cheap drumsticks:
What doesn't Amazon have? Seriously, this mega retailer seems to have anything you could imagine, and often times at a price far cheaper than anywhere else. I've never had any problems buying drumsticks online through Amazon, though admittedly I've never purchased any through their third-party system (non-Amazon shops selling through the Amazon computer system), so I can't speak to that side of the system.
What I do know is that usually Amazon usually has some very competitive prices, if not the best. For instance, I normally play Vater drumsticks (size "Rock") and I usually pay about $5.50 per pair online at Amazon. That's compared to nearly $20 at my local music shop - for the same exact sticks.
Another added bonus of buying at Amazon is I can shop for other unrelated products, and save money on bulk shipping when I add them all together. Again this is just a pirk I like, since I do lots of online shopping anyway. If that's not you, then it might not be that big of a selling point.
Musician's Friend has been around since I broke into professional drumming, and until just a few years ago, I almost always ordered my drumsticks here. Unlike Amazon, Musician's Friend only sells musical instruments and products - by the boatload! This company has pretty much any musical-related item you could ever imagine, from drum sets to kazoos.
The prices at Musician's Friend are usually just a tad bit higher than Amazon - but don't surf over to Amazon just yet, because Musician's Friend often offers free shipping. Sure you usually have to purchase a certain dollar amount before the company offers this, it's usually not very high - often times as low as $20 to $25, depending on the month. Once you figure shipping costs, you might find that it's cheaper to buy drumsticks online at Musician's Friend.
For reference, the same pair of Vater Rock wood-tip sticks I mentioned earlier cost $6.99 at Musician's Friend, about $1.50 more than Amazon at the time I'm writing this article. But at the same time, Amazon charges between $2.99 and $3.99 on most orders, which certainly makes them more expensive. But again, that's assuming you spend enough at to qualify for free shipping from Musician's Friend.
Other Places To Buy Cheap Drumsticks Online
Though I haven't purchased drumsticks from any online company other than Amazon or Musician's Friend for the better part of a decade, many people swear by other online retailers, such as:
You could also include eBay on this list, if you're into auction sites like that. I've purchased numerous pieces of musical equipment on eBay, but never sticks. I suppose if I could find a deal on some brand new, sealed sticks, I'd consider it.
Buying Cheap Drumsticks Online: What You Need To Know
Buying online is great in terms of saving money, but it's horrible for hands-on shopping. If you know exactly what you want, you can save big time over local music shops; but if you don't know what you're looking for, you'll find it next to impossible to shop online.
If you haven't settled in on a brand and drumstick size, hopefully the following will help:
Several companies make drumsticks, and they're is "best" one - only the one you like. You'll probably find that different manufacturers produce different characteristics. Here are my general observations about some of the biggest drumstick makers:
Vic Firth Drumsticks: This is probably the biggest name in the drumstick industry, as it makes drumsticks for everything from marching snare drums (which are very big, heavy sticks and typically unsuited for the drum set or concert situations) to the tiniest jazz sticks.
- Vic Firth Advantage: These things are tough. Whatever they coat them in works, as it takes nothing short of a train collision to break them. They even withstand what I call "Hi-hat whittling" well.
- Vic Firth Disadvantage: They feel weird, to me anyway. I think it's the hard coating they use to prolong their lifespan, but to me it feels like I'm playing a piece of metal, not wood. They don't react the same way other drumsticks do.
Pro-Mark Drumsticks: Pro-Mark is another big-time drumstick manufacturer, and like any well-established company, they've got plenty of die-hard fans. In many ways, Pro-Mark drumsticks feel and react the same way that Vic Firth sticks do, which leads me to believe that this was the "standard" of drumstick manufacturing back in the day, since these two companies have been around much longer than most other manufacturers.
- Pro-Mark Advantage: Cheaper than a comparable Vic Firth pair of drumsticks, but plays and feels about the same.
- Pro-Mark Disadvantage: Other than feeling like a Vic Firth, the Pro-Marks don't seem to last as long as their cousin.
Vater Drumsticks: Vater is my personal favorite drumstick maker, though I only "discovered" them about six years ago. Don't let the lower price fool you, these things last longer than anything I've ever played (and I play a lot of rim shots, which are absolute murder on sticks).
- Vater Advantage: They react amazingly to anything you hit, they feel awesome and they last forever. Oh yeah, they're super cheap, too.
- Vater Disadvantage: You'll probably get plenty of dirty looks from your drummer friends who prefer spending more money on big brand names.
Zildjian Drumsticks: Zildjian actually made a name for itself making cymbals, which it has been doing for hundreds of year, but recently (within the last few decades) jumped into the drumstick business. I've played plenty of Zildjian sticks - they're actually my second favorite choice - as they have the Vater feel, but don't last nearly as long.
- Zildjian Advantage: The play and feel like Vaters, which is a huge bonus in my book. They're also cheaper than anything but the generic knock-off brands (even Vater).
- Zildjian Disadvantage: They'll shred pretty quick. If your hi-hats don't eat them alive, a couple of well-placed rim shots will snap them in half.
Again, these comments are based on my own playing experiences. Yours might differ, and the only way to know is to try them all out - which I'd highly recommend. But don't just try out different makers, also try different sizes. You'll eventually find a pair that fits your hands and drumming style perfectly. And once you know what you like, you'll be able to find cheap drumsticks in bulk when you buy drumsticks online.