Drum sticks come in many shapes, sizes, weights and are produced by many different brands.
The type and weight of stick you use will depend on what suits your playing style, ability and preference.
Wood is the most widely used material for drum sticks. The most practical and generally used wood is American Hickory. The reason for this is simple, wood is a natural material with natural feel and Hickory has good grain structure for strength and flexibility while maintaining rigidity and feel.
Drum sticks are available with natural wood tip or nylon tip. The use of one or the other will depend on the players requirement for feel and sound but for most rock style playing, where you may be playing a bit harder than jazz for example, nylon tip are generally preferred due to the added strength in the tip by being encased in nylon.
Different weights and subsequent stick diameters are given a classification such as 5A, 7A, 2B or 5B. These are probably the four most common sizes used in kit drumming. There are many others and the style or 'weight' number designated can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Brushes are also used for certain music genres and a particular sound and feel. Brush technique is a good thing to learn to expand your drumming abilities and allow you to cross over into different musical genres.
There are also many varieties and styles of sticks and mallets designed for timpani and other percussion instruments.
For this introduction at the beginner level we will concentrate on a general drum kit stick.
Traditional grip is still used by a lot of kit drummers but was originally developed for playing a 'side drum' such as in a marching band. Side drum playing is made difficult if Matched grip is used. The matched grip method was developed by rock drum kit players.
Matched grip is when you hold the drum sticks the same in both hands. This is a more common grip used by rock drummers but both methods should be learnt and either or both styles can be used.
With traditional grip for right handers (just swap this around for left handers) as in Fig. 1 below, hold your left hand with your fingers out stretched and palm vertical.
The drum stick, with the tip pointing to the right, is held under your thumb and the top of your palm or end of your index finger about 1/3 of the way along the stick.
Your right hand, (as shown in Fig. 5) holds the stick between your thumb and the center knuckle of your bent index finger.
Your other three fingers are then curled around the stick (as shown in Fig. 6) but DO NOT hold the stick. They are there for control.
Using matched grip, you hold the left stick in the same manner as the right (as shown in Fig. 7).
It is important to note that you need to hold the sticks in a relaxed manner and slightly back from the fulcrum or pivot point. This enables you to guide the stick onto the drum and the stick in turn will rebound without the need for you to lift it from the drum head. This is required to allow stick control and bounce in such techniques as the double stroke roll. This is also a good technique to develop to enable you to play longer without tiring. If you hold the sticks too tight you not only limit control and sound quality but wear out your muscles quicker. If you are holding your sticks correctly for normal playing, a person should be able to flick the sticks out of your hand.
The distance along the stick where you hold, as noted above, is about one third the length of the stick. This fulcrum or pivot point will be determined by the balance of the stick in your hand. A drum stick is a tool and like a hammer for example, is what actually does the work. You guide and control it.
Practice stick holding techniques and decide what works best for you. A private tutor can better guide you through the techniques and observe your style and assist and correct where required.