Monday, February 22, 2010


I started using Vater drumsticks about 2001 or so. I found that their sticks do not warp as fast or as much as the other brand I have used since beginning drumming nearly 40 years ago. I don't get free drumsticks from Vater or anyone else, I've always been a payin' customer. Except for the first pair of Vater sticks, which a pro drummer friend of mine gave me to try out.

When I first began drumming in the early 70's, there were few brands of sticks to choose from. Even at that time, Pro-Mark had become a very popular brand of drumstick, especially if you like me began your drum lessons at the long-defunct Brochstein's Music in Houston. Herb Brochstein not only owned one of the coolest music stores in town but also had by the time of my introduction to drumming become a very large maker of drumsticks, if not the world's largest, which he soon became.

Now Herb's son Maury and possibly other Brochstein family members run Pro-Mark. I've met Herb Brochstein many times over the years, seeing him the last time at the funeral of my former drum teacher Joe Raynor in 2004. In addition to being a drum stick magnate, Herb is also a helluva drummer himself. I actually have a video of Herb at a Modern Drummer magazine event in New Jersey some years ago engaging in tradin' fours with various famous drummers and the late publisher of Modern Drummer, Ron Spagnardi. Great drummers, all.

But the reason I strayed to Vater had everything to do with the unique size of their 3A drumstick. A drummer friend of mine who had an endorsement with Vater back in the early 2000's gave me a pair of his 3A's to try out. I was hooked, and except for a few jazz type gigs I've done since then where I needed a smaller stick, the 3A's have been my constant companion.

And I'm a drummer who likes what he likes and has pretty much been using the same stuff for many years. I've used the same cymbals for many decades, adding occasionally to the collection but always coming back to the original A. Zildjians that I've always used (14" New Beat Hihats, 20" ride, 14", 16" and 18" rock crashes). I've used Pro-Mark sticks since the beginning and I've used the same brand and model of drumheads since then too.

Some might call me staid, but I've tried drumsticks by many makers over the years, and I always came back to Pro-Mark until finding Vater. I've tried Regal Tips, various custom made sticks, Ludwig and other drum maker branded sticks, Vic Firth, Hotsticks and others. In the 1980's, when Hotsticks were introduced, I liked them because their 5A was just a wee bit thicker than a standard 5A size stick, fitting my hand perfectly.

But the Hotsticks ultimately became thinner as well, and they had other problems. One major problem with Hotsticks was that they were painted, and the paint chipped as rim shots and cymbal hits occurred, thus either marking cymbals or putting small paint chips everywhere, including on the drummer's sweaty hands. Again, at some point in time, it seemed like the Hotsticks were not available in Houston, and I went back to using Pro-Mark sticks.

5A was always my main stick of choice. At other times, a 2A size, which was a bit larger in diameter than a 5A, sometimes felt better in my hands, but usually after gigging for part of a night, I played better with the thinner 5A. And so it went for several decades of gigging and hundreds of gigs and rehearsals.

Nowadays, there are a huge number of models of drum sticks in many different diameters. I bet that Pro-Mark might even make a stick about the same size as a Vater 3A, and it might even be an artist's model named after some famous or infamous drummer. But I really have not looked too hard because I've been so satisfied with the Vater 3A. It's a lightweight stick and is left natural (meaning unfinished). Again, leaving sticks unfinished (which aids sweaty drumming hands to hold onto them properly by better absorbing sweat than lacquered sticks) is something Pro-Mark and other makers have been doing for decades. It's nothing new.

But the Vater just feels right in my hand. It has a bit thicker shoulder than the 5A as well, meaning that it gives (to me) a more solid sounding rim shot or hi hat click than a thinner stick. As far as I know, not one of my Vater sticks has warped. I have seen some Vater sticks at music stores that were warped, and we all know that wood can warp, but I've been amazed at the non-warpage of the Vater sticks I've bought over the last near decade.

I don't want to come off like I am dissing Pro-Mark at all. I still also use their sticks, as does my son. When my daughter, The Princess, was drumming in her high school years, playing with an all girl rock trio, she chose to use Pro-Marks as well. Most of my friends use Pro-Mark as well, and this includes those who like me studied drumming in their early years at Brochstein's Music and those who studied elsewhere.

Actually, when I was a wee lad, I was given my first pair of drumsticks by an older drummer. They were, of course, Pro-Mark drumsticks. When I began taking lessons from Joe Raynor, I bought some of his signature sticks, which were also made by Pro-Mark.

Joe Raynor's stick was a very unique model. It was a jazzer stick, about the size of a 7A (thinner than a 5A), but it had a "tip" on each end of the stick. The butt end of the stick had a much larger tip than the regular end, thus for differing volume levels in jazz and other music that is quieter than rock and blues a double headed stick was just the ticket.

I bought many of Joe's sticks over the years, as I found them perfect for orchestral, stage band and jazz music that required a bit lighter touch and sound than the 5A's. In the late 80's, out of nowhere, the now defunct Houston DRUM*GUITAR*KEYBOARD shop had a bucket full of new old stock Joe Raynor double tipped sticks, and I bought them all. Still have several pairs left.

I wrote Pro-Mark sometime back, and asked them if they still made that stick and if I could special order some of them. The customer service rep who wrote back said that they had destroyed the dies or mold or pattern (whatever they use) for that stick so it could no longer be made.

I plan to have some custom sticks made in the future that are the same size as the Joe Raynor models. Because they are thinner sticks, they are somewhat prone to warpage and breakage, and many of the remnants I have left are missing one or both tips. I do have several good pair, and guard those carefully, using them only for certain gigs.

In any event, I really do like the hickory Vater 3A sticks, particularly with the nylon tip, which really gives good ride and hi hat definition.


  1. Dude, I love Vaters 3A, only sticks I use..but you keep switching to 3S on this post.... is it a typo?

  2. Typos, Jason, and corrected. Thanks and thanks for stopping by!