The Chemistry of Drumsticks

Introduction

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Drum sticks are used in many types of percussion.  The majority of songs now have some sort of percussion which often uses drumsticks or mallets.  Different drum sticks are made up of many different materials.  Woods such as birch and rattan are commonly used.  Some synthetic materials, such as fiberglass and carbon fiber,  are also used.  Mallets, on the other hand are slightly different.  They have a more narrow body with a larger tip.  The tips are made up of various materials such as metal, rubber, plastic and yarn.  Generally, softer mallets are needed for instruments with lower registers, whereas instruments with a higher register need a harder mallet or drumstick.  For example, when playing marimba, which is an instrument with a low register, you need a soft mallet such as yarn mallets or soft rubber mallets.  Whereas, for a higher register instrument, such as the bells, you need harder mallets such as metal mallets.  I chose to study drumsticks because as a percussionist I use them everyday and lots of people do not know much about them.  Drumsticks have affected my life in a positive way.  WIthout drumsticks I would not have been able to play percussion in Symphonic and Jazz Band.  Playing in band is something that I enjoy.  Without drumsticks I would not be able to enjoy band.


Composition of ...

The composition of drumsticks are simple, however, there are many types of drum sticks so there are many different compositions.  

Wood- the four major components to wood bimasses are cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and mineral components.

Nylon tips-  Nylon refers to the group known as polyamides.  Nylons are typified by amide groups (CONH) and encompass a range of material types.  All of them had an extremely broad range of properties.  

Fiberglass- Type of fiber reinforced plastic where the reinforcement fiber is specifically glass fiber.  

Carbon Fiber- Reinforced plastic (CFRP)

Wire Brushes- Co Cr, W Alloy


Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Wood is the main part of a normal drum stick.  It’s chemical composition is comprised of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and mineral components.  The wood is used because it is durable, light, and inexpensive to produce.  However, wire brushes are much different.  They are created with metal wires (Co Cr, W Alloy) attached to a wooden base.  The wire brushes are different not only because they are made up of different things but they also feel different, and are harder to play.  They are not as rigid as regular drum sticks.  The metal wires flop and it is harder to get any rebound with the wire sticks making it hard to play fast with them.  It is much harder to roll with wire drum sticks considering you have to use a open single stroke roll, and cannot rely on the rebound like you do in a double stroke roll.  Brushes are used often in jazz music when the drum set is needed to have a quieter and more subtle tone.  Brushes are commonly used in back tracks to jazz tunes.

Chemistry's Role

In a Hickory drumstick the main component, hickory, is not made synthetically.  It is extracted from a hickory tree.  Hickory is used because it has good weight, has a good center of balance, and is durable and it absorbs shock well.  Some carbon fiber drumsticks may be more durable however they are much more expensive to produce.

Background Research

They initially turn the wood into dowels.  The dowels are then moved into a an automated arm that feeds the dowel into a 3 bladed cutting device.  This cutting device creates a shaft that widens towards the back and a tip on the top of the drumstick.  This cut is a rough estimate and the tip will be but into another cutting device in order to create a precise tip.  Different types of sticks use different types of wood or synthetic material and have different sized necks and tips.  Then the dowel is moved onto a rail to see if it rolls correctly. If it does not roll correctly the wood dowel is discarded.  They now spray the stick with a protective coating.  After this they add a brand and model number to each of the sticks. Next the sort each drumstick by weight.  Even Though the sticks are the same shape and size the weights slightly vary due to the wood having different densities.  Even Though they have been sorted by weight there are still subtle differences in tone.  The sticks pitches are then matched and paired.

Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drum_stick

Gives a basic understanding of the composition of the drumsticks.  Explains the conventional numbering for the different sticks.  


http://www.all-science-fair-projects.com/print_project_1104_91

This is a link to an experiment that dealt with the rebound and different characteristics of different drum sticks.  This link also gives the reader a basic understanding of all of the basic parts of the drumstick and what role each part plays.


http://www.moderndrummer.com/site/2014/12/need-know-drumstic

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This website answers questions such as…  What do the different numbers and letters on the drumsticks mean?  What is the difference between sticks made of hickory, maple, oak and plastic?  and How does the tip shape affect the sound?


http://www.rockdrummingsystem.com/underground/drum-articles/choosing-the-right-drumsticks.php

Helps to learn the different types and variations of drumsticks.  Explains the significance of the sizes, tips, and wood.  


http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2013/03/types-of-drumsticks/

Explains all the different types of drum sticks, including brushes, and mallets.  Describes how the sticks are made and how the different sticks make different sounds.      


https://www.x8drums.com/blog/mastering-drumstick-tricks-and-twirls/



About the Author
Jamison Egeland is a Senior at Billings Senior High School.  He enjoys the hiking biking and the outdoors.  He participates in Symphonic band and Philharmonic Orchestra and plays percussion in both.  He plans to attend MSU Bozeman to pursue a career in Aviation while getting a degree in finance.
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