To pitch or not to pitch...

22nd Sep 2019

To Pitch or not to Pitch?

The importance of weighing and/or pitch pairing drumsticks differs among drummers. I’m always surprised how vociferously the various concepts are championed, so please understand the viewpoint(s) offered are merely our own. In no way do we want to imply pitch pairing is unimportant, unnecessary, or un-American for many drummers. We don’t do it because we have a different viewpoint.

Okay…got that part out of the way. Here’s our approach in a rather large nutshell:

Part 1:

We roll each stick by hand, and weigh it to the gram.
The sticks are put in bins to eagerly await their mates.
The equally weighted sticks are bagged, tagged and put with their tribe to await an order. The bagging adds a unintended step to protect against the effect of temperature change.

Part 2 :

Well, that’s pretty much it.

So, why no pitching?

Take a pair of sticks that are “pitched”. The style you play, as well as your grip(s) can bring the validity of the pitch aspect into question. Playing on toms, snare, cymbals, combining those into grooves does not rely on pitch because you playing different surfaces much of the time. Our right and left hands are different, so you make adjustments with your hands to each surface. Granted, a symphony player would certainly want similar sound from each stick for precision. But is that defined by pitch or is exact weight more important? We believe the latter.

One flaw in the pitching argument has to deal with “nodes”(see article below). For example: there are nodal points on a guitar string- where the string is pressed onto the neck is a “node point”. Different finger placement on the string, different node points. The space between nodal points, short to long to short to longer, cause the string to vibrate differently between each node.

And yes! nodal points on a drumhead as well. That’s why the damn things give us trouble tuning - there are nodal points shooting off everywhere. Tuning cross-lug helps match the node points on the head. If you want your head to explode, read “Science of Percussion Instruments” by Thomas Rossing

Lastly, please take the time to read the article below. It comes from an issue of “Leedy Drum Topics”. Although we can’t verify the author, it would be a reasonable guess to assume it’s George Way, given his position with Leedy at the time. Maybe we’ll get more information as things progress.

The date is 1929. I’ve “redrawn” the diagram with the article as the image quality suffered during the reprinting of the article.

"It is only natural that Drummers should want the best for their money in drum sticks the same as an other article they may purchase and we do not blame any Drummer who will turn down a pair of warped sticks. Of course the easiest way to learn whether or not a stick is warped is to roll it on a smooth surface such as the counter of a music store. This is a good stunt. As a further test we have seen some Drummers hold the sticks in their accustomed playing position and strike them alternately, listening to the tone of the contact. Oft-times the Drummer will condemn a pair because there happens to be a decided difference between the tones. On they go thru a great number of sticks, only to find (with more or less degree) the same difference of tone between every pair they pick up.

Just where this method of testing originated and what it stands for we do not know. However, it is an erroneous idea to judge the playing qualities of a pair of sticks on the basis of their sounding qualities. Sticks should be judged by their equality of weight and their straightness. There are three reasons why no two sticks sound exactly alike when struck on a counter, practice pad, desk, drum or any other object. First, the fingers always grasp the stick below the node line and, to a certain extent, this kills the natural resonance of the tone of the stick. The left hand always grasps the stick nearer the tip than is the case with the right hand, and the left does not hold the stick as firmly as the right. These points help to make a difference between the two, but are not the only factors that decide the different tones.

Second, no two drum sticks are EXACTLY alike in the density of grain. This is a condition of nature that took place when the wood was in the process of growth and no one has any control over it. If the stick happens to be held in the hand (either the right or left) with the grain of the wood edgewise, the tone will be higher — and if the stick is held with the grain of the wood crosswise, the tone will be lower. This can easily be proven by holding the stick in the manner shown in the accompanying illustration and striking it with a half hard bell hammer, first holding the stick with the grain edgewise and then turning it until the grain runs crosswise. Striking it in this manner allows the full tone of the stick to come forth and it will be noticed that the tone varies as the grain is turned.

Third, it will also be noticed that there is a difference in the tone of either stick when it is struck on a hard surface first lightly and then with more force.

Out of 500 sticks there is only a slight chance of finding two that sound exactly alike, regardless of what test is given them, and out of this same number it is almost impossible to find two that weight EXACTLY the same; meaning, of course, if they are weighed scientifically on a very delicate scale. The difference in weight may be so slight that human hands could not detect it, but it is there just the same, and this of course, plays a part in governing the stick’s tone.

Drum Sticks should be chosen to fit the drum — NOT to the SIZE of the drum, BUT TO THE THICKNESS OF THE HEADS USED. A heavy drum stick will not bring out the best tone from a light head because it overpowers the resistance of such a head. A light stick will not set up enough motion in a heavy head to bring out the best tone the instrument is capable of producing. Choose sticks of the proper weight to give them a “throw back” from the head.

The Drummer who follows these latter suggestions may be convinced that he would get better results by changing to another model, but at the same time, hesitates to make the change because of being so used to those he is now using. Changing from one model to another is not serious. Any Drummer who will go on the job with the new model and leave the old model behind where they cannot be reached, will find that before the evening is over he has become thoroughly accustomed to the new and from then on it will be “smooth sailing,” with improved results."

“More About Drum Sticks.” Leedy Drum Topics 18 (1929). In Rob Cook, comp. Leedy Drum Topics, Complete from 1923 to 1941. Anaheim: Cedar Creek Publishing, 1993. Print.