Vater etched some great new names on wood this year, including those of top drummers from the realms of rock, gospel, country-rock, funk, and education. Vater, of course, has known good names since the 1950s, when the founding wood turner of the company made Buddy Rich signature sticks for a drum shop in Boston. Vater’s carving activities soon went industrial, and over the decades it manufactured sticks for both Vic Firth and Zildjian before unveiling sticks under its own name in the ’90s to widespread appeal. Let’s read the fine print on these latest Vater Player’s Design sticks.
The drummer for Coheed And Cambria (and owner of Fight Mannequins Production Company, and ex-drummer for Dillinger Escape Plan) has designed a new stick with a double taper. That is, the stick is about 0.6" in diameter at the butt, then, near the shoulder, the diameter slowly increases to nearly 0.645" before tapering down in the “normal” drum stick fashion. For Pennie, this increases the forward throw and beefs up the rimshot area. For you, this innovative hickory stick with fat acorn tip and short, heavy neck taper offers a nice change in heft for rock drumming.
Clemons, currently burning it up behind Gospel phenom Israel Houghton & New Breed, has previously toured with Usher, Mary J. Blige, and others. For his siggy stick the praise provider has gone nude, opting for an unfinished, 0.595" diameter stick that gives him a sure grip without slip. Besides having the user-friendly finish for sweaty-handed drummers, Clemons’ stick is also 16.5" long. So, if your 5B sticks are just a tad too short, a tad too fat, and really hard to hang onto, try the Clemons solution.
Chris McHugh is a top dog of the Nashville session scene (who also tours with Keith Urban), and he’s brought variety to my music collection. I’ll be the first to confess I am highly allergic to modern country, but McHugh’s drum tracks are smokin’ hot, and so Rascal Flatts’ “Life Is A Highway” has a spot in my iPod. Some of the best rock drumming is in modern country, and that includes Chris McHugh. For his kind of power drumming, Vater whipped up big hickory sticks. At 0.645" diameter they’re bigger than a 2B, and slightly long at 16.25". If they contain the energy of even one of McHugh’s hangnails I’ll take a case, please.
“Queen Cora,” drummer for Prince and obvious heir to funky, fusion-bred jam grooves of all meters, sports a very medium-weight, 0.53"-diameter Vater hickory stick. That’s a bit more slender than Vater’s Los Angeles 5A stick (at 0.57" diameter), but the Queen’s stick has a strong shoulder, slow taper, and an acorn tip at the head of its elongated, 16.5" length. What’s that translate to? Well, the Queen’s stick is perfect for a slender grip but has enough heft, muscle, and reach to whip the snot out of several styles. I wrapped one in the Vater Grip Tape and it gave me the grip love of a fat stick but the snappy rebound of a smaller stick.
The future is here and online, and Mike Johnston is living it. As owner and host of MikesLessons.com, the capable and likeable Johnston cyber-teaches drummers from all over the world via real-time and cached video lessons. For his ministering he employs both maple and hickory versions of his siggy 2-4-5-1 stick. At 0.58" diameter these sticks fit right between a 5A and 5B. The barrel tip produces strong sounds from ride cymbals, and the gradual taper from shoulder to neck maintains nice rebound articulation. Hickory, the most popular wood for drum sticks, is durable and moderate in density. Maple is much lighter, so the same stick in maple feels less aggressive and a bit bouncier, which can be handy if you want to tone things down a bit.
Vater offers its do-it-yourself Grip Tape in white, black, red, and gray, so your grip security can match your decorating style. Packaged in sets of four rolls (for two pairs of sticks), the linen-soaked-in-something-based Grip Tape proved to be easy to apply, and easy to secure with the additional Vater tape strips. I have never been a tape user, but for the sake of journalism I wrapped up my right stick on a little session I had. Man, I am sold!
The Vater Cora Coleman-Dunham stick I tried it on, which was perfect for sound but a bit small for my grip, instantly became fatter and was easy to control in a relaxed but secure hold. I also wrapped up the reverse-taper of the Chris Pennie stick, and it was awesome. I have seen drummers from all styles using grip tape. I shall join them, on occasion, from now on.
Model & List Price
Player’s Design Drum Sticks, Hickory $16.49
Player’s Design Drum Sticks, Maple $16.49
Grip Tape (four rolls for two pairs of sticks, available in White, Black, Red, Gray) $12.95
Vater Player’s Design sticks are made to the loving specifications of notable drum artists, including specifications of dimension, contour, tip design, and finish. Computer weight-balanced and pitch-paired, these are quality sticks crafted in selections of hickory and maple.
Lots more quality big-name action from a company that knows wood and players alike. If you see a name here whose sound you dig, grabbing a pair of their sticks might be your best chance to capture a little of their drumming mojo. It certainly couldn’t hurt.