Recommended sticks & mallets for a beginning percussionist

Whether you’re just starting out in the percussion section or have been ‘back there’ for a few years, you might not have all the sticks & mallets you need to be ready for whatever music your director might throw at you. In first year band you probably will only need the sticks and mallets that came with your practice kit, but soon that won’t be enough. I recommend having a stick bag with a pair each of sticks or mallets for snare drum, xylophone, bells, timpani, suspended cymbal, & triangle.

There are many different makes and models of mallets for each of these instruments, each with a different kind of sound, a different level of quality, and a different price tag. If you’re ready to spend about $200 on getting the right tools of the trade (not bad compared to some other instruments) that will last though middle school, and probably meet most of your needs in high school too, here is your shopping list:

Stick Bag: Innovative Percussion MB1 ($37*)
Snare Drum: Vic Firth SD1 ($7.50)
Xylophone: Malletech BB34 ($32)
Bells: Mike Balter 9r ($25)
Timpani: Vic Firth T1 ($25)
Suspended Cymbal: Mike Balter 23R ($33)
Drum Set: Vic Firth 5A ($7.50)
Triangle: Steve Weiss Basic Set of 4 ($10)

Add in a sharpened pencil, and you’ll have a set of quality mallets without buying anything you don’t need, and without spending too much on top-of-the-line equipment meant for college and professional players. The stick bag is large enough to fit your book and sheet music inside, so everything will travel together nicely and you will no longer get in trouble for forgetting your music! The Balter 23Rs also make a great vibraphone or even marimba mallet, which will be useful later on in their percussion career.

If you still want to get your stick bag filled out, but want to do it on a budget, Steve Weiss has options for that too. Everything (practically) on my list above has a low-cost version made my Liberty I, AKA Steve Weiss, for sale on their web page. They are not quite as nice as what is listed above, and you will probably want or need to replace it after a few years, but all of the options below will still work nicely for elementary or middle school, and for about half the price.

Stick Bag: Liberty I 01S ($17)
Xylophone: Liberty I LXM ($11)
Bells: Liberty I LBB ($11)
Timpani: Liberty I LT2 ($20)
Suspended Cymbals: Liberty I LMM ($15)
Triangle: Weiss Loop End Beater ($1)

You can buy everything on the ‘thrifty’ list for $75 plus shipping, or mix and match to suit your individual needs. I didn’t list an alternative snare drum or drum set stick; the Vic Firth SD1 and 5A drum sticks are the industry standard for general use concert snare drum and drum set, respectively, and their price just can’t be beat by anybody. However, if you’re looking to cut costs you could get away with skipping the 5A; the SD1s can work on drum set too, although they will get worn out quickly by the cymbals.

You could buy the xylophone, timpani, snare drum, and drum set sticks off the top list and the stick bag, bells, suspended cymbal, and triangle gear from the bottom for $115, and I think you’d get the best balance of quality versus price.

*Prices are from July 2016

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About Chris Stroh

Seattle percussionist and music teacher. OAKE Executive Board member.
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