New Nude Sticks, Player’s Design Models, and Sound-Enhancing Accessories
Unobtrusive dampeners, clever percussion attachments, and thoughtful drumstick additions for two alt-rock heavy hitters and everyday hand sweaters.
Vater is good about balancing its catalog with highly practical products and innovative designs and accessories. This year the company introduced unfinished versions of two of its most popular “rock” models, the 1A and 3A, and added custom designs for Primus’s Tim Alexander and 311’s Chad Sexton. Also new are two sizes of clear muffling gels, the Buzz Kill and Buzz Kill Dry, and a couple of inventive StickMates, which allow you to add shaker or tambourine textures to your grooves via a slim, lightweight plastic grip attachment. It’s all very cool stuff, so let’s take a look.
3A and 1A Nude Drumsticks
Vater’s Nude series has become popular among drummers who find lacquered sticks a bit too slippery, especially after the hands start to sweat or when using gloves. Nude sticks have a finely sanded grip that leaves a slightly textured, dusty feel. The 3A is a standard length (16″) and has a diameter of .590″, which is thicker than a 5A (.570″) but thinner than a 5B (.605″). A sturdy shoulder and neck and a rounded barrel wood tip are employed to deliver punchy, full-volume tones. Even though it has the same length as a 5A, the 3A felt shorter and had a blunter and more powerful sound. It would be a great choice for players who have to get around on a tight setup in louder situations. The barrel tip produced wide, washy cymbal tones, and the unfinished grip grabbed onto my skin just enough so that I could play with a looser and more relaxed fulcrum.
The 1A Nude is 16.75″ long and .590″ in diameter. It has an acorn-shaped wood tip, for full drum and cymbal sounds and increased response. I’m a big fan of the 1A, whether lacquered or not. I like to play with a spread-out setup, and the extra reach of the 1A allowed me to keep from overextending my arms. It also delivered a stronger and more powerful sound from drums and cymbals than what I get from a typical 5A, while retaining a nimble response.
Sexton and Alexander Player’s Designs
Chad Sexton’s custom stick is nearly identical to a regular 3A, with a similar taper and rounded wood tip. The difference is a matter of .01″ of diameter; the 311 drummer’s stick measures .580″x16″, while the 3A is .590″x16″. Although that may seem nominal, Sexton’s model felt less blunt and was more agile than the 3A. It still provided a big, full sound, but I found that it offered just a bit more speed and flexibility for jumping around the kit quickly.
Tim Alexander’s Player’s Design stick, however, is highly unusual. It has a thick 2B-size grip (.635″) and a 5A/5B length (16″), and it tapers down dramatically to a tiny ball tip. It’s made of sugar maple, so it’s lighter than a hickory 2B, but it still felt quite hefty. The tiny tips were great for hi-hat and ride clarity, while the 2B grip helped elicit fuller tom tones, smacking rimshots, and washing sustain from crashes and crash/rides. It’s not a stick for every player or every situation. But if you have big hands or prefer to use sticks with a thicker grip, and you require sharp articulation and quick action, that’s what the Alexander model is all about.
Buzz Kill, Buzz Kill Dry, and StickMates
While many drummers love the unfettered tone of fully sustaining drums, the reality is that we almost always have to tame down the overtones with some type of muffling, whether playing live under microphones, in the studio, or in untreated rooms with harsh high-end frequencies. Tape, towels, T-shirts, rings, and other appliqués are all viable options for reining in our sound to more manageable levels, but they often leave the kit looking messy. Vater’s Buzz Kill and Buzz Kill Dry dampeners offer a clear, nearly invisible alternative. They’re round, super-tacky, easy to apply and remove, and infinitely reusable. They can be placed on batter heads, resonant heads, cymbals, cowbells….
The Buzz Kill is 1.25″ wide and about .1875″ thick. Providing more muffling, the Buzz Kill Dry is 1.5″ wide and .25″ thick. Both worked great to provide a little or a lot of tone control, and they stayed put and didn’t leave any residue behind.
The most innovative new product from Vater this year is the plastic StickMate attachment, which connects to the butt end of a drumstick and comes with either tambourine jingles (three sets) or a small shaker. It’s easy to put on and take off—a small rubber band keeps it connected to the stick above the fulcrum point. And it’s lightweight so as to allow for a fairly unencumbered response. You can use StickMates in either hand to add percussive textures to backbeats or ride patterns. I found that the shaker version worked best in the ride hand, with the StickMate facing down/forward, while the tambourine option was also great for adding bright overtones to backbeats as well as for riding.
The StickMate shaker had the volume output of a typical egg shaker but with a slightly coarser timbre. The StickMate tambourine added a subtler jingle than a full-size tambourine, and the jingles sounded tighter and more controlled. These are much cleaner and less permanent alternatives to taping maracas, small shakers, or tambourines to drumsticks, and they fit easily into most stick bags. Check out a video demo of the StickMates at moderndrummer.com.