We often get questions about the best type of drum brushes for certain musical applications and with it being jazz/concert season, I thought I would take a little time today to explain the different qualities of drum brushes and offer a few recommendations as well. While there are many different types, most drum brushes differ in three main ways: brush material, handle material and retractability. We will take a look a each category and then offer some good options depending on the musical setting.
While most brushes are made of wire materials, the use of nylon wires has becomes more and more popular as they offer a different sound. Wire brushes tend to have a snappy sound with a crisp, bright sound quality when striking the heads. They also offer the best option if doing a lot of sweeping/swishing while playing. There are different weights of metal wires that can be used to give the player even more control of their sound. Vic Firth even makes some wire brushes such as the Steve Gadd brushes or Live Wire Brushes that offer different tips to each metal wire for an even fuller sound .
Nylon or plastic wires offer a much duller and darker sound when struck or swept across the head. These are great for playing in small combos or small spaces where you need the perfect amount of blend between the drummer and the band.
While the handle of the brush will not really change the sound of the wires they do offer distinct differences in how a drummer might approach a particular sound. The most common types of handles would be either wood, plastic or rubber. The wood handles give the most similar feel to a stick, while something like the rubber would be a great option if you are playing some fast music where that little extra bit of grip might be important. When it comes to the grip, this is really a personal decision.
The last common trait for drum brushes would be whether or not you can retract the wires into the handle or not. The main advantage to the retractable style brush is that you can almost fine tune the amount of brush sound that you get when striking the drum. The other great advantage is that when not in use you can quickly retract the wires and keep from getting damaged in the bag. Fixed brushes are great if you like the feel of a wooden handle and these are often times used more on brushes that have thicker metal/nylon wires.
Overall Use: Vic Firth Jazz Brush – This is a great set of brushes that offers a good medium weight set of wires with a very durable plastic handle.
Concert Application: Innovative Percussion BR-3 – These medium nylon brushes with a fixed wooden handle offer a consistent feel and sound for concert music.
Jazz: Vic Firth Heritage Brushes – A retractable wire brush featuring light gauge wire and a smooth rubber handle. Fast and easy to play.
There are certainly many other great options out there for drum brushes but hopefully having a little more information about the differences between them can help you find something that will work just right for you. Of course, feel free to call us anytime if you are looking for a specific sound and we can help you out!