Every drummer needs durable sticks, but this is especially true of marching percussionists, who put their equipment through the same long hours of practice and aggressive play but also expose it to the sun, rain, and other weather conditions. A good marching snare stick also needs to give the player a balance of power and control that can handle complex rhythmic lines and also give you the volume to fill a stadium with sound—and given how frequently you’ll need to change sticks over the course of a summer, it doesn’t hurt if the sticks are also a good value.
When considering materials, you’re most likely to get the best sound out of sticks made of hickory, though some composite materials are also great for marching snares, giving you the same tone quality as hickory but with a longer average life. All four stick designs on this list are field-tested and drum corps approved for the marching percussionist. They’re the best marching snare sticks on the market.
Vic Firth Corpsmaster MS4
Vic Firth collaborated with World Class drum and bugle corps to create this design, and the end result is a stick that gives you great balance and feel without sacrificing durability or power. They’re crafted using Sta-Pac for the sticks, a composite material that lets you play through Kevlar snare heads for the ultimate response and dynamic control.
These sticks (see full specs) have a medium taper from the neck to the shoulder with a comfortable .685” diameter. The tip is all-wood with a Taj Mahal shape for a large surface area. The lacquer coating helps these sticks to stand up to the rain, wind, and sun, giving you a stick that will stay reliable throughout your marching season.
Promark Hickory TXDC50W
These sticks use an all hickory construction—a very popular choice for drumsticks because it’s responsive and durable with a great feel. They have a .720” diameter, slightly wider than many snare drum sticks, giving you more control over your strike and making them more comfortable to use for people with larger hands. This is enhanced by the reversed butt end taper, making the sticks feel more solid in your hands and putting you completely in control of your sound. The round tip shape gives you a fuller, darker tone that doesn’t sacrifice the clarity of the articulation. These should be on anyone’s list of the best marching snare sticks.
Innovative Percussion ASMM
These sticks were designed using specs given by Mike McIntosh, who works with both the Cavaliers and BOA finalist marching bands. Coming from the company’s arena series, they’re designed with a mind to indoor play, with a smaller and rounder bead that gives you better articulation. Outdoor players are likely to appreciate the added snap, too, and the heartwood hickory used to make these sticks is sturdy enough to stand up in either environment.
They also have a small neck with a short taper, giving the sticks an improved response. These marching snare drumsticks are slightly slimmer than others, with a thickness of .690” that’s comfortable even after extended play. They’re among the best marching snare sticks period.
Vic Firth Corpsmaster STA
The SMH model from Vic Firth’s Corpsmaster line is made of solid hickory for a rugged and powerful stick. They have a comfortable .697” diameter, similar to other sticks in the Corpsmaster line. What differentiates them is the tip and taper. The tip has a unique “reverse tear drop” shape that gives it a big sound and a rich tone. The medium-long taper gives you a better rebound and better control, perfect for rolls and rim shots. They’re also about half the price of Vic Firth’s other models, meaning they last as long and cost you less.
There are five main designs for the shape of the tip, each of which will give you a different sound and feel. Acorn-style tips give the darkest tone, full and rich with less pronounced articulations. Teardrop-style tips also have a warm tone, though not as dark as acorn-style, and with more focus in the low end. An oval tip gives the most balanced response across the frequency range. Round or ball-style tips have crisp articulation with a bright, clean tone. The last style, barrel tips, are the loudest and give you the most punch on your articulations.
For marching percussion, the style of tip you choose will depend largely on what aspects of your tone you want to emphasize. Many players choose barrel tips for marching because of their potential for sheer power. A round tip will offer more control and articulation than a barrel tip, and is also a popular choice for marching percussionists.
Because the heads of marching snare drums are made from a different material than concert snare heads, they tend more toward the bright side of the tone already; some players compensate for this by using teardrop tips, which add some depth to the sound that may be missing, depending on which head you use. Generally, oval and acorn tips are the least common in the field of marching percussion.
Taper and Size
The taper of a drumstick is a measure how much the thickness changes—and how quickly it changes—between the tip and the shoulder, or the point where the taper begins. The taper primarily affects the stick’s feel and balance more than it has a direct impact on the tone. A stick with a long taper will have more flex and a faster response, while a stick with a short taper will be louder and more durable, but won’t offer as much control. For many marching percussionists, a medium taper gives the perfect balance, offering more volume than a long taper but more control than a short.
The overall thickness and length of the stick will also have an impact on how it feels and sounds. Thinner sticks play faster and have a brighter sound, which makes them excellent for complex lines and rolls, but can also mean they break more easily. Thicker sticks have more projection but can sometimes feel sluggish and may not give you as crisp an articulation. When it comes to length, it is again primarily the feel that’s affected—a longer stick will feel more “front heavy” than a shorter one. Longer sticks are harder to control but also give you more leverage, increasing your overall dynamic power.
When it comes to the taper and size of the stick, it’s all about finding the perfect balance for your playing style. If you want a stick that does both volume and control well, moderation is the name of the game—a medium taper on a stick of average thickness and length. Altering any one characteristic in either direction from there will let you tweak the feel and sound. Generally speaking, whenever you add power you sacrifice some control; keep this in mind as you’re searching for the best marching snare sticks. Good luck!