In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: March 30, 2021
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If you have never come across drum brushes before you could be forgiven for thinking all are the same, but this is definitely not true. We’ve reviewed the best drum brushes for a variety of different scenarios and drumming styles in this guide, as we look to provide a full overview of what these drum brushes are, which drummers will find them most useful and which styles of playing they can complement.
Drum brushes are relatively simple in design, but the nuanced details can make a huge difference to the way they sound and the end-result for the drummer. The type of drum brush, whether or not it has a retractable handle, the weight, dimensions, and the materials used to create the wires are all vital to creating both a feel and sound that you are happy with as a drummer. Our research has led to us creating a simple overview of some top options as well as detailed reviews and a buying guide for those looking to purchase a drum brush, with lots of information on their design and function.
"One of the best things about these brushes is the fact that they have a smooth rubber handle. This means that they don’t create a big, loud boomy sound when they impact the drums, and they can be used for subtle and nuanced playing and intricate brushwork."
"You can adjust the brush, which has a wavy nylon set of wires to give a swishing sound. You can create a very unique percussive sound without it being super high-volume. And the grip is comfortable and tape-wrapped, with a wooden stick underneath it."
"The rubber handles are combined with plastic brushes, which are lightweight and should last a long time. And in spite of being a budget pick, they’re retractable so you can alter the sound-qualities and the volume to suit your needs."
"It features a standard 5A set of drumsticks, the interesting drum brushes sticks which include wood. And the drum brushes included have a retractable design and quality, metal brush. Move this to explore even more different textures and playing styles."
"These drum brushes feature the 5A sized wooden grip that many drummers are used to when they use their standard set of drumsticks. So, they feel exactly like the drum sticks you are already used to using."
People who are looking for the best drum brushes often end up going for a Vic Firth model. This is a drum brand known all over the world, and they manufacture a massive amount of drum equipment including brushes.
One of the best things about these brushes is the fact that they have a smooth rubber handle. This means that they don’t create a big, loud boomy sound when they impact the drums, and they can be used for subtle and nuanced playing and intricate brushwork.
The brushes are retractable, so you can alter how close together they are or the distance from the tip of the handle to get different sounds. These metal wires are good quality and have their own unique sound.
The smooth rubber design can be a little bit stiff to start with. It is important to “break-in” your sticks. After playing them a few times you will find that they start to feel a lot more natural and high-quality. Some people don’t enjoy the lightweight design they offer but this is really a matter of personal preference. They’re good for fast drum work.
With a brand like Vic Firth, you know that you are getting quality, and the durability of these drum brushes is not up for debate. They can last a long time if treated right.
What we liked:
Good for intricate drumming
Easy to adjust the brushes with retractable handle
The Vater Drum and Percussion Brushes are a long wire drum brush, which are very high quality but probably best used as percussion brushes.
Vater is a growing brand for these sorts of specialty drum products. This brush was designed with New York-Based artist “La Free Olivia Sci”.
You can adjust the brush, which has a wavy nylon set of wires to give a swishing sound. You can create a very unique percussive sound without it being super high-volume.
The grip is comfortable and tape-wrapped, with a wooden stick underneath it. They weigh just 4 oz even though these sticks do look big and bulky.
The polymer strands are definitely not the industry norm, but this is okay, and it gives a good option for experimenting with your sound. Though they’re not necessarily the best jazz drum brushes for playing in a band, they can be good for percussion and exploring new recording possibilities. Buying these can be a good way to spice up your drumming and make an exciting new sound. Plus, the fact that they are adjustable helps as it means you can alter that sound yourself based on your own personal preferences. Though they’re not the most versatile brush sticks for drums they certainly deserve their place on our list.
What we liked:
Unique sound which you can adjust
Comfortable tape-wrapped handle
Very durable and hard-wearing, built to last years
Maybe you are looking for brush sticks for drums for the very first time, or you aren’t sure if this is the style of playing for you. It doesn’t always make sense to spend a lot of money on your drum brushes, and we’ve included a budget option for those who don’t want to splash out, or who want to simply try out drum brushes and discover how they feel.
While you probably shouldn’t expect these drum brushes to sound like an amazing Jazz recording, they’re actually a lot better than you would expect for the price, which is why we have named them the best budget pick.
The rubber handles are combined with plastic brushes, which are lightweight and should last a long time, but obviously don’t give the same feel and sound-quality as some other materials.
In spite of being a budget pick, they’re retractable so you can alter the sound-qualities and the volume to suit your needs.
The manufacturers have said they are suitable for beginners and professionals. We’d advise beginners to use these drum brushes, and for your first set they will be fine. However, if you’re playing to bigger audiences, invest in some slightly more pro feeling models.
They’re high up on our list, as it is hard to come by decent drum equipment that doesn’t cost a lot of money. The Musiclily Retractable Jazz Drum Brushes are decent jazz brushes for the money.
Another good option for beginners is the Pangda 1 Pair Drum Brushes. They’re relatively affordable, but also have a very respectable and durable design.
For beginners, one of the key benefits is the velvet case that comes free, you can use this to keep your drum brushes neatly encased and you can carry them around with you easily.
These brushes follow a similar design to a lot of the others on the market that cost a similar amount, with a rubber handle that has some flex, and is pretty comfortable. Unlike some of the cheap drum brushes, it has wire bristles, which many people prefer to play with and find gives them more space for articulation and nuance.
Speaking of which, you can alter the way this sounds with the retractable end of this drum brush, which allows you to play louder or with a more gentle action depending on what the song in question calls for.
They’re not the best for percussive use, but they can do a great job of opening up a drum kit to more jazzy sounds and options.
The bristles, though metal, aren’t the highest quality we’ve come across so you might find that they bend out of shape over time. This means having to replace quicker, so it might make sense to invest in more sturdy brushes if you always play with a brush.
A lot of people who are looking for the best drum brushes aren’t 100% sure of what they need from the brushes, what they need to be able to do and the feel and sound they would prefer, so being able to get a set is a good idea. Also, if you are looking to buy drum sticks at the same time then it can be a way to save money.
It features a standard 5A set of drumsticks, easy to play most styles of drums with. This is an added bonus for everyone who is looking for a drum brush. If you are looking for versatility of sound, the interesting drum brushes sticks which include wood rods and a wrap near the neck provides an intriguing sound adding texture to your playing. You can enjoy this extra dimension to the sound but still play using the same methods as before.
The drum brushes included have a retractable design and quality, metal brush. Move this to explore even more different textures and playing styles.
You can also conveniently keep all of the drum brushes and sticks in the set inside a velvet case that comes included. If you don’t need a big set then this might be overkill, but as a way to save money, this is one of the best options you will have. The price for 3 sets of sticks/brushes is exceptional.
What we liked:
Comes with 3 different designs of brush and stick
Main brush is retractable so you can alter the sound
Durable metal wires
What could be better:
Drums aren’t as comfortable to play as some other options
Not as long-lasting and well-built as some competing options
While the other option from Vater on the list is something of a specialist set of drum brushes, this is a very versatile pair that can be used for jazz drumming and many other uses. They’re also extremely lightweight and very easy to carry around, and to use on stage.
They feature the 5A sized wooden grip that many drummers are used to when they use their standard set of drumsticks, so the Vater Drum and Percussion Brushes really aren’t too much of an adjustment to make for drummers. They probably feel exactly like the drum sticks you are already used to using.
The wires are made out of metal bristles, which is what a lot of people are looking for when it comes to a good quality drum brush. One disadvantage is the fact that they are not retractable, so you can’t adjust the sound as much as some other options. This is not a problem for everyone, but the sound itself is quite loud so the extra option to change the characteristics would be welcome.
The louder sound comes partially from the fact they have a wooden design, which doesn’t flatten the sound at all.
Part of the versatility of this drum brush is the fact that it has a metal rivet at the butt end. This can be used for drumming techniques and give you more options for the patterns you can play.
The second option on the list by Vic Firth. The Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush was easy to include, as it has a specific feature that sets it apart from many of the other drum brushes. If you are looking for a brush which does not snag on a newly coated (or just brand new) drum then this could be a good option for you.
Some brushes cause issues with the coating of the drums as they can be abrasive, especially if they have metal brush designs as the Steve Gadd model does. This problem is dealt with simply by having angled ends of the brush.
You can feel when you are playing with this drum brush that it is made with a smooth feel in mind, and the velvet touch of some jazz drummers can reach its full potential when using such a high-quality brush.
You will pay a little extra for the privilege as this is one of the more expensive drum brushes that is on the market. It isn’t the cheapest, but this comes from the high-quality that you get from the Vic Firth brand. Also, when you consider the fact that these might protect the coating on your drums, it might be worth that extra investment in the first place.
As well as being high-quality, the brush is retractable for you to change the sounds, but it might be best not to retract too far due to those ends.
What we liked:
Excellent build quality and brand
Protects the coating of your drums
What could be better:
More expensive than many of the other drum brushes
Things to Consider
Aspiring drummers know that there is simply a huge amount to learn and get your head around when you are learning how to play, and this includes equipment. Do you need a wire brush drum or a nylon brush drum? Do you even need brushes at all? What is the point in them? Drum brushes are actually becoming more popular, even though some people see them as a bit of an old-fashioned way of playing. They are traditionally associated with some older jazz genres such as the 1920s and 1930s swing jazz scene, but they feature in all kinds of songs these days, regardless of genre. There are a lot of questions that you need to consider and our buying guide is designed to help you to fully understand brushes, what they do, and what the features are.
Features to consider when choosing drum brushes
The following features are those to consider when making your choice. Obviously, different people will have some different priorities when it comes to brushes, and may make a choice based on specific needs and the drum kit they will be playing, or even based on genre. Whether you are a newcomer or an established player can also make an impact.
A full understanding of all of these features will help you to understand which to buy. So which features have we used to review the very best drum brushes on the market?
Retractable vs fixed
A retractable brush comes with a rod at the back, as you can see that by the Vic Firth Heritage Brush, which is connected to the wires and you can use these to change the character of the wire, such as how much is hitting the drum, and how close together all the wires are. Different drummers will prefer different styles, and different songs may even call for different configurations.
Fixed brushes don’t give you the option to alter how much of the brush is hitting the drum head or the other aspects of the sound, and character of the wires.
However, fixed do have the benefit of the brush not being constantly moved and needing to be stored more carefully. So a fixed brush can be a good choice if you are worried about damaging the wires. You simply have to make sure that you give them full protection.
As you’ve probably guessed, the wires are possibly the most important thing to consider when you are buying drum brushes. It is vital that you get a set of wires that is high-quality enough to last a long time, but the key is that they sound good. The wires of your brush have a huge impact on the ultimate sound you are producing.
Traditionally, metal wires are the most common. They provide a bright sound and give a really clear “swish” when you remove them or run them along the drum head. The metal wires can be abrasive, and the head might get caught in the drum. This can cause damage. If you want to avoid this problem, you can go for the Vic Firth Steve Gadd Wire Brush which is angled to avoid this problem.
Brushes with nylon or other materials are starting to become more common. These materials can be made more cheaply, and some people can recognize a plastic “sound” to them. Some elitists may say these aren’t really proper drum brushes, but we don’t think this is the case. One of the benefits is the fact that they will also spring back into their shape a lot more readily than metal, especially if hit hard on the drum.
There are a couple of different considerations when it comes to the handle.
It does make some difference to the way the drums sound. This may not be drastic, but if you are planning on recording you will need to get your drum sound perfected and make sure that the tone has the characteristics you are looking for. A wooden handle is common, as by the Vic Firth Heritage Brush, but it makes a different sound to other materials including plastic, rubber and aluminum. Rubber and wood are the most common. Rubber handles are softer, they grip and have a good bounceback, but feel very different to wood sticks that you might be used to.
The other important consideration is the way the drums feel. Ask any drummer, and they will tell you that different drumsticks feel very different, and have a big impact on the way they play. Some drummers get to the stage where they are only willing to play one specific type of stick.
This is another area of music equipment where people like to have an opinion, but nobody should tell you what is right for you. It is a personal choice what sort of handle you prefer. If you are used to wooden sticks then a wooden handle might be the easiest transition, but metal or rubber may give different intonation.
The weight of the drum brushes is to do with how they are played, and some people prefer a really light brush, which might be easier for doing some drumwork, however it really depends on what you are used to and what you prefer. The Vater Drum and Percussion Brushes are the lightest on our list. Some people love the fact that they are lightweight, but realistically, none of the drum brushes are heavy. It isn’t a storage issue or a portability issue, just a preference when it comes to how you like to play the drums.
There are some standardized sizings for drum sticks, but these really don’t apply here as the brushes are different shapes and sizes. Look at the Vater Drum and Percussion Brushes (VBM), these are a lot bigger than many drum sticks at 14 inches in total. It depends what you are looking for. The Vater Drum and Percussion Brushes (VBM) are best used with percussion or even marching drums, so for a standard drum set you may want something with a more traditional design.
The drum stick set that we’ve mentioned, the M Y Fly Young Set, includes a standard sized 5A drumstick set as well as the brushes, so you can work out what size is best for you, as well as which texture will give the audio quality you are hoping for.
When you think about it, buying drum brushes and sticks is just buying something to hit stuff with! It’s unlikely that you will get any sort of warranty on sticks or brushes, and if you do, it might just be 28 days, one month or 60 days.
It’s fair enough, though drum sticks are not totally disposable, and drum brushes should last a little bit longer, they aren’t designed to last forever and at some point will have to be replaced. A drum company offering years worth of warranty on brushes would probably ever make any money.
Some drummers using sticks can go through multiple sets in one gig or recording session, so you can see why warranties are uncommon.
There are not a great deal of different extra features that can be incorporated, but we have discussed some of the drum brushes that try to add something a little different. The Vic Firth model that utilizes the metal angle, the Steve Gadd Wire Brush signature series is designed to stop the issues that abrasive metal can otherwise give and protect the coating of your drums.
Some of the drum stick with brush models or drum brushes include a case for you to carry them around in. For example, the M Y Fly Young Set has a drawstring velvet case. This is not the most amazing additional feature we’ve ever seen, but it is good to have this extra little bit of protection when you need to buy a drum brush.
Drum brushes, drumheads and music types
In the history of music, drum brushes are a relatively new concept. A lot of people tend to think that people started using brushes to get a new and exciting sound in the 1900s, and jazz musicians of the 20s and 30s are often credited with the new and interesting drumming styles.
Jazz is not the only genre that drum brushes are amazing for, they can work very well with traditional jazz drum patterns, but also R’n’B, Rock and some Salsa and Latin music.
There is quite a famous book entitled “The Sound of Brushes” by Ed Thigpen, which has become known as one of the very best resources for those who are looking to learn more about drum brushes and their use. Ed has a musical background and the book is designed to help drummers actually learn how to play the drums and the slightly different counting and notation methods that are needed for drumming in this way.
Any type of music that can benefit from softer playing methods can be a great candidate for drum brushes. Drummers can use these to soften the patterns they ordinarily play. For instance, if you are looking to play a stripped-down acoustic set, a drummer using a brush could be a good way to reduce the volume of the drums so that they don’t overpower, and this softer sound is a good accompaniment for a lot of acoustic styles and genres.
Rather than providing drum “hits” like a drumstick, a drum brush, also known as a drum broom, is used to sweep across the drums. This means the notation is totally different. Also, drum brushes are used a lot on certain drums, such as cymbals, whereas other drums such as closed hi hats probably won’t sound good if used with brushes. Cymbals give a beautiful fizz and a swooshing sound as all of the brushes and brush strokes gradually work their way across the metal.
Though there are certain specific techniques and notation methods you can learn to play the drums with brushes, the key is that they provide you with another tool with which you can experiment and create your own unique sound. Whether you are playing swing, jazz, rock or accompanying a singer-songwriter.
Drum heads are vital for getting the right sound when you buy a drum brush. Without the right head you will definitely fail to get the right sort of sound. The drum head needs to be coated as the friction that is made from the coating is what gives the swishing sound.
Some drummers like to use the Remo Fiberskyn as these are designed to feel like calfskin drum heads and give less friction, the sound when playing with drum brushes is truly fantastic, and a little bit less harsh than some of the traditional drum heads.
There are no hard and fast rules to how you have to use drum brushes, it is important that you come up with the sound that you are hoping for rather than worrying too much what others think. Left Hand Legato Strokes are great for ballads, and a sweeping mantra technique gives the swishing sound a lot of us think of when we think drum brushes. Further reading about the subject should be done in other different sources – ultimately, a brush is just another tool and it is up to you how you use it.
Most of the drum brushes on our list will be perfectly good for beginners to use. However, if you are used to drumsticks then choosing something with a similar size and handle might be the best option. Also, people who are not used to making alterations on adjustable and retractable brushes might want to go for a fixed model. This limits the options in terms of the sound, but it might be the best option if you are looking to learn how to play and aren’t confident with different shapes and sizes of brush.
The Vic Firth Heritage Brush is our overall top pick, this is a great, versatile drum brush which is a mixture of relatively good value, but more importantly a really professional sound from an amazing and prolific brand. We’ve rated it 9.9/10, it is suitable for jazz and other genres where drum brushes are common.
The Vater Drum and Percussion Brushes (VBM) is the best value, and though it has a very different design to some of the other drum brushes, it is amazing for use in all sorts of percussion such as marching bands percussion. We’ve rated it 9.8/10, partially for its value.
On our list of the best drum brushes we’ve also included a budget pick, the Musiclily Retractable Jazz Drum Brushes. This comes with a rating of 9.7/10, it is a good choice for beginners and in spite of being very affordable compared to many other options it still has a decent jazz tone. The choice of which drum brush suits your playing needs best is truly up to you.