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Trees and drumsticks

WikiCommons Media

My favorite Beatle is Ringo. As a tree-lover, I've long wondered which wood this famous drummer chose for his drumsticks and what other percussionists use.

Although some sticks are made of metal or resin, the majority of drumsticks are turned from a single piece of wood. Most of them come from three tree species: maple, hickory and oak.

Maple is 10% lighter than hickory, so can play a bit faster, but they wear out more quickly. Hickory is a harder, more durable wood, and, since the wood is more resilient, can absorb the shock of a hard-hitting drummer. 

Oak is the heaviest wood option and can withstand more intense playing styles.

Aluminum and polyurethane sticks are extremely durable, but wood absorbs vibrations, is more flexible, and so most drummers — including Ringo — prefer the feel of wood.

Drumsticks are lacquered to seal the wood, stabilize the moisture content, and to give the sticks sort of of a sticky, grabby feel. And that’s another tie-in to trees, because one of the ingredients for lacquer, nitrocellulose, is a by-product from the manufacture of wood pulp to paper.

But, back to Ringo. The Zildjian Musical Instrument Company has collaborated with Ringo Starr to create a drumstick made of hickory wood, lacquered with a vibrant purple color. It's imprinted with Ringo's signature and his trademark star.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is an emeritus professor of both The Evergreen State College and the University of Utah, one of the world’s leading ecologists and a popular science communicator. Dr. Nadkarni’s research and public engagement work is supported by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. @nalininadkarni
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