Author: Bidwell, Stephen
Date published: August 1, 2012
Vic Firth has a quintet of new signature sticks created with the help of established heavyweights and new stars. While the sticks were designed for the particular needs of these individual artists, they may offer a new solution-or a refreshing change-for your hands and your sound. Also new from Vic Firth is a compact stick bag meant to hold the bare necessities.
The Gavin Harrison model was the biggest surprise of the review group. At 16 7/8'' long, it has a contour more reminiscent of a stick designed for orchestral players. Half of the stick has been dipped in blue Vic Grip, a water-based anti-slip coating. The short taper in the shoulder, blended tip, and medium-weight hickory allowed for a comfortable balance and surprisingly dynamic playing despite the model's larger overall size. The contour allowed for a variety of different rimshots, from a "ping" played all the way at the tip to a uniquely soft full shot if you strike the rim with the Vic Grip coating. The grip assisted in maintaining a good hold with sweaty palms.
Harvey Mason's second Vic Firth signature stick, dubbed the Chameleon, is like a stretched-out version of the drummer's existing signature model, but in a natural finish and with a more articulate tip. At 16 3/8'' long and .540'' in diameter, it's an optimal choice for pop and funk. The short taper in the neck and oval-shaped tip allow for rimshots of all shades, clean and tasty hi-hat work, and consistent rimclicks no matter which end you hold the sticks from.
George Kollias is known for his serious technical prowess in the extreme metal band Nile. His new signature stick is a hybrid of a 5A and a 5B that's clearly built for speed. At an even 16'', with a brief traditional taper ending in a barrel-shaped tip, the stick was a good fit for more than just metal. Knowing Kollias's work, I attempted some blast beats, one-handed rolls, and fast flurries around the kit. The stick handled those with its comfortable weight and a tip that produced a focused and full sound on all surfaces, while having just the right balance for rock or funk styles. If you're looking for help in the endurance department, or simply for something with a solid balance and touch, this is a great new option.
Also on his second signature model, Greg Bissonette has a new Backbeat stick that's in essence a shorter SB, at 16'', but half of the stick is dipped in black Vic Grip for extra traction. The Backbeat also has a short taper in the neck, making it more top heavy. This front-loaded quality provides a fuller sound when taking the shank to a cymbal bell, but it also seems to allow for highly consistent rimshots, as the model's name would indicate. A larger acorn-meets-barrel-shaped tip, combined with the front-weighted design, necessitates more effort in executing articulate passages, but these sticks make easy work of straight up-and-down rock time. The Vic Grip doesn't let the sticks get away from you.
Keith Carlock recently joined the Vic Firth team, and his signature model measures in at around 16'' and has a medium-length taper leading to a small acorn-style tip. The unique tip provides a full but focused sound on drums and cymbals, and while the stick feels like a 5A, its smaller tip and more extreme taper allow for great rebound on any surface-much like a lighter jazz stick. Uncharacteristic for Vic Firth, this particular model has a thick lacquer coating, per Carlock's specifications. If its distinctive design gives any insight into how to groove like Keith, this stick is certainly worth checking out.
ESSENTIALS STICK BAG
At roughly half the size of a typical stick bag, this new compact version holds about five pairs of sticks or any combination of implements that takes up the same amount of space. There's also a pocket that's big enough to hold some earbuds, plus a loop of elastic to hold your drum key. While this might not be your everyday utility stick bag, it would be great for casual gigs-or you could just leave it in your bass player's car for that one time every couple months when you leave your sticks or brushes at home.