As any musician can tell you, a strong performance relies just as heavily on talent and attention to detail as it does on choosing the right equipment. Drummers must choose a quality drum set, drum heads, and the correct drum sticks for a particular application or genre. Choosing the correct drum sticks is perhaps the most important consideration, and your choice depends on several factors, including your playing style, the genre of music you intend to play, and your budget.
Properly called percussion mallets, drum sticks consist of four different parts: the tip, the shoulder, the shaft, and the butt. The tip, also called the bead, can be made of the same material as the rest of the stick, but it can also be made of plastic or nylon, which generally produces a brighter tone. However, nylon or plastic tips are also prone to cracking and can sometimes fly off the drum sticks during use. The shape of the tip or bead varies: it can be acorn-shaped, round, or oval. Each type produces a different brightness and clarity, so be sure to try out a few different styles before settling on one. The shoulder of the drum sticks is typically made out of the same material as the shaft and is most used for rim shots. It is also prone to cracking if struck at the wrong angle against cymbals or against the rim of the snare drum.
Another type of drumsticks are not really sticks at all. Brushes are metal or plastic bristles that extend from a handle, and when struck against the drum head, the bristles fan out to create a softer, fuller sound than regular drum sticks. Some brushes are telescoping--that is, the length of the bristles can be adjusted, thereby affecting the tone produced. Brushes are commonly used in jazz or blues, but they can also be used in other genres of music.
Mallets are another common type of drum sticks. These consist of a typically round head made of a variety of materials--nylon, plastic, rubber, acrylic, etc.--attached to a thin shaft. Mallets are used to produce sounds that regular drumsticks cannot; for example, softer mallets will produce lower registers of sound on drums, producing a thick, low tone. The harder mallets can produce a wide variety of timbre as well and are commonly used on cymbals.
These are only a few different types of drum sticks. To figure out which one suits you best, be sure to test out several different styles. Chances are you will find one suited to your playing style and genre.