Have you heard about Verisonic aluminum sticks & brushes? Finally, a review!

Were they good? Are they good? I hear this occasionally on the forums. Yes, they were, and are, good. Verisonic aluminum drumsticks are among the very best metal sticks I’ve ever played, bar none—get it, bar? I would say that were it not for the introduction, a few decades later, of Easton/Ahead aluminum drumsticks, Verisonic would win hands down. Fortunately, as you’ll see in this review, they’re mutually exclusive. Try ‘em both. Start with the heritage Verisonic.

Review: Verisonic aluminum drum sticks

You’ll easily identify a Verisonic drumstick from a distance. Whereas Easton/Ahead aluminum sticks are black and encased in sleeves, Verisonics come in as many colors as Smarties (or M & Ms, jelly beans, etc) and are naked and glossy. It’s been this way since the Pennsylvania company set up business in 1960.

I’ve played Verisonic aluminum sticks since, oh, 1966, back when I’d adopted “underground” as my music, thus declaring my opposition to what was termed “bubblegum”. The former was embodied in Blue Cheer, the latter in Tommy James, to give two made-in-USA examples. Elsewhere, “underground” may have denoted Cream and Jimi Hendrix. I played the full metal repertoire to the best of my ability, thrashing away in an effort to pass as Mitch Mitchell, the drummer who dignified “Manic Depression” and “Hey Joe” with his jazz-inclined triplet fills.

To play unmiked drums and call up Hendrix and Cream, I had to really pummel the drums. Distorting the doctrine of thumb/first finger fulcrum, I squeezed tightly, making already rigid hickory and oak sticks more rigid and, enjoying no appreciable augmentation of presence or projection, squeezed and hit even harder. I found it curious that this invariably caused hand trauma with wood sticks but not with Verisonic metal sticks. I’m jumping ahead, though. Let’s just say that I began breaking hickory sticks left and right. This got expensive.

One day while walking the gauntlet at the drum section of the local music shop, looking for drumstick bargains, I spotted a colorful newcomer, Verisonic aluminum drumsticks. I remember an annotation: tomorrow’s stick today! The already well-worn cliché begged the question that continued to pop up in subsequent years under the guise of save the forests, drumstick durability, or tone. Verisonic drumsticks, it was claimed, would outlast wood sticks 5:1. That increased life span came at a price: $5.99—over twice the cost of hickory, but I reckoned that if the promises held up, Verisonics were well worth the investment. I bought a pair.

Selection of Verisonic aluminum drumsticks rocking

That pad, those colorful Verisonics, and a back-in-the-day Gretsch drumstick pair

From the moment I brought those red Verisonics home and had a play in my basement, I knew I’d done the right thing. Although Verisonic metal sticks weren’t designed to copy wood, they felt good, in their own way; similarly, they fostered an atypically bright snare drum rimshot. If that were not enough, they matched my drum “throne”—a bar stool my dad had painted fire engine red.

As the months and years rolled by, as they say in the drumstick industry, I admit that, push come to shove, at any given time I’d have chosen hickory over aluminum, especially Regal tip without the regal (nylon) tip. It’s a matter of a familiar feel, a known quantity, whereas Verisonics were a little sketchy, particularly when attempting to play with the butt end forward, which was made awkward by a plastic O-ring sparing human skin from sharp metal.

Those white plastic shanks and butts held their own, as did the metal. But when the metal finally gave way, it wasn’t pretty. It was like the protagonist in B-movies confronting his attackers with a broken bottle, his back to the wall. A shattered Verisonic could/can potentially do harm. In general, however, Verisonics were/are easy on grip and gear. They are nothing like those unbearably heavy, almost ornamental practice sticks teachers used to praise. Rather, Verisonics are similar in weight and feel to wood. More or less.

No Verisonic Endorsers?

Aluminum is not magnetic, perhaps the reason name drummers didn’t gravitate to Verisonics. I’d watch The Ed Sullivan Show faithfully and catch The Animals, The Vanilla Fudge (Carmine was truly great in “You Keep Me Hanging On”), The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and The Chambers Brothers (“time!”). Try as I might, however, I never spied a star drummer grasping rub red or turquoise Verisonics.

Then again, my family didn’t own a color television.

When I began recording demos and later jingles and albums, I was alone in my inclusion of these metal sticks in my leather bag. That spoken, I emphasize that I used them no more than once a month throughout the 1980s. When I did get around to them, they added value.

Since Verisonic sticks lasted months (these days years), I wasn’t in the habit of shopping for replacements. Thus, it came as a surprise when they vanished locally. Actually, my last pair melted—in a nightspot called the Moulin Rouge, which was torched during the natural course of a gang turf war. When the guitarist and I visited on the morn, we crossed the police line and looked down into a smoldering, steaming pit into which the entire six or so floors had collapsed. Whoever lit the match knew exactly what they were doing. There was no recognizable object in sight. When cast iron ovens and an entire plumbing system melt, what are the chances your aluminum sticks are going to survive? Or cymbals. This was the occasion that prompted the purchase of my first (and last, since the factory had already closed down) brand new, bagged Turkish-made K Zildjian.

Verisonics, although all but forgotten, came to mind when I was researching an MD article on alternate striking tools. I phoned a number listed in a postage stamp advertisement and was delighted to receive a selection of beautifully finished, consistently balanced, and evenly weighted Verisonic sticks, mallets, and brushes. I still use several of these, both live and in the studio. In clubs they command attention owing to their vivid hues and the way in which they reflect light.

What’s lurking in that hollow shaft?

Easton/Ahead drumsticks are really nice, while we’re on the topic of aluminum. They are, arguably, more versatile than Verisonics and replicate the feel of good wood while adding value. You realize this when you pop a rimshot, or ride on a heavier cymbal, which becomes immediately darker and more intriguing.

What makes Verisonic sticks really special, however, is the fact that they’re not quite right. And they’re certainly not benign. It continually amazes me that drummers will make hybrid stick/brush/rod/shakers out of cola cans, tree branches, witches’ brooms, dowels, and toilet tubes yet won’t explore the possibilities inherent in hollow Verisonics. They are, above all else, resonant chambers and there’s a lot you can do with them: fill them half-full with BBs or shotgun pellets for a combination stick/shaker effect. Or try a single, larger pellet for a more chaotic presence. I have even stuffed the butt ends with broom whisks. And blown across the hollow to suggest flute rasps.

The timbre of the Verisonic stick itself defies comparisons with hickory. It’s in a different ballpark, just as an aluminum baseball bat strays from its hickory counterpart.

My first drum teacher, who’d been a disciple of Billy Gladstone, drilled into our heads the notion that drumsticks are not passive, chosen for length, breadth, throw, and bounce; rather they emit a sound all their own, especially evident when striking one of those old Ludwig pads (see photo). On these barren surfaces we could hear tone from the Verisonics that defied the ticking of the thin layer of gun rubber on metal.

Aluminum Verisonic drum kit brushes aside Ludwigs and Trixons

Verisonic brushes: slender and nimble, aside 1960s Trixon brushes and 1970s Ludwigs

Verisonics come in a variety of models for orchestra, marching, ahem bell lyra, dance, jazz, rock, and so forth. Indeed, you ought to go to the Verisonic website, where you can buy direct. In past, the company has been supremely reliable and hasty in responding to queries and orders, although my recent emails went unanswered. You win a few, you lose a few.

Try a pair. Think of your country, lad. They’ve been made in the USA since the Sputnik era and I hope they’ll be around the day after tomorrow. The plastic shank and tip, and the aircraft-grade aluminum fuselage may rocket you to uncharted sonic destinations.