The drum head is (usually) struck with the tip of the drum stick. Tips come in many shapes, such as acorn, barrel, oval and round. The tip is sometimes referred to as the bead. Traditionally, the tip is made of the same piece of wood as the rest of the stick, although there are drum sticks with a nylon tip conceived by Jonathan Pumphrey and Joe Calato in Niagara Falls, NY in 1958 and the newer acetal tip, conceived by Ken Drinan and Paul Kiersted in the 1970s. The acetal tip produces a brighter sound when playing cymbals and is less likely to splinter after sustained or violent use. However, it is prone to cracking or flying off.
Immediately below the tip is the shoulder of the stick, which tapers out. This section of the stick is prone to breaking after or during cymbal use or during rimshots if the sticks are held incorrectly, if the drum set is played incorrectly, or, most often, if the drummer plays hard. The rest of the stick is referred to as the shaft, with the butt at the opposite end to the tip.
Players use two sticks, employing either a matched grip, popularised by Ringo Starr in the 1960s or a traditional grip, popularised by Sanford A. Moeller from talks with American Civil War drummers/veterans. With either grip, players keep the balance point of the stick slightly beyond their hands.