Let me tell you about the cutest (and most useful) little tool that was recently sent to me by Vic Firth; The Universal Practice Tips.
Essentially, these tips are hardened rubber caps that fit perfectly over any drumstick; converting your favorite sticks into a mobile practice tool. What I found fascinating about these tips, is how they were created. Vic Firth released their “Chop Out” marching and drum set sticks, and quickly learned that there was a huge need for this type of product. In response to an overwhelming demand for these rubber tipped sticks, Vic Firth created the Universal Practice Tips.
There are so many things that I love about the concept behind this product. Consider that Vic Firth certainly had the option of making all their sticks with rubber tips. But let’s be realistic; do you want the Vic Firth stick inventory at your local Guitar Center to double? Of course not. By taking a successful concept (the original “Chop Out” sticks) and altering them to become universal, Vic Firth has shown that they’re listening to the consumer market; creating products that solve real problems for drummers, without breaking the bank. (Not to mention saving our coffee tables, desks, and dashboards from some serious abuse.)
So let’s talk about the product. The Universal Practice Tips (UPT) retail in the ballpark of $5.99; cheaper than your favorite set of sticks. Each pack includes 2 pairs of UPTs, and as the title implies, they truly do fit on every drumstick. My first thought was that there is no way the tips will fit every drumstick. I certainly expected there to be a difference in the “fit” of the tip on different shaped sticks. However, after fitting the sticks on 4 of my Vic Firth models (barrel, acorn, and ball tip) I can confidently say these tips are truly “universal” for any normal pair sticks; even fitting on ProMarks and Vaters! (Please note that these tips are not designed for larger marching sticks. If you’re looking for a larger/marching stick with a rubber tip, the Chop Out stick is a better choice.) There is absolutely no difference in feel between the tips on various stick models, and the rubber grips a small ball tip as tightly as it does a large acorn tip. (I really have no idea how they pulled that off. I speculate the composition and density of the rubber is something Vic Firth spent quite a bit of time perfecting.)
The feel of the tips is interesting. There is a noticeably “heavier” feeing to the sticks when the UPTs are on. However, I would not describe the feeling as “unnatural” in any way. It almost feels like your sticks gained some weight, or as though the natural rebound is attenuated about 30%. This is not a bad thing. If you’ve ever practiced with a pillow, or with a Moon Gel type practice surface, you know the benefit of putting in some practice time with a little less rebound. You can expect a slight, but noticeable difference in the rebound of your sticks when the UPTs are on.
Being the “curious drummer type” that I am, I immediately wanted to hear what the UPTs sounded like on different surfaces. I went straight to the couch and pulled up the coffee table. The glass instantly became my practice pad, and I was able to bang out some rudiments and watch TV at the same time. When was the last time you played rudiments on GLASS and didn’t get kicked out of the living room? In all seriousness, the volume difference is amazing. I find the UPTs to be quieter than a practice pad, with less of sharp attack, and more of a warm thump. I compared these tips to my Evans “RealFeel” pad, and found the UPTs to be far quieter, and obviously more portable. Regardless of what surface you plan to play on, you’ll notice the sound and rebound of the UPTs is consistent. Cabinets, bookshelves, kitchen counters, hardwood floors, and knees are ALL practice-approved. Also, its important to note that the UPTs sound pretty cool on real drums! Toms are warmer, snares are more open, and cymbals can be slowly washed out; much like playing with small mallets.
I’m not sure who invented the first “practice pad” but I think that guy is probably kicking himself right about now. Personally, I don’t believe I’ll ever travel with a pad again. This incredibly innovative product is just way too cool to pass up. And at a price point that’s cheaper than your sticks, the UPTs make great gifts!
Learn more about the UPTs at…
…or head down to Guitar Center and grab a pair today!
(No roommates, girlfriends, wives, or mothers were annoyed in the making of this review.)