In a previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of using quality instruments. Simply put, using better gear can give you a better experience with your playing. But the drum is only part of the equation. Good tippers can also improve your experience in the bodhrán. What makes a tipper "good?" In short, how it sounds and how it feels.
A good tipper should have a shape and mass that enables you to produce a full frequency response from the drum. The higher the mass of the the tipper, the greater the response from the skin. As such, you will get a fuller, richer sound. However, heavier tippers may not produce the sounds you would like with regards to "pops" and other higher sounds. In addition, the additional weight may make playing at higher tempi difficult.
The shape of the tipper will also affect the sound, especially with regards to the aforementioned "pops." If the end of a tipper is particularly large, it will be difficult to produce bright and crisp-sounding highs. Tippers that have smaller drumstick-like or flared tips can produce clear and crisp highs, but they may not get the warmest and fullest frequency response from the low end of the drum.
My favorite tippers accommodate both aspects- good mass and a good shape. They are heavy enough to produce a good sound, but not so heavy that I am fatigued. Likewise, the tip is capable of producing pleasing sounds in both the high and low ends of the drum.
My favorite tippers also feel good when I play. They are balanced, do not require too much effort, and generally do not require my absolute attention. Again, it is just that- they feel good.
Finding the Right Tipper
It might be easier trying to find your soul mate. I have tried countless tippers, and I have a box full of stuff that will eventually make it to Ebay. I would recommend trying tippers that belong to other players whenever you can. Once you find what you like, ask them where they got theirs, and then go and get your own.
(Note- it is possible to find a tipper that sounds great but does not feel all that good. If you find yourself in this position, try adjusting your grip or balance point. On "hot-rod" or "bundle rod" tippers, this may be more difficult as the grip area is usually installed by the maker. In that case, re-set the grip. I have removed the original grips of some of my favorite tippers only to redo them with heat-shrink tubing.)
And speaking of some of my favorite tippers...
Falconwood ScotRod B/W4
This tipper is light and playful, yet it produces a wonderful sound. This is also one of those tippers on which I have replaced the grip.
Moises HedRod HR3 Crisp
This is my go-to tipper for 90% of my playing. It sounds good, feels good, and balances well to the ensemble.
Falconwood Colm Phelan Signature
Again, this just feels good and sounds good!
MSOS stands for "Mark Stone Old School." When I play in a more traditional style, I reach for this tipper.
The perfect tipper for softer playing situations.
Good luck as you look for that perfect stick!