malletjazz.com FAQ pages
Should I use rattan- or birch-handle mallets?
The smart-aleck answer is, Yes! (Im not a big fan of plastic-handle mallets.)
Some players will say that for two-mallet playing, or if youre using a crossed-stick four-mallet grip (Burton, Traditional, Stout, etc.), you should use rattan, for the flexibility, and that for Stevens and Musser grips, you should use birch handles for the sturdiness and lack of flexibility. Ive also heard many players opine that rattan-handle mallets just plain sound better than birch-handle mallets. Its tough to draw these sorts of conclusions consistently and exclusively - there are Burton grip players (especially on marimba) who like to use birch handles, and there are Stevens grip players who prefer the feel of rattan. The best answer is: know what the tendencies are regarding each kind of handle material, try different options, and make your own decision based on what is the most comfortable for you.
(Click here to see my lesson page on this site, regarding the issues surrounding mallet choice, for more thoughts on this topic.)