Generally speaking there are two types of grip that are employed on the drumset: traditional grip and matched grip.
Traditional grip was originally employed by military drummers who had to march with their snare drums by their sides, hanging at an angle. As a consequence of this, it became the type of grip adopted by the earliest drumset players (who were coming from the snare drumming tradition) and is still extremely popular today.
Matched grip was originally employed by orchestral percussionists for playing mallet instruments such as timpani but became very popular on the drumset later, in the mid-sixties, when British drummers such as Ringo where seen using it.
As you might expect, there are many subtle variations of both traditional and matched grip which are employed by different players and the guidance below describes the most common.
The ‘Balance Point’
This is the point on the body of the stick where, when allowed to pivot freely the stick will naturally bounce the most. We can find the balance point very easily.
- Holding the stick near the butt let it rest in the first finger on the right hand.
- With the left hand lift the stick a few inches off the drum and then drop it. The stick will be reluctant to bounce.
- Repeat this process, this time holding the stick about half way between the tip and the butt. This time the stick will almost want to rest in equilibrium.
In fact, there is a point in between these two extremes where the stick will bounce quite naturally. This is called the balance point and is where we create the fulcrum - this is the part of the grip where the stick pivots.
In matched grip both the right hand and left hand hold the stick in the same way:
- At the balance point, hold the stick between the pad of the thumb and the first joint on the first finger creating the fulcrum. Notice that the thumb and the index finger create a ’T’ shape.
- With the palm facing down, the the stick will most naturally sit at a slight angle to the forearm.
- Wrap the second, third and fourth fingers around the sick. Note that these fingers do not press the stick into the palm of the hand, nor are they too loose. They allow the stick a little bit of give, remaining a small fixed distance from the palm. This is particular relevant when we look at cushioning the stick.
The style of matched grip described above involves the palm facing down which means that the thumb is positioned on the side of the stick. This is called German position.
If you rotate the hand through 90º so that the palm faces inwards and the thumb is on top of the stick you are holding the stick in the French position.
In between these two positions, with the thumb at around 45º, you are holding the stick in the American position.
Each of these positions offers different advantages depending on what we are playing, how we are playing it and where on the kit we are playing. Ultimately therefore, it is extremely important to to equally comfortable in any of these positions.
In traditional grip, the right hand holds the stick in the same way as for matched grip. However, the left hand holds grips the stick differently.
- Here the palm faces inwards as it would if you were shaking someone’s hand.
- The fulcrum is created by holding the stick at the balance point between the thumb and first finger.
- The stick should sit just below the first joint on the third finger.
- Then, wrap the first and second fingers loosely around the stick with the pad of the thumb touching the first joint on the first finger.
With any type of grip, the important thing is not to squeeze the stick. You want to hold the stick just firmly enough retain control but loosely enough to avoid any unnecessary tension in the hands.