There is very little we can do on the drums until we learn to hold our sticks correctly. Various grips have been introduced over the years, all with their own preferences and benefits. Many drummers begin playing with the grip that is most comfortable to them. Sometimes this means a grip that isn’t constructive to getting the most our of each stroke. Once your grip is solid, we can then begin exploring other types of techniques to improve things like control, speed, and dynamics. Let’s start with the most common grip:
Matched grip includes a stance in which both hands match one another. This way, we can rely on the same grip and the same movement on each hand. Since they should both look and move the same way, this causes drummers to compare the two hands, sometimes very meticulously. While this is a good practice, it is important to remember that your left hand may operate slightly different from your right. So aim for a perfect match but don’t get hung up on subtle differences, as our bodies are all built differently. In general, it may feel a little weird exploring a grip that is not completely natural. So have patience as you develop your technique.
There is a very important word that is common to all grips – Fulcrum. Remember this from science class? The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines Fulcrum as “the support about which a lever turns”. In drumming, this means the point your fingers are secured to the stick to allow it to pivot. Every grip we discuss includes a fulcrum point.
This include a grip in which your thumb and pointer finger are forming a fulcrum point towards the bottom of the stick. If you pinch the stick, I always say you want about an inch sticking out the back of each hand. The remaining fingers will wrap around the stick and help control it when it’s in motion. Make sure the back of your hands are facing up, palms down. When your sticks meet in the middle of the drum, they will form a 90 degree angle, which will position your elbows out slightly. When the stick is in motion, remember that it’s important to use your wrists, not your arms.
This is very similar to German grip. You will hold your sticks exactly the same way, however this stance involves tucking your elbows in towards your body, which will cause your sticks to meet at more of a 45 degree angle in the center of the drum. The back of your hands will now be positioned outward a little more, but still facing up.
While your hands are still matched, you will find yourself using your fingers a little more in order to move your stick with this grip. Here, you are bringing your sticks in so they are parallel to one another directly in front of your belly button. Where your palms are faced down for German and American grip, here they will actually face the opposite hand with your thumbs positioned on top of each stick. You will move your fingers to control the stick’s movement on both hands.
Back in the day, marching band drummers used to march with their drums on the side of their bodies. In order to get good touches on their drums, they had to play with their outside hand faced up and inside hand faced down. This style became heavily used in jazz drumming and is still very popular today. While the dominant hand leverages the same stance used in German grip, the less dominant hand holds the stick a bit differently. Put your hand out, palm up. Let the stick sit in the palm of your hand with the “balance point” in the crook between your thumb and pointer finger. This is going to be your fulcrum with traditional grip. You will then wrap your pointer finger around the stick, maintaining fairly loose contact. Next, curl the remaining fingers around the stick to keep control while the stick is in motion. These fingers will not play a huge role in actually directing the stick. To play, you are still using your wrists to move the stick up and down. There are various forms of traditional grip that involve greater use of the fingers, but that’s another post.
Drummers must all make decisions as to which grip is most suitable for them. This may be a stylistic preference or a general one. Regardless, use the direction above to get started and let me know if any questions come up while you play.
When I asked Ben why he wanted to take drum lessons, he told me he likes to be loud. I laughed and then attempted to pry a little deeper. After a few lessons, we started exploring a few different concepts including limb coordination, stick control and tempo. He admires heavy hitter, Neil Peart as well as lesser known drummers such as Josh Dun. We’ll start to play songs those guys are featured in to really test Ben’s abilities within the music realms he enjoys the most. I love Ben’s attitude towards music. For him, playing is a form of self-expression, which I can certainly relate to. I can also relate to That Eagles shirt he’s wearing. Ben loves his Philadelphia sports, especially the Flyers. To relax, he’s either enjoying a sporting event or on a peaceful walk with his dog.
Take a $15 drum lesson in Philadelphia
There has never been a better time to start learning the drums. It’s the new year, you’re ready to start something new… Let me help! Use our Groupon deal to take a 30 minute lesson at half the cost. Get basic exposure, work out a beat you’re stumped on, or simply spend 30 minutes exploring the instrument. Click the link below to learn more about the deal or contact us to ask questions about the program.
About Jon Ardito
I’m a professional drummer with over 20 years of experience. I’ve been teaching drum lessons in Philadelphia for over 6 years, educating students of all ages and skill levels. With me, you will learn to play awesome beats, learn amazing fills, and discover the tools you need to develop comfort around the drum set. Lesson plans are customized to focus on the exact goals and interests of every student. You tell us how you want to improve and I make it happen. Students also have the opportunity to play with other musicians, learn their favorite songs, and explore a variety of styles.
Carmen always shows up with a smile on her face and frequently a painting for me to hang up in my studio. She always knows when something needs to be corrected and is usually able to do it on her own without the need for me to say anything. Every drum lesson Carmen takes is a highly interactive one. She always asks questions when she doesn’t understand something and has a thoughtful point of view on the subjects we cover. We began incorporating a piano into our lesson plan so Carmen can play beats along to different melodies. Sometimes I will even challenge her to play something on the piano with the goal of keeping the rhythm aligned with my bass drum pattern. Carmen is currently traveling and enjoying her summer but we look forward to getting back in the groove as fall approaches.