Drumming Technique: How to hold your sticks

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

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.

German Grip

Philadelphia drum lessons German GripThis 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.

American Grip

philadelphia drum lessons american gripThis 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.

French Grip

philadelphia drum lessons french gripWhile 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.

Traditional Grip

philadelphia drum lessons traditional gripBack 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.





Ben Masters: Drum Student Tabloids

Ben Masters Jon Ardito Drum School drum lessons in philadelphia

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.

Use our Groupon to take drum lessons in Philadelphia

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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.

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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.

#DrumStudentTabloids: Carmen Terceno Green

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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.

The Drummer’s Connection Between Sight and Sound

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a student that led me to some shocking conclusions about the drumming process. This student had focused so much on reading music and understanding note values that she was not actually hearing the notes she was playing. I then realized that some drummers are quite lucky to have the necessary senses instinctively kick in at certain times and that maybe I had taken a few things about the learning process for granted. I’ve always used my sense of sight to read music simultaneously with my ability to hear the sounds that resulted, so it was a slight adjustment for me to understand that this is not instinctual for all drummer. However, it makes perfect sense. So I had the same conversation with some of my other students, which further validated the need to explore ways of connection sight and sound.

First, I want to establish the goal we set that necessitated a further look at this topic. These are students who want to be able to sit down and play without having to read music or think too hard about what they are playing. They just want to sit down and jam, and have fun doing it. So to get this into motion, we want to build confidence in the following areas:

  • Understanding note values
  • Coordination
  • Ear training
  • Memory

Most musicians learn about note values pretty early on. As we seek to understand the musical process, it becomes important to understand what notes are being used to put musical ideas together, how longer spaces and shorter spaces between notes are created, and when certain things change during a piece of music. So we often spend time reading exercises and musical snippets that contain different notes, rests, dynamic markings, and other symbols. This shapes our visual understanding of music. It also lets up perceive music as a language. Just as we learn to read words in order to verbally communicate with one another, musicians must learn notes to musically communicate.

I began having my students begin this process by learning beats without even playing them. First, they read the notes off of staff paper and count the rhythms out loud to understand the rhythmic connection each note has to the next. In the example below, they would look at the beat and focus on the TOTAL rhythm, not the rhythm of each part. This way, you are training your ear to listen for the whole rhythm.


The next step is to play the rhythm on the drums while counting and making a conscious effort to hear the rhythm played out on each drum. This can be a longer process and requires a lot of focus in order to read the notes, develop a feel for them, and truly hear how the whole things sounds together. In the example below, we can clearly SEE how each color-coordinated part is counted. The goal in this exercise is to HEAR each part when the beat is played all together.


Once it starts to feel good, I urge my students to look away from the music. How did it work? Not well? Repeat the process a few times and see if it improves. It’s important to be resilient here. If it worked out, stop playing for 10 seconds. Without looking back at the music, start playing the beat again. Did you remember the groove? Once we are able to use these senses to develop musical ideas and remember them 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 days later, we have really achieved something special. This is when someone can truly sit down behind a drum set and JUST PLAY!