A lot of drummers start playing without ever thinking about how they hold the sticks. They jump straight into the fun stuff completely overlooking the most important thing of all - grip! At first everything is ok but as soon as they start to play more often and more challenging music things start to go wrong; tight muscles, fatigue, the inability to keep up with quicker tempos, aching elbows and wrists.
These are all symptoms of poor stick grip and poor technique.
If you have ever suffered from these ailments then you'll know what I'm talking about. It's a real pain in the backside and in the worst cases you have to stop playing completely.
That's the last thing that you want so read through this article and we'll get you on the right track. When you learn how to hold the sticks properly you will be more relaxed when you play, you will be able to play faster and with greater power. So let me explain the correct ways you can hold your drumsticks:
The Balance Point
No matter what grip you use the first thing you need to find is the balance point or fulcrum point on the stick. This is the sweet spot that gives you the greatest bounce and control. If you hold the stick too far back you have to work overtime to make it bounce because it just dies in the head and if you hold it too far forward you will struggle to even get it to hit the head because the weight of the stick is pulling in the opposite direction. Test different grip positions up and down the stick until you are happy you have found the point of least effort.
The most common way of holding the stick today is the Matched Grip style. Most drummers find this is the most effective way to hold the sticks and to build their technique around. Matched grip is basically having both hands holding the sticks the same way - meaning both left and right hands are matched. Here are a few ways to hold the sticks with matched grip:
The German grip is very common in rock drumming and corps drumming. It involves you holding your sticks at the fulcrum point (balance point) with your thumb and index finger and placing your other fingers lightly on the bottom of the stick. From their you place your sticks on the snare drum, palms facing down and try to make a 90 degree angle with them. When you find this angle, you will notice your elbows may stick out a little, which is normal.
With The French Grip you hold the sticks the same as with the german grip but this time you place your sticks on the snare drum with the palms facing each other. The back of your thumbs will point up towards the ceiling which means that you can use your fingers for fast rolls and grooves. You can get a lot of speed with this technique but it comes at the expense of power.
The American grip is a half way house between the German grip and the French grip. Instead of having your elbows out and your sticks at a 90 degree angle, relax a little, and let your arms fall. You will notice your sticks come in a little, cutting your angle down to 45 degrees or so. This is a kind of hybrid technique that allows you to get the best of the german wrist action and french finger technique.
Before matched grip became the drumming standard many players used the traditional grip. It is still very common in jazz drumming and corps drumming and you can see players like Virgil Donati, Steve Smith and Peter Erskine killing it with this technique. This grip was designed by drummers in army corps who had their snare drum resting on their hips. The angle of their snare drum made it hard for them to play with matched grip. Therefore, they created a new method of holding their hand underneath the stick. This has been more recently been name the traditional grip. To achieve this, you want to hold the left stick with your hand upside down, (or palms up). Find the balance point of the stick, and place it in the pocket of your thumb and index finger. Rest the stick on the last two fingers of your hand, (the ring and pinky fingers). Now you just have to simply rest your index and middle finger on the top of the stick. The right hand holds the stick with either a german, french or american grip.
Stick Grip Conclusion
No matter what style of music you play, grip comes before anything else. Learning the various grips and practicing the rudiments with them will help you to develop a solid foundation for your playing. In time you'll find which grip you like the most or you might find that you like to move in and out of different grips depending on the style or attitude of the music that you are called to play.
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