How to Hold Drumsticks

How to hold drumsticks. Pair of drumsticks

It may seem pretty straightforward how one should hold a drumstick, and for the most part it is, but there are actually quite a variety of ways to hold them; some of which you might never have thought of.

Over the years, drummers have developed their own unique techniques according to their playing style and what type of music they play. I will go over many of the common ways to hold drumsticks below and you might just be surprised at what you find.

How to Hold Drumsticks: Traditional grip

What better way to start than with the traditional grip? This grip is used predominantly in jazz and marching band settings. It’s easily recognizable as the drumsticks are held differently in each hand.

The traditional grip is favored by many drummers, not only for its historical significance, but also because it facilitates particular techniques such as the rimshot on the snare drum. Not only that, but this grip allows the drummer to execute subtle wrist movements for dynamic control of their volume.

Something to remember is that the traditional grip is by no means the only or the best grip style. Drummers choose different grips according to their personal preferences and what type of musical genre they play.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for the traditional grip:

For the left hand (assuming you’re right-handed):

  1. Place the stick between the middle finger and ring finger of your left hand. The stick should rest diagonally across the palm, with the fat end of the stick resting comfortably in the crook of your thumb.
  2. Curl your thumb and rest it on the stick, applying light pressure. The thumb’s position will vary slightly depending on your personal preference but will usually end up resting somewhere around your index finger.
  3. Wrap your remaining fingers (ring finger and pinky) under the stick, providing control and stability.

For the right hand:

  1. Instead of the traditional grip, maintain the matched grip for your right hand. This means holding the stick between your thumb and index finger, with the other fingers lightly wrapped around it.

Pros and cons of the traditional grip:

The traditional grip has a rich history indeed, and is deeply rooted in various drumming traditions, particularly in jazz and marching band drumming.

The traditional grip allows for enhanced control and articulation, especially in terms of wrist movements. The grip’s hand positioning and thumb placement enable drummers to execute subtle wrist motions, facilitating things such as intricate ghost notes, accents, and particular nuances in their playing.

Some drummers prefer the traditional grip for its visual appeal and the traditional aesthetic it brings to their performance, as it can create a sense of elegance and authenticity.

Although the traditional grip is used extensively in jazz and marching band drumming, its use may be limited or not as suitable for use in other musical genres.

Drummers who work in different genres such as pop, rock, or a variety of other, contemporary styles, may find other grip techniques such as the matched grip, to better suit their playing needs.

Something else to note is that maintaining consistent stick heights between the left and right hands can also be more of a challenge with the traditional grip.

Naturally, the different hand positions and angles used with the traditional grip can lead to unintentional differences in the rebound and height of the sticks, which can affect the overall balance and consistency of the drumming.

How to hold drumsticks. Drumsticks on a snare drum

How to Hold Drumsticks: Matched Grip

Matched grip as the name implies, is a drumstick grip in which the sticks are held the same or in a similar manner in each hand. This is a more popular grip style than traditional.

The matched grip is versatile and widely used in all kinds of musical genres and drumming styles.

Keep in mind that there are variations of the matched grip technique and different drummers have developed their own personal preferences and playing styles.

Feel free to experiment with different hand positions and finger placements until you find a comfortable and effective matched grip that suits your needs.

The most common matched grip techniques are:

Traditional Matched Grip/American grip

Traditional matched grip and American grip refer to the same technique for holding drumsticks. Both terms describe a drumstick grip where the drumstick is held with the palms facing roughly at a 45 degree angle towards the floor, and the thumbs resting on top of the stick. The fingers wrap around the stick to provide control and leverage.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for the traditional matched grip:

  1. Hold the drumsticks with both hands using a similar hand position. Your palms should be facing at a roughly forty-five degree angle to the ground, and the sticks should be positioned parallel to each other.
  2. Think of the traditional matched grip/American grip as a mix between the German grip (palms parallel to the floor) and the French grip (palms perpendicular to the floor).
  3. Place the stick between the pad of the thumb and the side of the index finger of each hand. The stick should rest diagonally across the palm.
  4. Lightly curl your fingers around the stick to provide control and stability. You don’t need to use too much force as the goal is to stay loose while playing to avoid straining any of your muscles.
  5. Your thumbs should rest on top of the sticks, also applying light pressure for stability and control.
  6. As mentioned above, ensure that your grip is relaxed but secure. You should be able to move the sticks with control and precision without feeling excessive tension or strain in your hands.

German Grip

In the German grip, the palms face down, and the sticks are held primarily with the thumb and index finger. The remaining fingers should wrap lightly around, again, to provide stability and control. For the most part, stick movement is performed by the wrist.

The German grip emphasizes the use of the thumb and index finger as the primary control points for stick movement. It aims to provide a balance between power and finesse, allowing for control and agility in various playing styles.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use the German grip:

  1. Begin by holding your hands in a relaxed and natural position, with your palms facing downward.
  2. Place the stick between the thumb and the side of the index finger of each hand. The stick should rest diagonally across the palm.
  3. Unlike other grips, the thumb in the German grip is positioned more parallel to the stick rather than on top. That is to say, if you look down at your hand, the thumb should be on the side of the stick rather than the top.
  4. Gently curl your remaining fingers around the stick. You may find that your pinkies naturally stay out of the way, meaning you’ll only be using your index, middle, and ring fingers.
  5. Ensure that your grip is secure but relaxed. The fingers should provide control and stability, allowing you to move the sticks with precision and ease.
  6. Maintain a balanced grip between both hands, making sure the sticks are at a similar angle and height for consistent control and technique.
How to hold drumsticks. Man sitting at a drum kit

French Grip

The French grip is a technique that requires the drummer to hold the sticks with their palms perpendicular to the floor, or in other words, with their palms facing each other.

The thumbs are positioned on the top of the sticks as opposed to the German grip where the thumb is placed on the side of the stick.

The French grip is known for its versatility and finger control, making it well-suited for lighter playing styles, jazz drumming, and orchestral percussion. It allows for delicate brushwork, intricate ghost notes, and nuanced playing techniques.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use the French grip:

  1. Begin by holding the drumsticks with your hands in a relaxed and natural position, palms facing each other.
  2. Place the stick between the pad of your thumb and the crook of the first joint of your index finger.
  3. Position your thumbs so they are on the top of the drumsticks and not on the side.
  4. It’s important that the thumb be placed farther back than the index finger. This is what creates the fulcrum that is needed.
  5. Lightly curl your remaining fingers under the stick. The fingers should provide additional control and stability.
  6. Ensure that your grip is relaxed yet secure. You should be able to move the sticks by pinching your thumb down slightly or lightly squeezing with your middle, ring, and pinky fingers.

Pros and cons of the matched grip:

The matched grip is typically easier to learn, and the grip that most people will naturally begin with. Due to its straightforward hand positioning, it is easier to learn when compared with the traditional grip.

The matched grip allows for a balanced and symmetrical approach to drumming. Both hands hold the sticks in the same manner, promoting consistency and coordination between the hands.

It is also generally easier to maintain consistent stick heights between the right and left hands with the matched grip, which will contribute to better balance and uniformity in the sounds that are produced.

While the matched grip has numerous advantages, there are a few potential drawbacks or challenges associated with using this grip on drums.

The matched grip can limit the range of wrist motion compared to other grip styles, such as the traditional grip. This can affect certain techniques that rely heavily on wrist flexibility and rotation, particularly in jazz drumming or when aiming for specific stick sounds or effects.

The matched grip often places more emphasis on finger control and strength, which can lead to finger fatigue over extended periods of drumming. Drummers who rely heavily on finger technique may experience increased strain or discomfort in the fingers.

Finally, when compared to the traditional grip, the hand position and finger orientation in the matched grip may not offer the same amount of leverage or accuracy as the traditional grip for executing rimshots, (not to be confused with a side stick).

What to do next?

If you are brand new to music, music production or are interested in learning to play the drums, you can check out this article here: 10 Essential Tips for Learning Drums

You might also want to check out this article: Acoustic Vs. Electronic Drums – Which One is Right for You?

If you are looking at buying your first drum set or any other musical instrument for that matter, take a look at Zzounds. They have a variety of acoustic drum sets and electronic drum sets for purchase.

How to hold drums. Zzounds Yamaha drum set
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Andrew has been a life long lover of music. Although starting his musical journey on the guitar, (we won't talk about his skills on that particular instrument) he found his true passion was for drumming and making music to share with others. He also enjoys writing blog posts about off the wall subjects that are very much real—such as Bigfoot, UFOs, and what's up with European mayonnaise. Why is it sweet???
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