In this article we will be taking a little look at the secret art of holding a drum stick! Don’t forget that drum sticks are not the only type of drum-hitting impliment you can use. Brushes, rutes and rods can be used instead of sticks. Drums are full of tones and textures all itching to be explored. For now, the drum stick shall be our weapon of choice…
Confused about grip?
I’m going to assume that you have held a drum stick before. I’m also going to assume that you’ve been confused by a myriad of differing opinions on what is the correct way to hold a drumstick.
The truth is: There is NO single unique way of correctly holding the drum sticks. This means that you are probably already holding your sticks correctly. Or rather, you are probably holding your sticks correctly for some types of playing, but not for others.
The crux of the issue is this: Sometimes you want to be free and flowing with fast or gentle strokes. Sometimes you need to be loud and precise with strong dynamic strokes. Sometimes you want to create textured sound effects like buzzes and rolls.
As you develop as a drummer, you will find your grip develops too. You do not need to limit yourself to one grip – this will limit the capacity for creativity in your playing. Be flexible!
So, what types of grip are there?
In a broad sense there is ‘Traditional Grip’ and there is ‘Matched Grip’. Ask your drum teacher to demonstrate the difference between the two grips. It’s mostly a matter of personal preference. Some drummers will swear by the benfits of playing in one particular way, and most drummers will settle on a general way of playing that suits their comfort zone. Quite a lot of drummers swap between different ways of playing to get a varied range of tones.
This refers to any type of grip where the two hands hold the sticks in the same way as each other (as in a mirror image). Normally means the palms of the hands face down.
From marching band ‘tradition’ where the drummer requires the correct angle to play a drum mounted to the body. The palms of the hands face upwards to achieve this.
Mixed (or Combined) Grip
One stick held in traditional grip method and one stick held in the matched grip style.
How to hold the drum sticks
The general rule-of-thumb (no pun intended) for any type of grip is to locate the fulcrum and to ‘pivot’ the drumstick between your thumb and first finger (or middle finger) at this point on the stick. The other finger tips gently touch the drumstick. Don’t grip the stick too tightly with the 3 remaining fingers, or you will limit its rebound.
Ok, so what’s the fulcrum?
To properly understand the drumming fulcrum you have to think of your stick, hand and arm as an elaborate lever. Technically a fulcrum is a ‘pivot point’. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the ‘balance point’, but because we want the drum stick to fall and strike a drum we don’t want it to ‘balance’. A balancing stick doesn’t move whereas a pivoting stick does.
Finding the right point at which to grip the stick is essential to a good grip and a clean sound. The fulcrum is normally around one-third of the way up the stick from the butt-end.
Grab your sticks and have a go! To fully understand grip technique requires quite a lot of experimentation. We hope this article at least gives you a flavour of the possibilities. For a more in depth analysis of grip, we’ll need to spend some time face-to-face working on it…
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