Today we’re going to talk about mastering the traditional grip for the drums. Before I show you the technique, there are a few things I’d like to say about the traditional grip.
The first is that you don’t necessarily need to learn the traditional grip to be a great drummer, or even a good drummer. There are many players who play very well using the matched grip, which is easier to master, and is a more versatile grip. So while it is potentially beneficial, it’s not one of the first things I teach beginning students. It’s more important to learn to groove and express yourself on the instrument, which is much easier in the beginning with the matched grip.
The second, is that I actually recommend you learn the matched grip first. It’s easier to learn to do rolls and other rudiments with the matched grip first, and then apply all the things you have learned to the traditional grip. The grip will be different, but the principles you learn from playing matched grip will apply to playing traditional grip.
So then, why should you learn the traditional grip at all? There are a couple of reasons that I feel it’s worth exploring, at least for some drummers. The first is for performing with drum lines. While not all drum lines play traditional grip, you may find yourself auditioning for drum lines, or playing in drum lines who do. If that’s the situation, you have no choice but to learn to play traditional grip.
The second is for playing straight-ahead, acoustic jazz. While it’s completely possible to play that style of music with matched grip, it’s been my experience as I watch drummers play acoustic jazz with matched grip, that they’re normally rather heavy-handed. That particular music calls for a lot of finesse, and while it’s possible to play it using matched grip, most players are better at getting the sound characteristic of that style of music using the traditional grip.
With traditional grip, the fulcrum is the spot between your index finger and thumb
The 5 Steps To Master Traditional Grip
- The first step in mastering the traditional grip is learning to bounce the drumstick off the drum head or practice pad. I recommend you start with a tight head, whether that’s an actual drum head or practice pad. It’s simply much easier to learn to bounce the drumstick off a tight head than a loose head, and in the beginning, you want to make this as easy for yourself as possible.The drumstick works as a lever. I always tell my students that the best other example of a lever that I can think of that they’re familiar with is a “teeter-totter”, also known as a “seesaw”. Most people had experiences with teeter-totters as children. You will recall that in order to make it go up and down correctly, you had to have the right amount of weight on each end of the teeter-totter. You also had a fulcrum in the middle. The drumstick works the same way. With traditional grip, the fulcrum is the spot between your index finger and thumb. When first learning to bounce the drumstick, you want a completely loose grip. Balance the stick between your thumb and forefinger only in the beginning. In this first step, you don’t actually want to hold the stick at all. You just want to balance the stick with your hand. You don’t want anything to get in the way of the drumstick bouncing. Use your right hand to lift the stick and just drop it. It should bounce multiple times, just like a ball. Experiment with the fulcrum. Move it up and down the drumstick and find out where to place it to make the drumstick bounce the easiest.
- After you’ve found the best place to place the fulcrum for bouncing the drumstick, the next step is to throw the stick into the head using your left hand. You’re after a single bounce. Make sure the stick actually bounces, and that you’re not pulling it back up. It should be about 6″-8″ stroke, also called half strokes. In the beginning this stroke should be done entirely with the fulcrum. You leave the other figures off the stick as it’s bouncing when you’re first learning this stroke because you don’t want them getting in the way. You catch the stroke when it rebounds, in a very relaxed traditional grip.
- The next step is to learn to throw and bounce the drumstick with the traditional grip through the full range of motion. In other words, you want your middle, index and ring finger on the stick in this step. The stroke is done almost entirely with your wrist. The fingers are just along for the ride.
- Next practice this same motion, but as full strokes. The tip of the drumstick should start all the way up, perpendicular to the drum.
- After mastering the basic stroke you can start practicing the same things you do with matched grip. Start practicing single strokes, double strokes, buzz strokes, accents, etc. Strive to get the same sound from each hand.
Truly mastering the traditional grip takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. This will definitely get you going in the right direction though. If you follow the steps and directions carefully, and practice 30-60 minutes a day, you will see significant improvement in your traditional grip.