If you just started playing the drums, a common thought that you’ll most likely have is whether you’re holding the drumsticks properly. Drumming is all about utilizing correct techniques to your advantage, and the way you hold your sticks can make or break that.
There are various ways to hold drumsticks, with all of them being preferred by different drummers. It’s important to know what those are so that you can identify if you’re not holding the sticks correctly.
Here’s a detailed guide on how to hold drumsticks for beginners.
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Why Holding Drumsticks Correctly is Important
There are two reasons why holding your drumsticks correctly is so important. Firstly, utilizing correct grip techniques will help you avoid injuries.
When you hit drums with sticks, you get vibrations moving from the drums through the sticks and into your hands. If you’re not holding the sticks optimally, those vibrations will cause strain on your hands, and you’ll eventually get a repetitive stress injury.
When you use proper grip and you ensure that you’re not digging the sticks into the drums and cymbals, you’ll lower the risk of that happening.
The second reason utilizing correct grip is so important is that it helps you play better. All the commonly used drumstick grips have been adopted over time as they allow drummers to play as optimally as possible around the kit. These grips allow you to use your fingers and wrists in the best ways possible so that you can play quick and powerful strokes on the kit.
There are two main types of drumstick grips. These are known as matched grip and traditional grip. You’ll commonly find drummers either using one or the other regardless of their chosen drumstick style, but some drummers occasionally switch between them.
Matched grip refers to when you hold your sticks and point them away from your body. In modern drumming, this is the most common way you’ll see drummers holding their sticks.
The benefits of matched grip are that you have a wider reach with your sticks, and it’s easy to pick up. If you use matched grip, you can place your cymbals a bit further away to feel a bit more comfortable. Matched grip is also what all beginner drummers gravitate toward at first, which is why it’s easier to pick up.
There are three different ways of holding the sticks within matched grip. These ways are known as German grip, French grip, and American grip. All of them have you pointing the sticks away from you, but they change how you position your wrists and fingers.
Traditional grip is the grip that every drummer used when drum kits first became popular. It’s more historical, and you’ll find far fewer drummers using it compared to matched grip in the modern music world.
However, many drummers prefer it, as they love the freedom of movement that it gives them.
To use traditional grip, you need to face your palm upward on your left hand. If you’re left-handed, then you’ll do it with your right hand. You then need to position the stick between your middle and ring fingers while keeping it secure to your palm with your thumb.
Your other hand will just use matched grip. When you’re positioned at the drums like this, you’ll use your arm, wrist, and fingers to play strokes with the stick that is at more of an angle than the straightly pointed one on your other hand.
When it comes to setting your kit up for this grip, it will help to tilt your snare drum slightly away from you. You’ll also need to position your cymbals on the left a bit closer, as you’ll have shorter reach with your traditional grip hand.
Different Types of Matched Grip
If you opt to use matched grip over traditional, there are three distinct ways that you can hold the sticks. Each way affects how you utilize your wrists and fingers to play the drums.
With German grip, you need to point your palms straight down at the drums when you’re playing. This is often referred to as the flat hand grip because of this.
The whole idea with German grip is that it allows you to get more power behind your strokes as you utilize your wrists more than anything else. This grip essentially takes your fingers out of the picture.
When holding your sticks like this, the best thing to do is to point your elbows slightly outward. This will allow you to direct the tips of the drumsticks into the center of each drum, and that’s how you’ll get the best tone from striking them.
You’ll find with German grip that your pinky fingers will want to point outward if you try to use your fingers while playing strokes. That’s a bad habit that drummers develop, as it takes away from the power you get when using this grip.
If you use German grip, you just need to make sure that you practice playing quick patterns by utilizing your wrists and not your fingers. Work on your double strokes and paradiddles without getting your fingers involved.
French grip is basically the opposite of German grip. With this grip, you face your palms toward each other, and you keep the sticks secured by holding them down with your thumbs.
The benefit of using French grip is that you can utilize your fingers a lot more, and this allows you to play quicker strokes. You’ll commonly find that drummers who have mastered French Grip are some of the fastest drummers out there.
This is also an excellent grip to use if you don’t want a lot of volume while playing drums. You don’t use your wrists as much as any other grip, so it’s a lot easier to keep the volume down.
You can still use your wrists if you want to, but if you put too much force on them with this grip, you may end up hurting them in the long run.
I’d suggest using French grip if you play snare drum and percussion in an orchestra. You’ll be able to play quick rudimental patterns a bit easier than with the other grips.
American grip is essentially a middle ground between German and French grips. While French grip has your palms angled toward each other and German grip has them facing down, American grip has you angling your palms in between those two positions.
This is my top grip suggestion for new drummers, as it’s arguably the most comfortable to start with. It allows you to easily switch between utilizing your wrists for power and your fingers for speed. It also tends to feel the most natural when you’re playing cymbals around your drum set.
The best way to practice getting better with this grip is to play rudiments using your fingers and then play the same rudiments using your wrists only. When you switch between those techniques, you’ll get the best feel for the middle ground between them.
Which Grip Should You Choose?
Deciding to use traditional grip is a big commitment for a beginner, as it essentially has you learning to play the drums very differently from how most other beginner drummers do. However, using traditional grip can be incredibly rewarding.
There are two very common areas where you’ll see drummers using traditional grip. The first one is in marching bands. Drummers who play snare have to use traditional grip, as that’s the only comfortable way of playing a snare drum that’s hanging over your shoulders.
If you’re going to play in a marching band, you’ll need to get used to playing traditional grip very quickly, and then you can easily switch between playing a marching snare and a full drum kit.
The other area where you’ll commonly see drummers using traditional grip is in the jazz drumming world. This comes from a combination of jazz being a vintage style by nature, as well as the fact that playing jazz snare comping patterns is a bit easier when using traditional grip.
Find What is Most Comfortable
If traditional grip feels too uncomfortable for you, then you should switch to matched grip. This is how most drummers play, and you’ll be able to relate better when watching them if you utilize similar stick grips.
You then need to choose between American, French, and German grip. As I said earlier, American is typically the most natural and comfortable for most beginner drummers. However, you should test out German and French grips to see if they potentially appeal to you a lot more.
It’s all about finding what feels most comfortable for you. When you realize what that is, you can build on that and improve your drumming skills a bit quicker than if you were to use an uncomfortable grip.
Mix Them Up
If you play with a matched grip, my biggest piece of advice would be to mix them up. Select one grip to use as your main one, but then learn the other two so that you can utilize their benefits while playing.
The best drummers in the world know how to use these different grips to their advantage, and that’s what you should strive for as well.
For example, you could use French grip with your one hand to utilize your fingers for quick hi-hat strokes, and then you could use German grip in your other hand to allow you to play heavy backbeats on the snare drum.
Another example would be to use American grip with your right hand while playing cymbals and then to use your preferred grip while playing the snare drum. As I said earlier, American grip is typically the most comfortable grip for playing cymbals, so this works very well.
What Grips to Use for Different Kinds of Sticks
As you progress in your drumming journey, you may find yourself using other types of sticks to play the drums in different musical settings. If you’re wondering which grips to use while playing with those different sticks, here are a few thoughts:
When you use mallets to play the drums, it’s most commonly to play swells on the cymbals. As this isn’t a very physically demanding thing to do, it doesn’t matter too much what grip you use.
The only one I’d suggest not using is traditional grip. Even traditional grip players switch to match grip when they pull mallets out to play swells on cymbals. They’ll keep using traditional grip if they play around the drums with the mallets, though.
One of the main purposes of using brushes is so that you can play a brushing sound on the snare drum by rubbing the brush in circles. In my experience, this works the best when using traditional grip, as the way you’re holding the one brush just lends so well to performing that brushing motion.
When it comes to matched grip, I’ve found that German grip works the best, as having your hand angled down at the snare will give you more force when playing those brush sweeps.
Rute sticks perform the same way as regular drumsticks. They’re just a lot softer. So, you should use whatever grip you typically use with your drumsticks when using these.
You’ll find various kinds of rute sticks available. Some are a lot thicker, while others are soft and nimble. Your choice of grip should still be whatever you find is the most comfortable when using standard drumsticks.
How To Hold Drum Sticks For Beginners, Final Thoughts
Your main decision with holding your drumsticks is whether to use traditional or matched grip. If you use matched grip, I highly encourage you to delve into learning all three types so that you can maximize your potential behind the drums.
If you opt to learn traditional grip, it can help to watch pro drummers who play using traditional grip. They may inspire you more than matched grip drummers will. A few excellent ones to check out are Dave Weckl, Nate Smith, and Vinnie Colaiuta.