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spacerx imgTIPS FOR LEFTIES.

It seems that every drum book and instruction method will cover these topics very well.  I tend to automatically assume that students will get this info just about anywhere they may look.  I really may be wrong to think that way.

Stick holding techniques occasionally cause considerable debate amongst students and educators alike. Whether you are a student or educator at a public or private high school or anywhere else, this debate could possibly arise . . . I like to avoid debates.

Keep your mind open on all this.  My own opinions are just that. Opinions! I don't wish to argue or debate with the World. This is just my own personal viewpoint.

Some of us tend to view the forest from above while others prefer to examine the bio-structure of every blade of grass on the forest floor.  "To each, their own".

spacerx img HOLDING THE STICKS . . .
The 'Match Grip' is currently considered the best and easiest way to grip the sticks if we are behind a standard drumset.  Simply imagine the drum stick as a hammer and we want to drive a nail with it.  Hold both the right and left hand sticks the same way . . . so that they 'match'. (That's why we call it a 'match' grip.)

With the match grip, we occasionally use the fingers to manipulate the sticks.  It all depends on the type of maneuver being employed.

On other occasions, all but the thumb and first (index) fingers may be removed to achieve a 'crush' or 'press' effect.  This is done by griping the stick tightly between the thumb and first finger (only) then striking the drum, producing multiple 'buzz" of notes with one movement of the hand.  When this is done with both hands in rapid repetition, a 'buzz' or 'crush' roll can be achieved.  As speed develops, this will equate to 'crushing' doubles, though the actual movement is a SINGLE (crushing) stroke with each hand.

The angle of the palms is arbitrary, depending on the maneuver being employed.  As we traverse the drum kit, palm angle will vary considerably.  It will come natural!  Don't worry about all that . . . just play . . . and play a lot!  The more we play the more our own natural coordinating abilities will kick in . . .  we won't need to even think about it. The human mind will find the easiest and best way for us as individuals, to make the moves.  The secret is in playing, and playing a lot.  Get into playing with recorded music and focus on that FUN factor!  Play for hours on end! The muscle development will occur automatically with very little attention to detail.

Different drummers throughout pop music history have developed their own unique methods of holding the sticks.  It didn't inhibit their success as drummers.  In fact . . .  in some cases . . . their unusual gripping techniques may have contributed to their personal fame and fortune.

Keith Moon, who is accepted by most people as one of the top 10 'all time' rock drummers, made a terrific example of this point.  I could never feel comfortable with his personal method of holding the sticks, but it didn't seem to hold him back.

Keith tended to hold both sticks at the very end (or butt) of the stick. He simply pinched the very end of the sticks with the thumb and index finger.  I don't know how he was able to play anything that way, but it worked for him.

This lends credence to the fact that it apparently may not matter HOW we hold the sticks. What seems to matter most is what we can DO at the kit; 'OUR WAY'!

Kieth's example underscored for me the fact that we (our individual minds') will assist brilliantly as we continually play. Sometimes we develop in ways that set us apart from the sheep. Kieth's unique approach to gripping the sticks may have been a contributing factor to his legendary success.

Only an idiot will argue with success.

Nearly every book on the market will show this method of gripping the sticks.
The right hand stick is held 'like a hammer' as with the 'Match Grip' . . . but the left hand is different when using the 'Traditional Grip'.  Think of the left hand drumstick as a pen or pencil . . . except  . . . you will place two fingers on top of the stick shaft and two fingers below the stick shaft.  The butt of the stick will lay into the crotch or fleshy area between the thumb and first finger.

The traditional grip originated with marching drummers who were playing a snare drum slung over the shoulder on a strap. The angle of the drum required the drummer to reach around the drum with the left hand and grip the stick differently. The 'Traditional Grip' was born at that time.  The 'Match Grip' wasn't feasible in this very awkward and different marching situation.  The Traditional Grip originated sometime during the 1500/1600s.

Drum sets were not created or invented until about 1840. The first drum set drummers were of course, marching drummers initially in the 1600s and probably before. 

So, as the old marching drummers sat down to play their newly invented drum kits, they assumed the established traditional grip as if they were playing a marching snare.  Then; as they taught others to play . . . the old traditional grip continued to be the 'grip of choice' and eventually became 'set in stone' as the ONLY way to hold the sticks.  WRONG!!!  They weren't using much logic!

It took 120 years for our brilliant (traditional) educators to accept any other method of holding the sticks.  The traditional grip was set in stone and it wasn't to be discussed, haha.  This doesn't say much for the general logic or common sense of our (traditional) educators!

Sometime between 1955 and 1965 . . . the lights began to go on!  In the mid-1960s Ringo Starr (with the Beatles) made several million dollars while holding a match grip. The stuffy old drum teachers were forced to ponder the issue a little deeper, (myself included . . . blush, blush).  It took a few years of debate, but I think in the final analysis in. All but a few die-hard old fogies have finally accepted the 'Match Grip' over the 'Traditional Grip', if we are playing on a full drum set with the snare drum positioned lower and almost flat in front of the player.

However; the traditional grip has its merit too.  It doesn't hurt a thing to utilize both methods.  I do that myself. At the same time, I tell all my young students to put the traditional grip aside for a rainy day . . . and get on with the job at hand.  Make some music first and worry about the small stuff later! Use the 'match' grip if it feels more comfortable.

At this point in time (2014), 95% of all the top working drummers tend to favor the 'Match' grip. I'm in total agreement myself, though I may still favor the 'Traditional' grip, simply because I was taught that way.

Some PARADE drummers may still need the old Traditional grip, if they are marching and playing with a snare drum slung over the shoulder, (the old way). Otherwise; almost every drummer uses the match grip, these days.

SOUTH-PAWS: (Left handed students)

Many left handed students want to reverse the traditional grip along with everything else.  That's ok if it works for you but this drum instructor recommends against it.  Just use the match grip and move on.  Hold both sticks the same way.

While we are on this (South-Paw) subject though, it may be good to touch on another issue of importance to left-handed students . . .

Left-handers who re-arrange the hi-hat to the right side of the kit need to experiment with a more acceptable way. Re-arranging the kit can be hazardous to your career for less than obvious reasons . . .

It often occurs that we must jump onstage and audition for potential jobs, using another drummer's kit.  A right-handed drummer will rarely appreciate it if we re-arrange their drums. Many will often say, "ABSOLUTELY NOT" to this very inconsiderate action. Also, changing drums around takes time. Usually the band onstage is under pressure to keep things moving. They simply want us to get on stage and begin playing immediately!  There often may be no time to make the changes. You may wind up in the uncomfortable position of auditioning and playing on a backwards rig at the same time.  Not cool!


Many of todays left-handed drummers have discovered a better way to be left handed.  They set up their kit in the normal right-handed fashion and simply play the hi-hat with their left hand and their snare with the right. This is opposite from a right-handers technique.

They DO play the bass with their right foot and work the hi-hat pedal with their left just like a right-handed drummer though. This unique way of playing will mesmerize any and all right- handed drummers.  The left-hander using this style will often rise to the top quickly because it is so logical, practical and unique.

Carter Beauford with the Dave Matthews Band is a prime example of a very hot drummer using BOTH techniques.  (I think Carter was voted drummer of the year in 1997 by Modern Drummer Magazine.)  Check him out . . . especially if you are a south-paw. He is amazing to watch because he seems to play just as well left-handed as he does right-handed. I admire that completely! (I've worked at it, but I can't do it effectively.) Yes, I do cry about it; A LOT! :) LOL!

spacerx img(Toe-Kick VS Heel-down.)

A debate has raged for decades concerning the BEST way to attack the bass drum and hi-hat pedals.  Common sense should prevail here.  This is my opinion . . . you are entitled to your own.

We scoot in closer to the pedals so that the shin is at a 90* angle to the floor.  The heel is raised and the ball of the foot (only) connects with the pedal.  This method of attack uses the full weight of the leg which allows for more power and speed. The (stronger) thigh muscles are also used extensively.

I advocate this method of attack even though I originally learned using the 'Heel Down' method. (See below.)

Yes!  I feel this 'Toe-kick' is probably the very best way to play. However, it is still only my opinion.

All the older 'jazz' players were big on this method of attack. I am still more comfortable with this method myself, even though I wish I had learned the toe-kick from the beginning, (1950's).

With the heel-down method . . . we scoot back a little, keeping the shin at an angle (approximately 75*) and the foot remains flat on the pedal.  This uses the calf muscles.  Some power may be lost by using this method.  Try both methods, you will feel the difference! Go with the one that suits you. It really doesn't make that much difference.

Many of the world's greatest jazz players have used this 'Heel Down' method of attack for years.  You would never think they were operating at a handicap by using the 'heel down' method, even if common sense does dictate otherwise. Some volume and power is lost with this method of kick, but how often do we hear complaints that the bass drum isn't loud enough? Besides that, a microphone placed inside the bass drum will raise the volume to any additional volume that may be needed. Tests have fairly well proven that near equal speeds will arrive (sooner or later) with either method of kick. Speed with bass drum techniques is predominately governed by the drummer's (eventual) mastery of Bass Syncs and variations.

Again . . . as a final thought . . . it is best to use the methods that work best for you.


  2. INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED STUDENTS: Go to the following page for suggested lessons: KNOWLEDGE ASSESSMENT.
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