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Bill Powelson's School of Drums

 Back to the Tempo Dispatch Archives  

 ISSUE #20___\__\__\__\__\__________/__/__/__/__/ AUGUST 5, 1998


               TABLE OF CONTENTS
            What is in this issue?
      1. Feature Article:
                   STICKS, PEDALS & SOUTHPAWS
      2. Thoughts & Grins:

    |_____________________FEATURE ARTICLE____________________|

                   HOLDING THE STICKS,
                   ATTACKING THE PEDALS,
                     TIPS FOR LEFTIES.

     It seems that every book and instruction method
covers those topics very well.  I tend to automatically
assume that students will get that info just about anywhere
they may look.  I really may be wrong to think that way.
     It is probably about time I addressed this stuff.

     Stick holding techniques occasionally cause considerable
debate amongst students and educators alike . . .  I like to
avoid debates.

     My own thinking is to get going with the lessons and let
everyone else debate the small stuff, haha.  I think
maybe sometimes I am avoiding the issue rather than joining
into and contributing to the heated debates.  :>)  It is a classic
cop-out on my part!  At my age, I have come to hate debates
and arguments.  It seems that far too much time and energy
are wasted on trivialities while the really important issues go

     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
in the forest.  "To each his own".

                     HOLDING THE STICKS . . .

     The 'Match Grip' is currently considered the best and
easiest way to grip the sticks if you are behind a standard
drumset.  Simply imagine the drum stick as a hammer and you
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 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 you traverse the drum kit, palm angulation
will vary considerably.  It will come natural!  Don't worry
about all that . . . just play . . . and play a lot!  The
more you play the more your own natural coordinating abilities
will kick in . . .  you won't need to even think about it.
The human mind will find the easiest and best way for you
as an individual 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 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
un-orthodox gripping techniques may have contributed to their
personal fame and fortune.  Keith Moon, who is accepted as one of the
top 10 'all time' rock drummers makes 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.
He 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.
    In essence . . . it doesn't matter how you hold the sticks.
What matters most is what you can do at the kit.

    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'.  You need to see a picture of this but
since that isn't possible here, 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 angulation 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
    Drum sets were not created or invented until about 1840.
The first drum set drummers were of course, marching drummers
initially.  So, as they sat down to play their new drum kits,
they assumed the traditional grip as if they were playing
a marching snare.  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 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 educators!
    Sometime between 1955 and 1965 . . . the lights went
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 all but
a few die-hard old fogies have finally accepted the 'Match
Grip' over the 'Traditional Grip'.

     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!

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 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 someone elses kit.  A right-handed
drummer will not appreciate it if you re-arrange his drums.
Many will often say 'NO' to this very inconsiderate action.
Also, changing drums around takes time and usually we are
under pressure to simply get on stage and begin playing
immediately!  There 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 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 this technique.  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.
His current glory doesn't seem to be a result of special talent.
It seems that his rise to fame may be a direct result of this
unique left-handed style.

                     ATTACKING THE PEDALS

                     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 the very best way to play.
I have no doubt on this one.  However, it is still only an 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 been taught the toe-kick from the beginning.

    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 speed and
power may be lost by using this method.  Try both methods, you will feel
the difference!
    However, many of the worlds greatest jazz players have used this
method of attack for years.  You would never think they are operating
at a handicap by using the 'heel down' method!  However, common sense
does dictate otherwise.

    Again . . . as a final thought . . . it is best to use
the method that works best for you.

SPECIAL NOTE:  The above lesson later became a html (web page)
lesson in the course:

 Holding the drum sticks, Attacking the Pedals, Tips for Lefties  

    |__________________THOUGHTS & GRINS______________________|

                         *** HUMOR ***

   Timing is critical to everything. After the concert
   the little boy's parents took him backstage to meet
   some of the musicians. The little fellow immediately
   sought out the cymbalist. "Say, mister," he asked
   sincerely, "How much do you need to know to play the
   cymbals?" The musician laughed and answered, "You don't
   have to know much at all. You only have to know when."

   --King's Komputer Treasury of Humor
   (Stolen) from the 'Clean Jokes Page' at:

             Your drumming questions are always welcome at

  Here's something that may be more important that you think. 


Copyright Bill Powelson 1994 all rights reserved.