The Drum Stick Grip: How To's

Posted in Guides And Tips

drum stick grips techniques

How many times have you been asked, or, have asked yourself,

"What is the right way to hold my sticks?"

This is a question that has been asked by just about every drummer. I’ve been playing for about 35 plus years and have learned to play both the “traditional” and “matched” sticking methods and have applied them according to the situation at hand. But, for my entire drum kit playing, I have always used “matched” grip.

In the past and to a degree even now, the controversy on this subject still exists. In order to get to the truth about grips and their applications, you first have to understand the basic history of the instrument.

The history of drums goes back a long way. In various forms, they have existed since before 6000 B.C. and have been found, historically, in nearly every culture of the world. They weren’t used for entertainment way back then but had ceremonial, sacred, and symbolic associations. Many civilizations used drums, or similar instruments, to warn their people against dangers or to initiate their armies. The drum was a perfect choice because it was easily made, made a lot of noise, and could be heard loud and clear.

Right up to the time when men started marching with drums at their sides, matched grip was used to play these drums, and rightly so … because it was the natural way to grip the sticks used. So in reality, we can say that the “matched grip” is really the traditional grip and the grip we know as “traditional grip” was devised as a logical answer to playing a drum slung at the side but was never meant for drum set playing. A better label for “traditional grip” would be to call it the “marching grip.”

Many teachers still teach that “traditional” grip is the “correct” grip to play, period. Without stepping on the toes of many good teachers, if they teach this, they’re wrong. There are basic mechanics to learning either of these grips correctly. The “grip” you choose to use is your preference and should be based on the situation you’re playing in. I learned the “Moeller technique” over 20 years ago. It was the best thing I ever did in my drumming career. Learning the “Moeller” technique is imperative to gaining the “stick control” needed to effectively play the drums, whether marching or drum kit playing.


Let’s take a look at gripping the sticks logically. The “lead” hand (your right hand, if you’re right-handed or your left hand if you’re left-handed) always uses the “matched” grip. The weaker or “following” hand (your left hand if you’re right-handed or your right hand if you’re left-handed) is the hand that uses either the “matched” or “traditional” grip.

If you approach gripping the sticks logically, it makes sense in all situations, except if you are playing the traditional field marching snare drum, to grip the sticks the same with each hand (matched grip). Even in marching and drum corps they now have slings that enable the drummer to utilize matched grip. In my opinion, matched grip is better suited to most situations, except side sling marching, and enables the drummer better control of the sticks along with “open handed” lead playing with the weaker hand.

If you’re a marching drummer, and the drum you’re carrying is at your left or your right side, depending on if you’re left or right handed, it makes logical sense, to choose “traditional” grip because it would be uncomfortable to try to play a snare drum tilted at your side with matched grip. Traditional grip is popular in the drum corps circles and in Jazz circles. I fully understand the drum corps circles but I do not understand why the jazz drummers “adopted” the traditional grip for drum kit playing. Outside of personal preference, it doesn’t make sense to use traditional grip to play a drum kit. It makes better sense to used traditional grip when you play the “traditional” marching snare drum.

Few of the best book for stick control for drummers

Look for "Stick Control: For the Snare Drummer" by George Lawrence Stone, "Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer" by Jim Chapin, those two will give you a perfect start.

The Open Handed Playing Technique

I was intrigued to hear him explain how he changed from conventional, traditional grip to matched grip and “open handed” playing. He explains the tremendous growth he’s experiencing since he made this change. Using traditional grip, the left-hand doesn’t play lead patterns. Using the “open handed” or “matched grip” method, the left, or weaker, hand can be trained as a lead hand. He explains the open handed, matched grip and the advantages of open handed playing.

If you want to become a "well-rounded" percussionist; matched grip is much better suited for that. By using the traditional grip only method, you will eventually have to learn matched grip to play other percussion instruments such as timbales and tympani. It’s also easier to learn, since the first time you, or anyone for that matter, pick up a pair sticks, it is in the match grip style. So in closing, traditional grip and matched grip both have their respective places, and any percussionist wanting to study music and drumming should be knowledgeable in both.