Before The First Stroke, Part 2: The Grip
In this second part of a two-part series, I will discuss the single most important aspect of drumming: the GRIP. It’s the most important aspect because, without gripping the sticks, they don’t work! (ahem) Anyway…
Picking up a drumstick and hitting a drum seems like it would be instinctual, but it isn’t exactly. As beginners, we often grab a stick in a way that makes it unnatural for our body, particularly our wrists and fingers, to work properly when playing a drum. While there is no “right” or “wrong” technique necessarily, there ARE the irrefutable laws of physics. It makes sense, then, to learn to hold a stick in a way that takes advantage of both our anatomy and the laws of physics.
If you don’t want more speed and power, stop reading immediately! If you want to improve your ability to handle more notes in less time with less effort, while also increasing your endurance, read on.
*Note: this description of a grip is based on the German grip.
Everything Seeks Balance
Any well-made drumstick will have its weight distributed so that the ideal fulcrum is one-third of the way from the butt of the stick. Find this point on the stick and mark it if necessary. *Vic Firth puts their flag logo at this point on their sticks. Nice touch!
I’m no palm reader, but this landmark on your palm is an excellent reference for where to lay the stick across it. Place the stick so that it is adjacent to the base of your thumb.
Rule of Thumb
Now, adjust the stick so that that your thumbprint is on the fulcrum that you found earlier. Place your index finger directly across from your thumb. Your thumb and index create a pivot point, an imaginary axle, for the stick. For the German grip, this imaginary axle should stay relatively parallel to the floor. The thumb and index finger are the top half of your grip.
Finally, the bottom half of your grip is your other three fingers. With your stick adjacent to the base of your thumb, place the pads (or fingerprints) on the stick. This placement should leave some space, or air, in your grip at the bottom as well as at the top. With the stick between your finger and thumb and against the base of your thumb, you have maximum leverage with your bottom three fingers.
This grip description is a great “starter” grip, as your ability to control the stick will evolve over time. Remember: if you can get the sound you want and you aren’t in any pain, then you might have no interest in adjusting your grip for maximum control and leverage; however, if you feel like you have untapped potential or feel limited by your technique, look at your grip more closely. As always, visit a qualified instructor to have the grip described and demonstrated.
Check out the first part of this blog series: Before the First Stroke