Learn Proper Drumstick Technique – How To Hold Drumsticks

Learn Proper Drumstick Technique

Learn Proper Drumstick Technique

In this lesson, I will reveal the first secret of how to play the drums like a pro. This secret is about learning proper drumstick technique.

One of the most overlooked details in developing world-class drumming skills is the importance of great fundamentals and basics.

Learning proper drumstick technique and learning HOW you hold your drumsticks is where drumming mastery begins.

Drumstick Grip

There are two different styles of holding the sticks in drumming;

Matched Grip

learn Proper Drumstick technique matched grip

Figure A – Matched Grip

The right and left hands both hold the sticks the same way, they are mirror images of each other. (See fig. A) I recommend beginners play the drums starting with matched grip. It is simpler and generally applicable to drumming and percussion performance as a whole.

Traditional Grip

best drumstick technique traditional grip

Figure B – Traditional Grip

This special way of holding the sticks originated in a military setting where the drum was carried over the shoulder at a sharp angle and the left hand was turned over to make striking the drum easier. (See fig. B) This continued as a very sensible practice and became a “tradition” in military, marching and rudimental drumming environments.

The “tradition” of this method of playing has continued to today and can be used to play the drums in any style of music. It is most common in marching percussion and also very common on the drum set.

It is a very fun way to play and creates stylistic nuances in the left hand that many drummers enjoy. I love playing traditional grip and believe it is a valuable skill to learn once basics have been mastered with matched grip.

You can learn to play the drums with either matched or traditional grip

3 KEYS to Proper Matched Grip

(Right Hand and Left Hand are identical)

  1. The bottom 3rd of the stick is placed across the palm from the base of the first finger to the padded part of the palm near the wrist. (See Fig. 1 below).
  2. The first finger and thumb grip the stick opposite one another in what is traditionally called the “Fulcrum.” (See Fig. 2 below)
  3. The remaining fingers wrap around the stick completely. When you play the drums, the hand is relaxed, (don’t squeeze) but closed around the stick with all available skin touching the stick. (See Fig. 3 & Fig. 4 below) This makes the hand and stick one unit that will move together. Where the hand goes the stick goes!

Important Note: This is where my Technique Development process is powerful! Many drumming systems advocate beginning with a very loose and open hand and fingers – they do not say “hold on to your sticks” in the beginning, but you MUST first learn how to CONTROL YOUR STICKS and use your WRISTS properly BEFORE you start letting go and using more advanced rebound techniques – so be patient and “HOLD ON TO YOUR STICKS!” Also, Don’t let anyone convince you into using drummer gloves to improve grip. Whilst these are great tools, they’re best reserved for professionals who need them. 

Matched grip proper stick placement across the palm

Fig. 1 – Proper stick placement across the palm

learn proper matched grip technique

Fig. 2 – Thumb and first finger form the “Fulcrum”

correct grip technique for matched grip

Fig. 3 – Connect the stick to the hand by wrapping

how to hold a drumstick properly matched grip

Fig. 4 – Hand is relaxed but closed around the Stick. Stick and hand become one unit.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Matched Grip

mistakes to avoid when learning matched grip drumming technique

Fig. 5 – Stick too far over, fingers not wrapped around the stick.

Fig. 6 – Thumb too low.

Fig. 7 – Hand too open.

To Clarify a Common Misconception:

There will be a time very soon to loosen your grip on the stick and “let go.” But in the beginning, when you learn to play drums it is so important to connect the stick to the hand and learn how to move the wrist, hand and stick properly TOGETHER as one unit. THEN we will be ready to talk about letting go, rebound, fingers, and all that fun stuff! Learn to play the drums by developing your hands and wrists FIRST!

Now let’s look at the details of the left hand in TRADITIONAL GRIP.

7 Steps to Building the Proper Traditional Grip:

Right Hand: The right hand in traditional grip is the same as matched grip above.
Left Hand Traditional Grip: When you play the drums with tradition grip, the left hand is a bit more complex. Follow each step and illustration below:

learn proper drumstick technique traditional grip

Fig. 8

Step 1: Hold your left hand out as if you were going to shake hands with another person, fingers together, thumb up.

learn traditional grip drumstick technique properly

Fig. 9

Step 2: Place the drumstick in the webbing between your thumb and first finger.

correct left hand grip for traditional drumstick grip technique

Fig. 10

Step 3: Curve your third and fourth fingers together and place the stick on top of your third finger, between the base of the fingernail and first knuckle.

how to hold the drumstick in the left hand for traditional grip

Fig. 11

Step 4: Lay the first and second fingers naturally across the top of the stick.

learn proper drumstick technique

Fig. 12

Step 5: Place your thumb on top of your first finger knuckle.

how to hold the drumstick for traditional grip

Fig. 13

Step 6: Keep the base of the thumb down creating a “ski-slope” position for the thumb.

best gripping technique for traditional drumming

Fig. 14

Step 7: Keep the hand turned up so the thumb and first finger connection are on the TOP of the stick, and you palm is facing the wall. If this is done correctly, you can rest your other stick across the top of your hand and it will stay.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Left Hand Traditional Grip

Fig. 15 – Base of thumb and knuckle too high.

Fig.16 – First finger and thumb not properly connected at first joint.

Fig. 17 – Fingers too straight not on top or stick.

Fig. 18 – Hand not turned up properly.

Hand And Instrument Position – Proper Drumstick Technique

Once again we’ll take a look at the proper hand and instrument position for drumming whilst splitting them into traditional and match grip. Follow the steps below for each different stick position to learn the optimal and best drumstick technique so you can be on your way to becoming a drumming pro in no time.

Matched Grip 

When you learn to play drums, follow these 4 simple steps to establish the correct hand, arm, and instrument position:

best matched grip hand and drum position

Fig. 19

Step 1: Place your drum or practice pad at waist level, just below the navel, and hang your arms comfortably at your side. The drum should be flat, not at an angle as you learn to play drums.

Fig. 20

Step 2: Bend your elbows to raise your hands and forearms, positioning the beads of the sticks 3 inches above the center of the playing surface.

Fig. 21

Step 3: Your wrists should be slightly raised so the stick angles downward from the fulcrum to the beads of the sticks.

Fig. 22

Step 4: The butt of the stick extends an inch or so out the back of the hand away from the wrist and arm. The wrist should be slightly bent away from the body forming a “crook”.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Matched Grip Hand and Instrument Position

Fig. 23 – Drums & Wrists are too low

Fig. 24 – Drums & Wrists are too low

Fig. 25 – Sticks are too flat, sticks are not angled downward, wrists are not slightly raised.

Fig. 26 – Wrists are too far out and straight no “crook” in the wrist.

Fig.27 – Wrists too close together.

Fig. 28 – Body too close to the drum, upper arm not hanging naturally at side.

Fig. 29 – Body too far away from the drum, upper arm not hanging naturally at side.

Fig. 30 – Thumbs turned up, hands not turned over flat enough.

Traditional Grip Left Hand Position

Follow these 4 simple steps to establish the correct hand, arm, and instrument position for traditional grip:

Fig. 31

Step 1: Upper arm hangs comfortably at your side, the forearm is parallel to the floor, the bead is held 3 inches above the center of the playing surface.

Fig. 32

Step 2: Left wrist is slightly bent away from the body

Fig. 33

Step 3: Your wrist is lower than the base of the thumb continuing the “ski-slope” angle.

Fig. 34

Step 4: Stick angle is slightly wider than the right-hand stick angle.

Common Mistakes to Avoid In Traditional Grip Hand and Instrument Position

Fig. 35 – Left hand not turned up properly

Fig. 36 – Left wrist bent inward.

Fig. 37 – Hand too closed, poor stick angle.

Fig. 38 – Body too close to the drum.

Remember: As you learn to play drums, establishing the correct grip, and correct hand and body position in relation to the instrument is vital. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of these details.

Review each step and each illustration in this lesson and make sure YOU GOT IT!

Almost all Playing Problems Lead Back to Grip and Hand Position

Any drummer or percussionist that struggles with problems in their playing will almost always have problems and incorrect habits in one or more of the areas explained in this lesson.

These problems are very easy to see and correct as you learn to play drums. It is all external, visible and correctable through simple observation. Get in front of a mirror, or videotape yourself and make sure you are doing these fundamentals correctly. Demand great things from yourself and GET THE BASICS RIGHT!

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