Home » A beginner’s guide to drumming: Lesson 1 – Grip

A beginner’s guide to drumming: Lesson 1 – Grip

I recently dove into the world of beginning drum set instruction. I have been asked many great questions by my students, and I’d like to share them with you here. So, without further adieu, I give you:

Drum lessons!

**NOTE** While these lessons are aimed at beginners, some of the points I discuss here may be useful to players of any level.

Lesson 1: Grip

There are many important mechanical aspects to learning the drums, but none more important than learning proper grip of the sticks.  This will help prevent strain on your joints and ligaments, which could lead to injury (repetitive stress injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.).  You’ll also be able to develop clean technique, speed, and articulation by using gravity and the laws of physics to your advantage.

Once I began to pay more attention to my grip, I noticed 3 things happening immediately:

  1. No more pain and fatigue, both during and after live shows
  2. No more blisters on my hands and fingers from improperly gripping sticks
  3. My speed, fluidity, and articulation of notes improved dramatically.

**ADDED BONUS** – I didn’t break as many sticks due to not hitting properly.

Very quickly, let’s take a look at the anatomy of a drum stick. This image from DrumNuts help you understand the terminology I will use going forward.

There are 2 main types of grip: The traditional grip, and the matched grip.  Each have variations. For the purposes of this lesson, I’ll be talking about the matched grip.

Matched Grip:

There are 2 popular types of matched grip: The German grip, and the French grip.

The German grip is a palms-down, thumbs-down style, and is the style I use most often.  The stick is gripped at it’s fulcrum (or balance point), between the thumb and pointer finger.  The remaining three fingers act as support, and will aid in bounce, rebound, and control of the stick.

Here’s an example of the German grip:

What is the fulcrum?

The fulcrum is the balance point of the stick. You’ll almost always find the weight of the stick to be heavier near the butt end.  The key here is to make the drum sticks do the work for you, by finding the “sweet spot” of the stick. Here’s a great method:

  1. Sit down at your drum set or practice pad. Now, using your pointer finger and thumb, make a pretend “gun” (pointer finger out, thumb up in the air.  Like you would shoot a rubber band at someone).
  2. Turn your hand palm up, while retaining the gun shape.
  3. Place the stick between your pointer and thumb, with the stick sitting firmly in the pocket between the first and second joint of your pointer finger.
  4. Find where you think the balance point of the stick is.  With your other hand,  pick up the tip of the stick a few inches off the drum head or pad, and drop it.  Count how many times it bounces.

The goal is to get the stick to bounce as many times as possible with a single drop (or stroke).  This may take some practice, but it’s well worth the time.  Check out this article from Rock Drumming Underground for an in-depth look at the fulcrum point of a stick.

**NOTE** Every stick is sized and weighted differently, and as such, the fulcrum point will be different depending on the sticks you use.

The French Grip is a thumbs-up style, as shown in this photo.

The palms each face outward, rather than down, with the thumbs parallel with the ground, and along the grip area of the stick. This grip is great when switching from simple snare-hi-hat work to the ride cymbal or other areas of the drum kit where the German grip may feel awkward.  Many drummers find that they have more finger control using the French grip.

One of my drumming heroes, Carter Beauford, of the Dave Matthews Band, uses the French grip predominantly.  Check out this video of Carter using the French grip, recorded with a GoPro camera.

I sometimes find myself using a hybrid of German and French grips on certain tunes, depending on which parts of the drum kit I’m using.  Neither technique is “right” or “wrong,” and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

In either case, the goal is to involve the wrist, fingers, and forearm, as well as the fulcrum of the stick, in a fluid manner. Too much of one of these aspects without the others could result in poor technique and potentially injury.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the Moeller technique, and then we’ll hit some damn drums!

What would you like to learn about?  Comment with your suggestions. I’ll try to incorporate as many as I can into future posts.