Traditional VS Matched Grip

The debate between traditional grip and matched grip have been going on for a long time. There are arguments for using each grip. Traditional grip came about due to the slant of a marching drum that hung on a sling over the shoulder. The left to right slant of the batter head made it easier to hold the left stick differently than the right. Traditional grip was more natural on a tilted drum. Drummers up until the 1960's generally played traditional grip and usually tilted their snare drum to accommodate traditional grip. When you see videos of old big bands and jazz groups many of the drummers have their snare on a slant, some very extreme. With the start of rock music drummers started to hold the left stick with the same grip as the right. That is "matched" grip because the hands match each other. Rock drummers found that they could hit harder using matched grip.

I feel there are very good reasons for playing matched grip.

1. Both hands do the same thing, only mirrored. You may find it easy to do something with your strong hand, but hard with your weak hand. In that case, you can use your strong hand as an example for your weak hand, and try to match the technique on both hands.

2. The motion used in matched grip playing carries over to other instruments. Two-mallet marimba, xylophone and tympani playing use matched grip. Even hand percussion such as congas and bongos are closer to matched grip than traditional grip.

3. Matched grip simplifies your placement of instruments and drums in a drum kit. There's no special placement due to one stick being held differently than the other.

The best reason for playing traditional grip at this time, for me, is: It just feels good. I learned traditional grip first and it still feels "right" to me. When I studied with William Schinstine, I switched to matched grip and played only matched grip for the next 15 years or more, through Eastman and into my professional career. At some point I decided to try traditional grip again and it was like riding a bike. Today I play 99% traditional and occasionally switch to matched.

So, there's really no "correct" grip. I try to encourage my students to start with matched grip. I believe playing matched grip gives you the advantage to carry over to other instruments when you decide to expand your percussion skills. I think by starting with matched grip, the student will feel natural playing that way. After achieving a level of skill using matched grip, you can learn traditional grip if you want. Ideally, playing both grips is best, because any skill you have gives you one more tool in your toolbox.

Brad Hill is a drum/percussion instructor in Berks County, PA ( Shillington, PA ). Go to (Drums 1 on 1) and submit the Contact form for your free consultation to determine the best lesson plan for you. I offer drum lessons and percussion lessons. In person and online lessons available.