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How to Hold Drum Sticks (Drum Teacher Explains)

Holding a pair of drumsticks sounds like a simple concept, but it can become very confusing the longer you sit with sticks in your hands. How far up the sticks should you hold? Should all your fingers be wrapped around the sticks? What angle should your wrists be at? 

These are all things that you need to know when holding sticks, as there are optimal ways of holding them that will allow you to play better. 

In this guide, we’re going to explain how to hold a pair of drumsticks. We’ll give a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as well.

Different Stick Grips

The first thing to know is that there are a few different ways of holding your drum sticks, and these are referred to as various grips. Certain grips feel more comfortable to different people, so you should learn about all of them when first getting into drumming. 

The grips are referred to as Traditional, German, French, and American, and they developed over time with drummers playing in various musical settings. 

With modern drumming, you can choose to use any one of these grips when you play the drum set.

Traditional Grip

How To Hold Drumsticks

Traditional grip was the main way of holding the drumsticks in the early 20th century, but many drummers still like to use this grip in the modern day. It’s often referred to as the jazz grip, as jazz drummers use it the most out of any other group of drummers. 

When using traditional grip, the hand that you use to play the snare will have the drumstick pointing through your ring and middle finger. Your palm will be facing upward, and then you’ll use your wrist to play strokes on the drums and cymbals. You’ll then use your ring and pinky fingers to bounce the stick. 

Your other hand will be holding the drumstick in a matched grip position, and that could be any of the specific matched grips that we’re about to mention.

Matched Grip

Drum Lesson - Hand Technique: Matched Grip

Matched grip is the main grip that you’ll see drummers using these days. If you hold the sticks in your hands and face both of them forward, it’s referred to as matched grip. It’s called matched grip, as both your hands will hold the sticks in the same way

There are three types of matched grip to choose from, though. Each type of matched grip has a defining quality that may feel more comfortable for you. 

German Grip

The German Grip - A Beginner's Guide to Playing Drums

German grip is when you hold the sticks between your thumbs and index fingers and then loosely wrap your other fingers around them. You then face your palms towards the drums, giving you a flat angle from your wrists. 

German grip is arguably the strictest grip, as your wrists need to be in that flat position. You’ll see a lot of orchestral percussionists and classical snare drummers using this grip as they stand and play down at their drums. 

It’s not the most comfortable grip for playing on a drum kit, but you’ll find some drummers who enjoy it. 

French Grip

French Grip Drum Finger Technique - James Payne

French grip is when you face your palms toward each other, causing the knuckles on your thumbs to point upward. Having your hands in this position causes you to utilize your fingers more than your wrists when playing the drums.

Having more use of your fingers will allow you to get high speeds for certain drumming patterns. Using this grip is one of the easiest ways to get speed, so drummers often switch to it when trying to play quick things on the kit.  

A drawback of French grip is that it takes a bigger toll on your wrists than any of the other grips, so you’ll tire out faster when playing for long periods. 

American Grip

The Greatest Stick Control Exercise for the American Grip

American grip is a bit of a combination of French and German grip, and it’s arguably the most popular grip used by drummers. Instead of having your palms face downward as you do with German grip, you can relax them a bit to get a slight angle with your wrists

This feels more relaxed and comfortable for most drummers, which is why they like using this grip. The cool thing about this grip is that you can easily switch to German or French grip while playing different things.

Drum Stick Holding Tips

How To Hold Drumsticks

Experiment with All of Them

You should try out all the grips to see which one resonates with you the most. While American grip may be the most liked one by many drummers, French grip may be a better option for you and how you sit at the kit. 

Just note that if you play with traditional grip, you’ll need to set your drum set up a bit differently from how you would with matched grip. You’ll need to angle your snare drum slightly away from you, and your toms will need to be angled so that you can hit them easily with your snare drum hand. 

There is No Best Grip

The best drummers can seamlessly switch between every grip. One isn’t better than the other, and you’ll be a better drummer if you know how to use them all. 

For example, it’s a bit easier to play comping patterns on a snare drum if you use traditional grip

Brushes and Other Unique Sticks

When it comes to using unique types of drumsticks, the same grip techniques will be relevant. Some sticks will be a bit thicker than others, so you’ll just need to get used to using different grips with those as well. 

Some drummers will argue that it’s better to use traditional grip with brushes, but you’ll get the same results with matched grip quite easily.

Final Thoughts on How to Hold Drum Sticks

While grips are very important, you shouldn’t overthink them when playing the drums. The four grips we mentioned cover almost every possible way of holding drumsticks. If you hold them differently, then something is definitely off.The best way of knowing if you’re holding your sticks properly is to ask another drummer who has more experience than you.

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