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How to Play Traditional Grip (Drum Teacher Explains)

Traditional grip is deeply rooted in drumming history. It was the grip that all the first major drum kit players used, and you’ll find many drummers using it today. While its popularity has dipped significantly since the 20th century, there are still a few benefits to using it when you play the drums. 

In this guide, we’re going to explain what traditional grip is, teach you how to play the drums using it, and we’ll give a few tips and tricks on how to improve at it. It’s not as easy as using matched grip at first, so keep that in mind.

Where Does Traditional Grip Come From?

Traditional Grip Technique Explained!

Before the drum kit was ever a thing, percussionists used to play bass drums and snare drums in military bands. When people played snare drums, they would rest the snare drum over their bodies using a shoulder strap. 

The way the snare drum was angled in this setup forced the snare drum players to face their left palm upward to be able to play the snare. Their right arm would hold the drumstick in a matched grip position. This was the only possible way of playing the snare drum, and you’ll still see snare drum players using traditional grip in the modern day. 

When the drum kit was invented, many snare drum players moved over to the kit, but they still used the same grip. This is why all the first famous drummers used traditional grip.

Why Use Traditional Grip?

With modern drumming, there’s no convincing reason to use traditional grip other than it being a simple preference. Some drummers just prefer how it feels. 

It’s a lot more challenging to learn how to use traditional grip compared to matched grip, but the drummers that perfect that art of it tend to say that it feels a lot better for them. 

A lot of jazz drummers use traditional grip, and they claim that it’s easier to play light comping patterns on the snare drum with it. 

Every drummer should try it out. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to use it. If you do want to learn how to become proficient at playing with traditional grip, here’s everything you need to know.

Getting Comfortable with Traditional Grip

Hand and Finger Placements

The first step of learning to use traditional grip is getting your hands and fingers in the right places. You’ll mainly be focusing on the hand that you use to play the snare drum, as that’s the hand that holds the stick differently. 

You should place your hand in front of you and rotate it so that your palm is facing upward. Take your drumstickand grip the end of it between your thumb and the base of your index finger. This is where most of your control will come from with traditional grip. 

The next thing to do is place the shaft of the stick in between your middle finger and your ring finger

This is the fundamental way of holding your drumstick for traditional grip. 

Wrist and Arm Motions

Now you need to get used to how it feels to hit a surface with the drumstick. There are two ways of doing this. The first one is by flicking your wrist so that you get a tap with the stick. Do this a few times, and you should get a good feel for it. Make sure not to move your wrist too much. 

The next motion is to use your whole arm to get a stroke. You do this by whipping your arm and pushing the momentum to your wrist. You’ll get a much louder stroke from doing this. 

These will be your two fundamental ways of playing with your hand that has the stick in traditional grip. 

Other Hand

Your other hand will simply hold the stick in a matched grip position. You can choose whether to use German, American, or French grip, but the basic idea is that you point the stick forward and keep it controlled using your thumb and index finger

Some beginner drummers get confused and try to hold their second stick with a traditional grip as well. Be sure not to do that, as the drum kit will never be set up comfortably for it.

Playing with Traditional Grip

Traditional Grip for Beginners - The Proven Step by Step Formula

Wrist Control and Finger Control

A good way to work on traditional grip is by playing tap exercises. These are when you use one hand to play consistent strokes

You should play a few using only your wrists. Then you should play them using only your fingers

You can start by playing consistent strokes at a low tempo with one hand, and then you can boost the speed as you get comfortable. After that, you should play two quick strokes followed by a pause, then three quick strokes, then four quick strokes

These tapping exercises will help with wrist and finger control. Make sure to do them with your other hand as well. 

Basic Rudiments

Playing through single strokes, double strokes, and paradiddles is something else that you should regularly do when getting used to using traditional grip. These exercises are the bread and butter of drumming, and playing them repeatedly will drastically improve your technique and ability

If you’re used to using matched grip, you’ll find the double strokes to be the most difficult rudiment to play. This is where you need to focus on using finger and wrist control with traditional grip.

Set Your Drum Kit Up Appropriately

How To Set Up Your Drum Kit | MusicGurus

When you start playing with traditional grip on the drum kit, you may notice that it feels very uncomfortable. If you find yourself hitting rims and missing drums, consider shifting your setup a bit

The biggest thing that will help is tilting your snare drum slightly away from you. You’ll basically be going back to how those marching drummers played, and you’ll find it to be a lot more comfortable for your snare drum hand.

Final Thoughts on How to Play Traditional Grip

There’s a good sense of nostalgia when it comes to traditional grip, and that’s why a lot of older drummers love using it. It’s not for everyone, though, and it’s not something that every drummer should make sure to learn

It won’t be easy at first, so you need to make a dedicated decision to work on it and get used to it. Some drummers only use traditional grip, while others switch between that and matched grip. 

Having the ability to switch between both can be incredibly useful in certain musical settings

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