Getting off to a Great Start:
Learning the Grip

by: Mark Wessels and Jeff Queen

If you're just beginning to play the drums, this is the place to start! I'll explain the basic snare grip in detail and give you some pictures to look at when you can't understand what I'm saying (which happens often, according to my wife).

The Right Hand Grip:

First, set the proper hand & forearm position:

Without the sticks, let your right arm hang loosely at your side, then lift your hand, palm side down. Keep your shoulder and elbow relaxed and close to your body. Think of your arm as being in an "L" - with the forearm perpendicular to the upper arm. The hands should be an extension of the forearm. Now, let's put the the stick in the hand:

Step ONE: Find a point on the stick that is about one third of the way between the butt and the tip. Grasp the stick between the 1st and 2nd knuckle of the index finger and the "meaty" part of the thumb. Pretend that I hammered a nail through the second joint of your index finger, through the stick & it came out through your thumbnail. I know it's a very gross thought, but it's one that highlights how the stick PIVOTS on this point that we call a "FULCRUM." Watch that you don't let the stick roll down to the tip of the index finger - this will not provide a strong enough fulcrum for that serious MTV drumming style!

Step TWO: The shaft of the stick should fit in the heel of the hand, with about an inch sticking out from the edge of the palm. Make sure that the stick doesn't gravitate to the center of the palm (along the "lifeline").

Step THREE: Wrap the fingers loosely around the stick. All of the back three fingers should touch the stick, but don't squeeze it. Squeezing the stick only produces tension that will make it difficult to play drum rolls or really fast single stroke rolls later.

If a picture's worth a thousand words...

Click on the thumbnail for a full-sized pic!

Step FOUR: If you're going to use the "MATCHED" grip (which this author recommends for beginning to intermediate level students), simply grip the left stick the same as the right. Now, put the bead of the sticks in the center of the head at a 90 degree angle (playing off center produces a thin sound). Usually, when students don't have a 90 degree angle, it points to bigger problems with the grip or arm position.

Check out Robert Anderson's perfect grip and playing position:

1) His shoulders and elbows are relaxed.

2) Forearms are horizontal to the floor.

3) A firm but relaxed grip on the stick will ALL fingers

4) Sticks at a 90 degree angle, meeting in the center of the drum.

All ready for some serious head bashin'! Somebody buy that man a Pepsi!

One great idea I've heard is to take a 50 cent piece (or a SKOAL can, for those of you who live in the South!) and trace a circle with a pencil or pen in the center of the drum. This will serve as a reminder to keep both sticks in the proper position. Many students get into the bad habit of playing with the sticks spread apart - usually producing different sounds from each hand.

As I've mentioned before,
I recommend that all beginning drum students start with the matched grip, mainly because it's sooo much easier to learn! (Think about it - do you want to spend all of your time worrying about where to put your fingers, or do you want to learn how to DRUM?)

If you want to learn the "traditional" grip, cause you saw some dude on MTV & it looked cool, you are more than welcome to do so by going to Part II. My biggest recommendation is that you get a real, LIVE private teacher to help you out. There are an ENDLESS number of ways you can screw up the traditional grip, but even a 4 year old can make a pretty good matched grip the first time they pick up a stick!

If you'd like to learn the left hand
"traditional" grip, go on to Part II!

If you liked this article, please visit Mark Wessels' website: