One of the most important things to know as a drummer is how to play a traditional grip. Not only is it one of the three main types of grips, it’s also a very popular grip among drummers.
The traditional grip is also known as:
- orthodox grip
- underhand grip
- conventional grip
- jazz grip
It is mainly used in jazz music. This grip gained popularity in the 50s when bee-bop was the most popular musical genre.
While the right hand (the leading hand) stays in a “regular” – overhand grip position, the left or your weaker hand changes the way it holds the stick.
It is developed by marching drummers to relieve playing the snare drum placed from the side like in the image below.
Before we move into answering all the questions, you might have let’s hear what Buddy Rich, the legendary drummer, has to say about this grip.
Is it hard to learn traditional grip?
It is more challenging to learn traditional than a matched grip. To adapt to conventional grip, you will need 3-4 weeks to master it a lot more than that.
Nowadays, this grip is not used as in the past, and as a drummer who played, matched the switch to traditional can be challenging.
It is hard to play traditional on your regular drum setup, and you will need to move things around to adjust the drum kit to a grip.
How to play traditional grip?
- Adjust the angle of your snare drum or practice pad to make it easier on you. For a better sound, use this technique when playing rim shots with a left hand. The surface should be positioned in front of you to be inclined from where you are sitting. This will give your body excellent support and doesn’t require as much movement for certain types of sounds like rim-shots which could get tiring after a while because they take more effort than other techniques such as single strokes.
- Put your palm of the left hand like you will shake somebody’s hand (palm facing inward). Then, take a stick with your right hand and put it in the left in the root of the thumb (between thumb and index finger). Now, try getting the stick’s rebound to find the best balance position where it bounces the most.
- When you find the balance point, practice full strokes in this position by rotating your forearm like you are spinning a doorknob. Bounce the stick and try gaining control over a rebound. The purpose of this exercise is to prevent the stick from sliding up or down.
- After you gain control, it’s time to bounce the stick with your thumb. Now the forearm is not moving, and the palm is facing inward like in the first position. Try bouncing the stick playing quarter notes along with a metronome in the tempo of 180 BPM. After you feel comfortable, speed up. We notice that some drummers who use this grip hold their fingers open while others keep them folded, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
- Moeller stroke is a technique of getting several strokes out of one movement. Its fundamental motion is whipping that relies on using fewer muscles and less strength. As a result, it’s a perfect technique for both matched and traditional grip.
It would be hard to explain it through text, so we will show you this fantastic video of Austin Burcham, where he explains the traditional grip. If you watched old Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, or Jojo Mayer videos, you would notice that this video summarizes all three. If not, cool, you have everything that you need in this one video.
How can I improve my traditional grip?
The answer is simple: practice. But if you want to go fast, here is what we suggest you practice.
To start, use only the hand in traditional.
Practice singles – quarter, eight, or sixteen notes with the metronome
Try practicing groups of 3 sixteen notes but try starting on the first, second, and third sixteenth note.
Practice shuffle by playing double strokes with only one hand; it’s an excellent way to develop Moeller stroke.
Practice groups of five, six, seven, and eight over one bar. By changing in between, you will memorize these shifts and make your inner metronome more stable.
Do I need to use a traditional grip to learn how to play jazz?
No. Traditional grip is just one of many ways to play the drums. If you want to be an all-around drummer, that is, someone who can play jazz and rock and Broadway show tunes, then we would suggest that traditional grip gives you more options.
However, we strongly suggest you start playing traditional grip because of the ghost notes. These are the most subtle notes, which you can play in whatever grip, but the sound is way better in traditional.
Why use a traditional grip?
There is no particular reason; try it out for a few weeks and see if it’s for you. Suppose you are playing rock or metal music, then definitely there is no need to except to grew your versatility.
If you are a jazz player, this grip can come in handy, and although it might not simplify the technique, it will undoubtedly change your sound and make it more “jazzy.”
Traditional vs matched grip (American grip, german grip)
In traditional, the right hand stays the same, like in a matched grip at all times, while the left stick in the left hand changes position. *if you are a right hand lead player.
Hand position around the stick feels awkward at first compared to matched. However, once you get used to it, you will find that your movements are more accessible and natural. Holding your right hand up higher also allows for greater speed control.
The right hand stays in matched grip at all times, while the left stick in the left hand changes position. *if you are a right hand lead player
Also, the wrist motion differentiates substantially.
The fulcrum in matched grip is either between the index finger and a thumb or between the middle finger and a thumb *with adding a ring finger.
In traditional grip, the fulcrum is in the root of a thumb, and the stick is resting between the middle and a ring finger.
The purpose of matched grips is to have wrist control and more power. Drummers often use wrist control in slow tempos and switch to fingers in fast tempos. Also, when they need more power, they rely on the wrist.
On the other hand, the purpose of traditional grip is different. We already mention that this grip was developed to fit the snare drum position of marching drummers. But, in the 50s, this grip found its stronghold in jazz. Jazz drummers use this grip to achieve quiet ghost notes that no other grip can provide.
This is because the stick touches the drum with the very top of the stick.
Finally, let’s answer the question that often comes up “Is traditional grip better than match grip?
No, it is not. It is equally good but has a different purpose and its pros and cons. Again, it’s a matter of personal taste and musical needs. If you develop a new grip that only you are using, that’s fine,along it fits you, and you can play anything and sound good.
Drumming grew and improved every time people decided to do that.
Traditional vs french grip
Traditional grip is more similar to matched grip because it implements the wrist while french mostly stick to finger control.
The traditional grip can be used in slow tempos, while the french is not recommended.
Another noticeable difference is the fulcrum. The fulcrum in traditional is between the thumb, index finger, middle, and ring finger, while in french grip, a fulcrum is between thumb and index finger.
The wrist position is similar, though. In both grips the wrist is facing inwards only in french grip fingers are folded.
Drummers who play/played traditional
It’s mostly jazz drummers, but let’s start with few guys you should check it out, and they are not jazz drummers:
- Todd Sucherman
- Virgil Donati
- Dennis Chambers
Now let’s mention a few jazz legends who mastered this grip
- Dave Weckl
- Vinnie Colaiuta
- Steve Gadd
- Buddy Rich
- Joe Morello
- Jim Chapin
Who invented the traditional grip?
It might be easier to mention who didn’t invent it. The answer is: nobody did invent it, and nobody knows precisely when this grip started to spread among drummers. You can see many old pictures with drummers playing traditional already.
The fact is that traditional grip has been used for the last 200 years by drummers in several countries (USA, England, Germany), and on the other hand, it’s fair to say that the grip was never invented. Why? Because like we said – nobody knows exactly when this grip appeared.
Traditional grip where does my pinkie go?
Pinkie finger doesn’t have any purpose in this grip type. It is not touching the stick, so it just sits there.
It’s important not to fold it too tight. Instead, hold it in a natural position and try to relieve the tension from it while you play drums.
How to make your traditional grip sound like a matched grip?
You can’t; that’s the idea behind using different grips. It is not just how you hold the stick or your wrist moves but the sound changes. Jazz drummers use traditional grip to change the sound.
But if you want to sound like a matched grip, open up your hand at the moment when it strikes the surface.
This way, you will get more rebound and allow the stick to move more. This kind of approach will change the sound and bring more power.
Why did matched grip become more popular than traditional?
It is hard to find a straightforward answer, but we assume two reasons. First, the matched grip is used in Rock, Metal, RnB, Pop, Reggae, while traditional is used in jazz, Latin, and sometimes funk.
Second, with simple math, we can assume that there are way more drummers in the first few genres.
How to quit using an arm in a traditional grip?
Let’s start with the cause. If you are using your arm too much, that is probably because you need more strength. If that is so, you have two options. One, to switch to matched grip. Two, to relax the hand and allow the stick to move bore and bounce more.
Also, if you decide to stay in traditional, practice using only the wrist. The movement is similar to opening a doorknob.
Why do marching drummers continue to use traditional grip?
Nowadays, marching drummers don’t hold the snare drum like the ones in the past, but they kept using traditional grip. It’s mainly because of the tradition.
How to do Moeller effect for traditional grip
In the same way, like the effect of the matched grip. It allows you to hit multiple strokes with one movement. It enhances speed, relaxes muscles, and improves power.
How to transition match grip to traditional?
To get ready to flip the stick, move the stick in between your index and the middle finger while you are in a matched grip. Now flip your hand up and try transitioning to a traditional grip.
Here’s an excellent video of Rob Brown that showcases this approach.
Traditional grip is still in use nowadays and for a reason. However, this grip has its advantages and disadvantages.
It’s harder to master traditional grip than a matched so for all you rock drummers out there, don’t force it if there is no need to, but if you do, go slow, give yourself time and adjust the snare to follow the angle of the stick that is in conventional grip.
To start, use the grip style that fits you the most and after you get comfortable, try learning other grips. In the end, many drummers end up using only one grip.