What is a matched grip (overhand grip)?
Matched grip is a way of holding both drum sticks the same way.
In this grip, palms face down, and the stick is in the “nest” (the center of the hand).
Matched grip is mainly used for wrist strokes because in this position, the wrist can cover the biggest diameter.
Learning how to hold sticks properly and choosing the correct grip is an essential part of a hand technique. To learn this, you don’t need a drum set, you can use a practice pad.
There are two matched grips, American and German, but let’s leave those for later.
Step 1) Put hands in front of yourself, palms facing down
Step 2) Now, take the sticks and put them into your hands right in the middle. Make sure the bottom of the drum stick is not peaking from the side.
Place the stick between the ring finger, thumb, and middle finger. The index finger doesn’t play an essential purpose in this grip; it just serves to correct the stick’s movement.
Make sure the little finger is also on the stick.
Step 3) Try moving your hand all the way up and then hit the drum.
Make sure you leave a space to stick pivot freely in the fulcrum position. Once your pivot point is secured, wrap around other fingers around the stick.
Congrats, you have learned the matched grip.
Pro tip: Your inner forearm muscles are weak initially, and you will have issues facing palms directly down.
Please pay attention to this, and every time your hands start turning over, move them back to the starting position.
After some time, your muscles will strengthen, and then you can allow yourself that tinny deviation from a genuine matched grip. This new position where palms are facing each other just a tiny bit is called American grip.
Why use the matched grip
Nobody knows the exact percentage, but it is safe to say that more than 80% of drummers worldwide use this grip because it is the most natural one. Furthermore, it is a very popular grip among rock drummers because it provides more power.
Why is that?
Try giving drum sticks to a baby and see how it will hold them.
Do you see the point?
This grip is natural and perfect for wrist playing, but drummers often change grip to french to use fingers.
Tips and tricks for mastering the matched grip
Matched grip is designed to use the full potential of the wrist.
In every other position, you can move your wrist less than if you use matched grip.
So here is a terrific way to practice wrist control.
In this exercise, you will learn four basic strokes:
- Tap stroke
- Full stroke
In the starting position, the head of the stick is facing up. First, make sure both hands are equal, and the angle is correct.
Now you hit the drum and finish with the stick a few inches above.
While your stick is down a few inches from a drum, hit one gentle stroke as quietly as you can and bring it back where it was (a few inches from a drum).
This is the most challenging stroke to master out of all four. You need to play a quiet tap stroke and raise a drum stick all the way up to where it was at the very beginning (facing up).
Now, from this position. Hit a drum and bring the stick to the same position.
That’s it, you learned four basic strokes; now you need to repeat them one after another as slowly as possible.
Set the tempo to 50 BPM, that way, your brain will be able to process the new information, and your muscle memory will be able to memorize it.
This exercise will develop your wrist and improve your dynamic.
PS: don’t squeeze the stick but don’t use your finger either while doing the exercise.
Benefits of a matched grip
There is no right way, only your way. Matched grip might feel more natural to you than all other grips.
If not, that’s OK! Keep trying different grips and see which one works for you until you find your matched grip.
However, before you do that, we need to emphasize few key advantages:
1) it enables tight playing while using less effort from the fingers (this is good because it gives us more control over the stick and uses less energy). You can think about a matched grip like a hand holding a tennis ball without any tension in the palm.
2) It allows us to do very precise timings between our hands, causing it to play evenly (and I mean equally ) as a pro drummer would do but only if we develop those muscles by practicing slowly and accurately.
3) It is excellent for slow tempos when you need more control. Use fingers for fast tempos and wrist for slow.
4) it will provide more force, and you will be able to build stamina quickly. Try working on a double stroke with this grip while not using fingers.
Common mistakes with the gripped position
1) Number one mistake we can think of is squeezing the stick too tight. This is terrible for your body. It will cause a cramp, and you can forget about playing fast tempos. Muscles need to relax completely, and a tight grip can only cause injuries. A fabulous way to check if your muscles are relaxed enough is to check the big muscle between the palm and index finger.
It is strongly advised to always check if this muscle stays relaxed while you’re plating.
2) Most drummers tend to make matched grip stronger with their right hand and weaker with their left hand. Therefore, both hands should be equal.
3) Another common mistake is to overuse wrist movement in matched grip. This will cause your stick to slip out of your fingers very quickly, and if you’re playing at faster tempos, it’ll be the end of your coordination and precision. So try not using anything but muscle strength from the elbow down to fingertip!
At one point, you need to switch to fingers when you are in the fast tempos.
4) Another thing we see drummers struggling a lot is always looking at their stronger hand, at the point where they need to hit the cymbal or head. Your eyes shouldn’t leave your strong hand so often! We suggest focusing on your weaker hand and work on making it equal to the stronger hand.
Alternative grips for different situations
If you start to feel the lack of speed, you should switch to a french grip. French grip has finger control in mind. This grip will take full advantage of your fingers and allow the wrist to take some rest in fast tempos.
For finger control, it is essentially finding the balance point (the point where the stick bounces the most).
Traditional grip (jazz grip, orthodox grip, conventional grip, underhand grip)
Traditional grip is a left hand grip developed by marching drummers. This grip is widely used in jazz drumming. Bear in mind that the traditional grip has a different purpose than the matched grip. You can never get those beautifully subtle ghost notes in a matched position. If you plan to use a traditional grip, make sure you adjust the drum set accordingly. To start, try changing the angle of the snare drum.
Two types of matched grip (overhand grips)
These two types are not that diverse, however, the position of the stick in hand is the main difference.
American grips are more in use nowadays.
In german grip, palms are facing down. If you look from above you can see the bottom of the stick form aside.The wrist is doing side movements, from outside to inside vs up and down with American grip.
Palms are facing the ground, and you can hold drum sticks either with palm and index finger or with palm and middle finger and index finger. In the second case, drum sticks are only lean on the index finger.
Maybe the most popular grip nowadays. The switch from german looks like this:
1) Put the stick in the center of the palm and make sure you can’t see the bottom of the stick from above.
2) Turn palms slightly inside. This position is in between french and german grip. It is a more natural way to hold the stick than with a german grip which you will notice shortly through the lack of muscle pain.
3) Third difference is in the movement. Forget about left to right or right to left movement and start using down-up movement.
If you want to level up this grip and use advanced wrist motion, check out the Moeller stroke.
Matched grip players
Thomas Lang is one of many drummers who switched from using the traditional grip to match. Of course, it’s tough to master both, and on the other hand, you don’t need to be overwhelmed by traditional grip if you are a rock drummer and vice versa if you are a jazz drummer.
Thomas switched to this grip exactly for this reason. The genre he plays is progressive rock, and in this type of music, the traditional grip can only cause the lack of strength and injury. Remember, the traditional grip is made for ghost notes, not powerful rock strokes.
Other guys who perfected this grip are Mike Mangini, Terry Bozzio, Eric Moore, Nate Smith, Benny Greb, Gergo Borlai, Larnell Lewis, Riccardo Merlini…
Our final tip is to adjust the drum grip to the genre you play and then adjust a drum kit to the drum grip you play.
Don’t force anything, go slow and give your brain time to think and process the information and memorize this grip.
Be relaxed and use the wrists while you can. When the tempo is too fast, don’t struggle but instead switch to fingers. Also, it is widespread to switch to a french grip with your leading hand while staying in matched grip with others that only play upbeats. Finally, remember to always hold the drumstick loosely.
Check out the drummers we mention but find your comfort zone with this grip.
Make sure to master it before you switch to other grips that you might not use that much.