Traditional vs Matched Grip – How to Hold Drum Sticks!

Essentially, there are two methods to grip drum sticks. They are the traditional grip and the matched grip. It’s fun experimenting with both methods.

I use matched grip about 70% of the time. I switch to traditional grip because of tendentious issues. If I feel my forearm or wrists tightening up or getting a bit sore I’ll switch, and the relieves the pain. However, my traditional grip is an endless work in progress.

It’s not as solid as matched grip. But, I find that I think a bit differently about a my playing and have come up with ideas simply as a result of switching over to traditional grip. Also, I naturally play lighter with my left hand when using traditional and this comes in handy for certain types of playing.

Perhaps, the best starting point when it comes to learning how to hold the drum sticks is to familiarize yourself with how these two methods work and what makes one different from the other.


Traditional Grip.

Also called orthodox grip, traditional grip is one of the methods used in holding drum sticks in the course of playing percussion instruments. Contrary to the matched grip method, each hand will hold or grip the stick differently when the traditional grip is involved. Popularly, the player’s left hand engages an underhand grip, while your right hand engages an overhand grip.

traditional grip and matched grip

This grip is virtually used exclusively for playing the snare drum, particularly the the marching type of snare drum. It is also used often on the drum kit. The popularity of the traditional grip is seen more in jazz and fusion music compared to other styles of drumming.

The reason is for it’s popularity in jazz is because jazz drummers, in the early days, developed their style from military and marching styles, as well as instrumentation. However, many rock drummers also used the traditional grip technique. Steve Gadd is a prime example. He was in a military jazz band.

The Origin of The Traditional Grip.

It is so called traditional because it emanates from military marching drummers or drum corps. These marching drummers carry the snare drum on a sling that hangs from one shoulder or the neck, while the drum rides closer to one hip compared to the second hip, and it usually tilts a bit so that the drummer can reach it in an easier manner.

drum corpsThis way, the drummer can play the drum and march at the same, and would not have to bang his thighs or knees into the instrument.

As a result, engaging an overhand grip on the drum’s high side (usually the left side) would make the elbow to assume a really uncomfortable position. On the other hand, the underhand grip promotes much more comfort.

Even while the drum is placed on a drum stand, a good number of players will still want to bend their drum when the traditional grip is involved, even when tilting is not needful. A good number of players engage traditional grip on completely horizontal drums, particularly when it comes to marching percussion.

There are tons of various techniques used with the undergrip, and these would require a bit of variations in positioning and using the finger. The use of wrist in rotating is popular with all techniques, being the elementary motion of the drum stick. As soon as the stick starts to move, additional involved techniques or methods require using the thumb exclusively to bounce th stick when a drummer plays at a faster tempo.

Subsequently, the tick will rest in-between the index finger and the thumb, while the two fingers will close around the drum stick as the thumb rests on top of the index at the 1st knuckle. Then, the player’s middle finger will rest somewhat atop the side of the drum stick, while the stick rests on the ring finger’s cuticle, with the little finger providing support to the ring finger underneath.

The Pros and Cons:

Some percussionists have criticized the traditional grip on the count that it does not promote efficiency, convenience, as well as quality sound. However, some of the best percussionists have engaged this drum stick grip method and are still doing so in modern times.

Matched Grip.

traditional grip and matched grip

Also called the parallel grip, the matched grip is the second method or technique for holding the drum sticks. When using this technique, the drummer uses each hand to hold the stick in the same manner, unlike the traditional grip where each hand grips the drum stick in a different manner.

Virtually every popularly used matched grips is overhand grip. The different forms of this technique are American grip, German grip, and the French grip.

In using the matched grip method, the drummer grips the drum sticks using his index finger, while the middle finger curls around base of the drum stick and the thumb rests atop. As a result, the drum stick is able to move freely and will bounce when a player strikes a percussion instrument.

Most percussionists favor the matched grip more than the traditional grip, on the count that it promotes efficiency, quality sound, as well as comfort.


A drummer should be able to acquire different playing techniques. Whatever will make you a better player and a master over your instrument, strife to acquire those skills and techniques.