Mastering Drum Grips: How to Hold Drumsticks

Drum grips. How to hold drumsticks

Matched grip, Traditional grip… German grip? A complete guide to mastering your drumstick technique

Drum grips are the ways drummers hold drumsticks. Different grip techniques have advantages but are usually chosen based on personal preference, playing style and genre of music.

The way drumsticks are held can impact playing technique, speed and overall control. The sticks are really an extension of a drummer’s hands.

In this guide, we’ll step you through the fundamentals of proper drumstick grip and demystify drumstick technique.

Start here: Which grip? Matched Grip vs. Traditional Grip

The two fundamental grips are matched grip & traditional grip. Here’s a snapshot of the differences.

Matched Grip


  •  Full Matched Grip: In this grip, both hands hold the drumsticks in the same way. The palms face down and the sticks are held between the thumb and the first two fingers, with the remaining fingers wrapping around.
  •  Traditional Matched Grip: While the hands still mirror each other, the palms face each other more directly.
  • Symmetrical: In a matched grip, both hands hold the drumsticks in a symmetrical manner.
  • Versatility: Matched grip provides equal control and versatility for both hands, making it easier to execute various drumming techniques.
  • Genres: Full matched grip is common in contemporary drumming, especially rock and pop. Traditional matched grip is often used in jazz and orchestral drumming.

How to hold drumsticks for Matched Grip:

  1. Hold the Stick Near the Butt: Place the drumstick between the first joints of your index finger and thumb, with the butt end resting in the groove between the thumb and index finger.
  2. Wrap Your Fingers Around: Curl your remaining fingers around the stick, providing a firm but relaxed grip. The stick should rest diagonally across the palm.
  3. Balance Point: Find the balance point of the drumstick by adjusting your grip slightly. The balance point is where the stick naturally rests in your hand, facilitating better control and rebound.
  4. Point the Tip at the Drumhead: Angle the drumstick so that the tip points towards the drumhead. This alignment optimizes the striking surface and enhances the stick’s rebound.
  5. Mirror the Grip with the Other Hand: Repeat the process with your other hand, ensuring that both grips are symmetrical for a matched grip.

Traditional Grip


  • Traditional grip involves holding the left stick differently than the right stick. The left hand uses an underhand grip, with the palm facing up, while the right hand typically uses a standard overhand grip.
  • Asymmetrical: Traditional grip involves holding one stick in an overhand position (like shaking hands) and the other in an underhand position.
  • Nuanced Dynamics: Traditional grip allows for nuanced control over softer strokes, particularly on snare drums.
  • Genres: The traditional grip is deeply rooted in the history of marching drumming and jazz. The traditional grip is often associated with drummers who play snare drums and it can provide unique dynamics and articulations.

How to hold drumsticks for Traditional Grip:

  1. Dominant Hand (Right Hand for Right-Handed Drummers):   Hold the stick in an overhandposition, as if you were shaking hands.   Place the stick between the first joint of your index finger and the pad of your thumb.   Wrap your remaining fingers around the stick, creating a secure grip.
  2. Non-Dominant Hand (Left Hand for Right-Handed Drummers):  Hold the stick in an underhand position, with the thumb on top and the index finger underneath.   The stick should rest between the first joint of the index finger and the pad of the thumb. The remaining fingers wrap around to provide support.
  3. Balance Point and Drumhead Alignment: Similar to matched grip, find the balance point and ensure that the tips of both sticks point towards the drumhead.
Picture of drummer holding drumsticks using matched grip
Picture of drummer holding drumsticks using traditional grip

Famous Matched Grip Drummers:

  • Dave Grohl – Nirvana & Foo Fighters
  • Carter Beauford – Dave Matthews Band
  • Taylor Hawkins – Foo Fighters
  • Chad Smith – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • John Bonham – Led Zeppelin

Famous Traditional Grip Drummers:

  • Buddy Rich
  • Elvin Jones
  • Tony Williams
  • Steve Gadd
  • Max Roach

Next: How to Fine-Tune Your Drumstick Grip

Grip Pressure

You need to finding the right balance of grip pressure. Holding on too tight can lead to fatigue, muscle strain and restricted stick movement. But, being too loose with the grip can result in a lack of control and precision. 

Aim for a relaxed grip that allows the sticks to rebound naturally.

Finger Placement

Experiment with the placement of your fingers to find what feels most comfortable and natural for you. Some drummers prefer having more of the stick in their fingers, while others like it closer to the palm. The key is to strike a balance that provides control without sacrificing fluidity.

Adjusting for Different Techniques

Adjust along the way. If you’re working on speed and agility, you might slightly alter your grip to facilitate quick rebound. Stay open to making subtle adjustments as you explore different drumming styles.

Mastering: Practicing and Building Muscle Memory

Building a consistent and comfortable drumstick grip takes practice and patience. Incorporate the following exercises into your routine to strengthen your grip and develop muscle memory:

1. Stick Control Exercises: Work on exercises that involve controlled stick movement, focusing on maintaining a consistent grip while transitioning between different drumming patterns.

2. Dynamic Playing: Practice playing at different dynamic levels, from soft to loud. This will help you refine your grip for various playing situations and improve your control over the sticks.

3. Metronome Practice: Use a metronome to practice rhythmic exercises, ensuring that your grip remains steady and your stick strikes are precisely aligned with the beat.

4. Drumming Rudiments: Incorporate drumming rudiments into your practice routine. Rudiments, such as single strokes, double strokes, and paradiddles, provide a structured way to refine your grip and stick control.

5. Play Along with Music: Apply your grip technique while playing along with your favorite songs. It makes practice way more enjoyable and helps you adapt your grip to different musical styles.

6. Seek Guidane & Feedback: If you can, it’s great to get guidance from a drumming instructor. They can provide personalized feedback on your grip and offer valuable insights to help you refine your technique. You can also film yourself playing – by watching yourself play you can identify areas for improvement in your drumstick technique.

Other Drum Grips. Yep, there’s more ways to hold drumsticks

There’s actually a whole bunch of other ways to hold drumsticks. Here are some of the other more common types of drum grips:

French Grip

The French grip involves holding the drumsticks with both palms facing each other. The thumbs are positioned on top, and the fingers grip the sticks from the sides. This grip is less common but is sometimes used in orchestral percussion, particularly when playing timpani.

German Grip

Also known as the “Teutonic” or “traditional” grip, the German grip is characterized by the right hand using a standard overhand grip, while the left hand adopts an underhand grip. This grip is often used in orchestral and marching percussion.

Traditional German Grip

This is a hybrid grip that combines elements of the traditional and German grips. It’s often seen in certain marching band and orchestral drumming contexts.

American Grip

The American grip is similar to the matched grip but may involve a slight tilt of the hands. It is essentially a variation of the matched grip and is widely used in various musical genres.

Moeller Technique

While not a grip per se, the Moeller technique is a technique for generating power and speed through a combination of wrist and finger strokes. It can be applied to various grips, including matched and traditional.

Power Grip

The power grip involves holding the sticks with a firmer grip, often using the back fingers for additional control. This grip is commonly used in heavier styles of music where a more aggressive playing approach is required.

Jazz Grip

While not a specific grip in itself, jazz drummers often adapt their grip based on the dynamics and nuances required in jazz playing. This may involve variations of the matched or traditional grip.

Here’s a great video from the guys at drumeo on how to hold your drumsticks using matched grip:

How do you hold your drumsticks?

Mastering the art of holding drumsticks is a foundational step on your drumming journey. The key is to find a comfortable and balanced approach that allows you to express yourself with precision and control. Consistent practice is key and before long you’ll have a confident drumstick grip.The choice of grip is a personal one. Many drummers use a combination of these grips or develop their own hybrid grips that suit their playing style and preferences. It’s great to practice both grips but you’ll probably naturally default to one grip over the other.

What’s your favourite grip? Let us know in the comments.

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