Advice on traditional grip

iwearnohats

Silver Member
It's interesting hearing all these recent accounts of people switching grips due to focal dystonia.

I too recently changed my grip, although I don't know if it's due to any form of dystonia, it's because after spending about 6 months trying to redevelop, correct, and relax my left-hand grip (trying to develop American and French hand positions and finger control), I basically kept hitting a brick wall. I ended up switching to traditional grip when I was playing on the kit so I could still play along to music and such as I didn't want to disrupt the technique work.

In the end, I made the decision to switch entirely back to traditional grip. I found it came back to me very quickly (I switched to trad first when I was around 18 after I'd only been playing for three years, due to having trouble relaxing and playing correctly with my left hand). I originally played traditional for about 6 years before I ultimately changed back to matched grip, which I'm very thankful for as it's come back to me quickly. I had developed quite a lot of power (I used to watch Virgil Donati play quite a lot and watched how he did things).

Anyway, as someone who would also say that there are no practical benefits to playing with traditional grip, due to my circumstances I am quite enjoying playing the grip again, and developing it, I feel more relaxed than I ever did with matched grip, and it looks a LOT cooler :).

If you want to get a bit more advice on developing the correct wrist motion, there are a couple of videos out there by Seth Davis and Derrick Pope which show the correct wrist motion. The correct finger usage will change depending on who you talk to, but ultimately just do what feels comfortable for you. And don't be afraid to work on thumb + wrist control only (with the fingers away from the stick and the thumb). Some people will say that you must always have the index finger touching the thumb, and that is how I originally learned the grip, but I would say now that don't be afraid to experiment and work the grip from every angle - just make sure you stay relaxed!

And on that note, please enjoy watching Nick Pierce playing metal (blast beats included!) with traditional grip:
 

Bill'O

Member
amazing to see this guy at work, especially here!
Thanks for sharing!
I must say I quite feel the same as your experience except that I probably pushed to far the practicing and forcing of the left hand.
Now that I think back, I always struggled to get even a little bit close to the dexterity of my right hand on matched grips so that might be a kind of derived chronic dystonia indeed :)
Bottom line is: do what feels good, stay relax and read your body. All grips have pros and cons and you'll always find somebody to argue with.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I'm sorry you're dealing with this issue.

The silver lining is traditional grip offers some nice advantages for your left hand. Your two hands serve different roles. Similar to how you may hold one hand under a fork, and the other over a knife, there are some things in these differences that you can exploit to your advantage.

Your left hand under the stick makes executing at low volume a bit easier as the range of motion is more naturally-suited to a lower stroke. This is especially nice for grace notes and jazz comping.

Getting to the rack tom is a bit easier for your left hand, as the natural turnover of your left wrist gets you there with economy of motion.

You can take advantage of the alternating thumb/index finger to play things really fast.

Brush patterns (like jazz comping) was built on the traditional grip and it evolved to work with the differences between sweeping motions of the hands.

So I say embrace the change. I find hitting loud backbeats all night easier with matched, but you can make either grip work for you in any situation with some work. We can obsess over grip and hand technique, but sometimes someone comes along and brings perspective:
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
It's sensory-motor so though motor is affected it can have sensory and proprioception (awareness of position of limbs) components too. We all have sensory and motor representation in the precentral and postcentral gyri of our brain-like a little person. It is believed that writers, musicians, etc overuse these pathways (so there maybe an over-representation) and you lose normal control of muscle activity because inhibitory pathways don't function properly-normally when one muscle shortens antagonist muscles are inhibited and relax-here they don't so it spasms. I think botox and trying to retrain the brain (it's got a name that evades me at the moment) are some options to explore.
 

Bill'O

Member
that is indeed the description neurologists have given technically thank you. However I am still unsure if paralyzing the main forearm flexor muscle is really a good idea, I can understand that it works for small finger muscles though.
 

Bill'O

Member
So sorry to hear about your dystonia, and I'm inspired by your perseverance to keep playing and practicing. I switched from a match grip to traditional in college. It wasn't for any medical reason. It was because I was getting picked on by the upperclassman jazz drummers for playing like a "rock" guy. Stupid reason, but when you are 18 years old and impressionable... I learned later in my career how unnecessary that task was and now strive to get my match grip playing on par with my traditional grip. Audiowonderland commented above "Traditional grip served a purpose a 100 years ago when you were marching with a drum slung on your hip. It's really surprising that it has stayed with us all of these years. There really is no advantage to it on a drum kit and as you are discovering, there are definite disadvantages. As such, I have basically abandoned it." ...and imo he pretty much nailed it. But traditional does offer some stylistic things that feel different. They aren't better. they just feel different. So if you like that feeling, you should go for it... However, to be forced to switch due to a medical reason is astonishing. I know how hard it is to switch your grip after years of conditioning. I did do a youtube series on traditional. You're welcome to check it out... maybe it will help you on your journey. Best of luck to you my friend. I hope you figure it out. There are 3 videos in total. The 1st one is here:
Hey I've been following your video series, it helped thanks,
http://instagr.am/p/B0ldnIfoFQs/ If you still have some advices pls do so, don't mind the outfit, it's very hot these days :)
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
I actually am curious if a couple of things may help you guys experiencing dystonia of sorts.

So I think a key issue here is that in holding drumsticks, by nature we are holding the sticks (no matter the level of tension) with the fingers in constant flexion. We're not moving them through full extension the majority of the time.

Back on the topic of retraining the brain and neural pathways, think of it this way: If you've spent 5, 10, 20 years playing drums and have never specifically trained your hands/fingers in extension exercises, it could theoretically have an impact on your ability to nature extend your fingers.

So I have a couple of ideas for exercises to see if it helps you guys.

The first one is fairly easy: Place a rubber band around your fingers and thumb, and work on fully extending your fingers as far as you can. Mix up the reps and hold times, just for the sake of it.

The second one: fill a bucket with sand or rice, stick your hand in, and try to extend your fingers, pushing against the sand for resistance.

Thirdly: If you don't have access to rubber bands, buckets, sand, or rice; make a fist, and place the backs of your first knuckles (where your fingers join your hands) on your leg/desk/table/bed, and then slowly roll your hand back towards you, extending your fingers at the same time. Vary the pressure and speed.

I'm very interested to see if these exercises (or any other variations that you might find) have any impact on the muscular issues, so I'd love to hear feedback from you guys. Basically I'm just trying to confirm a theory I have that muscular imbalances could be a leading cause of drumming-related injuries, in this case over-training flexion while under-training extension.
 

rdb

Senior Member
Hello IWearNoHats:

I think you are exactly right. I've been struggling with focal-hand dystonia, compensating by using traditional grip, and I've really worked hard on my hand technique, working with a top-notch instructor and really analyzing what is happening with my hands. I'm completely convinced now that muscle imbalance is the root cause of my biggest problems. I came to drumming at nearly 50 years old, and I've used my left hand mostly for holding things, so I have a very strong grip with my left hand. The motion with traditional grip is totally different: a rotation motion, not a gripping motion. The muscle imbalance causes the motion to revert to an incorrect gripping motion.

I'd love to find some exercises to speed the development of the correct muscles. Maybe the ones you suggest are perfect, but I have to admit that I didn't fully understand your descriptions. If you think those are the correct exercises to develop that traditional-grip rotation motion, any chance you could post video of those exercises?

Thank you so much for this,
--- Bobby
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
Hi Rdb, thanks for your reply.

Sorry if my descriptions were a bit vague - the essential part of each exercise is to extend the fingers (i.e., straighten them) under some sort of load. So in the first example with the rubber band (such as Bill'O referred to), in the second example 'opening' the hand using the sand/rice in the bucket as resistance, and in the third example, if you think of placing the back of your fingers against your upper thigh (palm facing towards you), and just try to straighten your fingers, pressing their backs against your thigh.

Does that clarify things further?

The intent of these exercises was actually not to improve the rotation motion for traditional grip, but to see if they assist with dystonia related to matched grip.

With regards to traditional grip, I've combined the teachings of Tommy Igoe (he describes how to do traditional grip in a very basic and effective way) from Great Hands for a Lifetime, and a video I watched on Youtube. I'll try to distill the key points down for you:

1. Soft hands. Totally relaxed.
2. The wrist motion comes from the fulcrum point at the thumb. You should practice the wrist motion keeping the fingers away from the stick.
3. Place your elbow at your side, and extend your hand as though you were going to shake someone's hand - thumb is up, palm is facing inwards. This is your basic traditional grip position.
4. Hold the stick in this position but allow it to point roughly 45 degrees towards the drum - don't have it perpendicular to your hand.
5. Practice the rotation motion both with thumb only, and with the ring finger placed under the stick to assist with rebound. When practicing these exercises keep all other fingers away from the stick. Keep the hand soft, and let the stick do the work.

Following the advice I've seen lately I've managed to really fast-track relearning traditional grip, and I've developed a LOT of power very quickly. I highly recommend Great Hands for a Lifetime (I've only had it for a week or so).
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
Thanks Bill'O, I'm interested to see if it makes any difference for you.

Yes that is correct - that particular band is what I had in mind, however I've done the same exercise using a regular rubber band
 

Bill'O

Member
Thanks Bill'O, I'm interested to see if it makes any difference for you.

Yes that is correct - that particular band is what I had in mind, however I've done the same exercise using a regular rubber band
Ok great, basically do you think that just exercising the extensor muscles of the finger could help or the different resistance and surfaces are important?
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
I think it's just the act of exercises the extensor muscles. Well, it's a theory anyway. It's probably not a bad idea to vary the resistance, and the speed of extension. It could be a mobility issue as well - i.e., you can work on increasing the range of motion while increasing the strength at the end of that range. An example would be using your hand to pull a finger back on the opposite hand as far as you can, and then press that finger back against the resistance.
 

rdb

Senior Member
Thank you, IWearNoHats. I think I get the idea of the exercises you're proposing, and probably the band one is most accessible. You also make a good point about the traditional grip rotation coming from the fulcrum at the thumb. Someone else on this forum once pointed out the importance of the muscle groups that control the thumb, and think that's exactly right. I need to work on that as well.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Just hear to apologize for being so rude 4 years ago. haha. I still think getting an A+ in one grip is better than getting 2 D's. find the one that works best for YOU and go that way. Trad looks cool, i'll give it that. If i only played jazz I'd go that route for sure. My blasting might suffer in metal though :)
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
So a little update on myself. I was fiddling around with my tension issues with using matched grip, and discovered something interesting. If I make fists with my hands, and extend the middle, or ring + pinky fingers, on my right hand I can extend them noticeably further than on my left. So this to me seems to be adding to the argument that it's a mobility issue for me at the very least. In fact, I've found that even the simple act of making a closed fist and giving myself the finger is putting a good stretch on the first knuckle of the joint.

It would be interesting to see if anyone else has a similar experience. I don't recall ever experiencing any injuries to my left hand that would inhibit this range of motion
 

mrfingers

Senior Member
I was surprised by the results of practicing trad grip press rolls which strengthen my left’s trad grip= doubles immediately came easier.
 

Bill'O

Member
So a little update on myself. I was fiddling around with my tension issues with using matched grip, and discovered something interesting. If I make fists with my hands, and extend the middle, or ring + pinky fingers, on my right hand I can extend them noticeably further than on my left. So this to me seems to be adding to the argument that it's a mobility issue for me at the very least. In fact, I've found that even the simple act of making a closed fist and giving myself the finger is putting a good stretch on the first knuckle of the joint.

It would be interesting to see if anyone else has a similar experience. I don't recall ever experiencing any injuries to my left hand that would inhibit this range of motion
Tbh, if you really suffer from a form of dystonia, the issue is purely coming from the brain, i.e. our muscles, tendons, nerves should be perfectly fine as close diagnostics don't tend to show anything wrong. That said, brain controls motion and placement so as when having an ankle twist, brain re-education helps repositioning your limb in space.
 
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