Drum Grip- keeping the opening in your hand

Blue

Senior Member
When I look at pictures of great drummers- John Bohnam, Jon Theodore, Aaron Spears, Virgil Donati, they don't usually have that space between their thumb and forefinger open, and yet, everyone touts that as being a must. Why? I don't think it's that important. When you're hitting hard, it's nearly impossible. I mean, Carlock has an insanely loose grip, and he pounds those things, but for most of us, closing that gap and holding the stick right in there seems like the more comfortable and natural thing to do. The reason why I am so concerned is that for years, I've been purposely trying to keep it open and hold my stick at the first knuckle in my forefinger, even though I don't want, and I don't feel that I get as good of rebound as when I just hold at the second knuckle and what seems more natural to me, and what I grew up playing with. I'm just confused. I force myself to hold my sticks the way 'they tell' me I should, but I want to be a better drummer, but I'm not so sure anymore. Does anyone has any thoughts on this? thanks.
 

VedranS

Senior Member
When I look at pictures of great drummers- John Bohnam, Jon Theodore, Aaron Spears, Virgil Donati, they don't usually have that space between their thumb and forefinger open, and yet, everyone touts that as being a must. Why? I don't think it's that important. When you're hitting hard, it's nearly impossible. I mean, Carlock has an insanely loose grip, and he pounds those things, but for most of us, closing that gap and holding the stick right in there seems like the more comfortable and natural thing to do. The reason why I am so concerned is that for years, I've been purposely trying to keep it open and hold my stick at the first knuckle in my forefinger, even though I don't want, and I don't feel that I get as good of rebound as when I just hold at the second knuckle and what seems more natural to me, and what I grew up playing with. I'm just confused. I force myself to hold my sticks the way 'they tell' me I should, but I want to be a better drummer, but I'm not so sure anymore. Does anyone has any thoughts on this? thanks.
Personally, my grip changes depending on how I play. I only use a "first knuckle index" grip for really quiet playing. Most of the time I'm either gripping the stick in the crease of the second knuckle (the middle crease) of the index finger or with the middle finger. With the second knuckle grip the space closes up and it still feels comfortable. The first knuckle grip has a very dainty, insecure kind of feeling for me when playing loud, and so if I try playing loud with that grip it causes me to squeeze too much which in turn makes the area between my index and thumb hurt.

One more thing; when I'm playing with the middle finger fulcrum, my index and thumb tips may still touch incidentally. This can look kind of like the first knuckle index grip, with the space between thumb and index. Before I knew of a middle finger fulcrum I saw a lot of guys playing pretty hard but they had that space going, and I couldn't figure out how they can play like that with that grip. Turns out they were gripping with the middle finger, it just looked like the first knuckle of the index.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
That opening in the hand is really meant for more finnesse type playing, for instance double strokes at low to medium volumes, where you are using your fingers more. If you're really laying into the drums volume wise, I'd say don't worry so much about it.
 

denisri

Silver Member
My grip is always changing for what is required varies.... traditional,matched fulcum A or B and a little pinky/ring finger grip that I have learn to love for more power.Denis
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
I find the louder I play I (obviuosly) use more wrist /forearm and that will affect the position of the sticks somewhat in your hand. You have to stay relaxed-yes. But at a certain point in using the larger muscles, the stick has to be kept from flying out of your hand. I recommend watching the instructional video by Joe Morello called Drum Method 1 and also the video by Jim Chapin called: Speed,power,control,endurance.

Also get together with a good technique-teacher (if possible). If not, try to watch the masters on video and some great drummer's live if you can.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
That opening in the hand is really meant for more finnesse type playing, for instance double strokes at low to medium volumes, where you are using your fingers more. If you're really laying into the drums volume wise, I'd say don't worry so much about it.
I suppose I'll start the merry-go-round... I disagree completely. Such a grip is not limited to "finesse" playing alone. Moreover, I'd say that when we're laying into the drums with a lot of force is the chief instance when we should be concerned about our grip.

By moving the grip back in the hand to the middle finger, or even the last two fingers, you can hit extremely hard without having to hang on for dear life with the front of the hand (thumb and index). In such a grip, I'm using the weight of my arm, and a whipping action - not brute strength - to create volume. Twenty pounds of muscle and bone will give you all the volume you need, if you use the levers of your arm correctly and allow physics to do what it must. By using more of the hand to control the stick on impact (and not just the wee muscles of the index finger and thumb) there is less chance of losing control of the stick. Furthermore, the added relaxation of the hand at the moment of impact gives the drums a much bigger, more wide open sound, too boot. This last consideration is paramount, to my mind.

Check out Tony Williams, Daniel Adair, Vinnie Colaiuta, Kenny Aronoff, Weckl and many, many others for examples of very powerful playing with such a grip. Can we really say that we'll ever need more volume than those guys? Moreover, generations of parade drummers of both the American and Basel schools used such grips to help minimize the stress on their hands during high-volume playing. Use an index finger/thumb fulcrum if you want, but don't be mistaken to believe that a more loose grip is for fancy-pants low-volume playing alone.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Yea you know Boomka I take that back what I said earlier. Nothing is absolute anywhere. If you play with your hand open in the first place chances are it will be open at any volume you play at. But if your hand isn't normally open when you play, then worrying about it isn't going to help. I'm a big advocate of opening the hand, but some guys don't play like that.
 

VedranS

Senior Member
I suppose I'll start the merry-go-round... I disagree completely. Such a grip is not limited to "finesse" playing alone. Moreover, I'd say that when we're laying into the drums with a lot of force is the chief instance when we should be concerned about our grip.

By moving the grip back in the hand to the middle finger, or even the last two fingers, you can hit extremely hard without having to hang on for dear life with the front of the hand (thumb and index). In such a grip, I'm using the weight of my arm, and a whipping action - not brute strength - to create volume. Twenty pounds of muscle and bone will give you all the volume you need, if you use the levers of your arm correctly and allow physics to do what it must. By using more of the hand to control the stick on impact (and not just the wee muscles of the index finger and thumb) there is less chance of losing control of the stick. Furthermore, the added relaxation of the hand at the moment of impact gives the drums a much bigger, more wide open sound, too boot. This last consideration is paramount, to my mind.

Check out Tony Williams, Daniel Adair, Vinnie Colaiuta, Kenny Aronoff, Weckl and many, many others for examples of very powerful playing with such a grip. Can we really say that we'll ever need more volume than those guys? Moreover, generations of parade drummers of both the American and Basel schools used such grips to help minimize the stress on their hands during high-volume playing. Use an index finger/thumb fulcrum if you want, but don't be mistaken to believe that a more loose grip is for fancy-pants low-volume playing alone.
I think the OP was talking about gripping the stick with the thumb and the first (or last) knuckle of the index finger, and leaving an opening in the space between them. This is different than a middle finger grip or a ring/pinkie thing where the space between index and thumb is created simply because they're not where the grip happens. Now, this kind of first knuckle index/thumb fulcrum with the space is for finesse playing, and becomes pretty useless and even dangerous in louder situations, where the grip has to change like you suggested. Other than the middle finger grip or the ring/pinke grip, you can also move the fulcrum to the second/middle knuckle crease of the index finger, which can close up the space between the index and thumb. This grip is also suited for louder playing, and i've never experienced any discomfort with it, unlike the first-knuckle-and-with-a-space grip.

I'm just saying, i think you were talking about a different "space" than the OP.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
And just because you can't see a big gaping space, doesn't mean there's no space there, it just might be closed off a little for a tighter grip for more volume. That's different than having the sticks crushed against the palm. I don't advocate that at all ever, but some guys play just fine that way. I think VedranS put a pretty fine point on it...Hey, whatever gets you through the night, its alright...alright
 

Ian Ballard

Silver Member
When I look at pictures of great drummers- John Bohnam...don't usually have that space between their thumb and forefinger open, and yet, everyone touts that as being a must. Why? I don't think it's that important. When you're hitting hard, it's nearly impossible.
Bonham used a French-style grip, which makes THAT impossible to close the "gap", so I think you need to look harder.

"Closing the gap" typically tightens the muscles around the thumb, making your hand more tense. Anybody advocating tension, also advocates future hand pain, arthritis and carpel-tunnel syndrome, in my humble opinion.

If you have trouble keeping the "gap" closed, I highly suggest practicing harder.
 

Chazz

Senior Member
When I look at pictures of great drummers- John Bohnam, Jon Theodore, Aaron Spears, Virgil Donati, they don't usually have that space between their thumb and forefinger open, and yet, everyone touts that as being a must. Why? I don't think it's that important. When you're hitting hard, it's nearly impossible. I mean, Carlock has an insanely loose grip, and he pounds those things, but for most of us, closing that gap and holding the stick right in there seems like the more comfortable and natural thing to do. The reason why I am so concerned is that for years, I've been purposely trying to keep it open and hold my stick at the first knuckle in my forefinger, even though I don't want, and I don't feel that I get as good of rebound as when I just hold at the second knuckle and what seems more natural to me, and what I grew up playing with. I'm just confused. I force myself to hold my sticks the way 'they tell' me I should, but I want to be a better drummer, but I'm not so sure anymore. Does anyone has any thoughts on this? thanks.
Whoa - you must have a 'super pair of eyes' - when I look a photos & videos
it's very hard for me to see if there is a gap between their thumb & index...LOL
I have short fingers and I barely see a gap when I hold my right stick between my
thumb and 1st knuckle of my pointer... like someone else mentioned, when I'm
playing/practicing I see myself changing sticking, wrist to finger technique will kick in, wrists & forearms back to fingers and yes 2nd knuckle too...
my take on this is (being that you have been playing for a while) just let your fingers &
wrists do there thing and if it's comfortable & feels right when your stick slides to your
2nd knuckle , well than it's right for you...

best of luck to you
 
C

Casper "DrPowerStroke" Paludan

Guest
I would suggest you get a copy of Dom Famularo's book "It's your Move". He discusses the main grip types and hand positions, and shows how to develop them. I have studied with him for 5 years and he is an amazing teacher.

To answer your question: like others have said, Boomka first, you will use several different grips in your playing, depending on volume and speed. The first knuckle dogma is sort of a rudimental snare drum situation, and you use it many times when playing. But at louder volumes and more intense playing, like you observed, the stick will want to slide up into second knuckle, or even beyond! Don't fight that.

Keep a balance of learning the basic grips (with a qualified teacher), and listening to your hands and body. It is great to learn the rules before you break them, that way you have all the tools you need to analyze your own playing and fix errors as they come up.

Casper
 

donv

Silver Member
When I look at pictures of great drummers- John Bohnam, Jon Theodore, Aaron Spears, Virgil Donati, they don't usually have that space between their thumb and forefinger open, and yet, everyone touts that as being a must. Why? I don't think it's that important. When you're hitting hard, it's nearly impossible. I mean, Carlock has an insanely loose grip, and he pounds those things, but for most of us, closing that gap and holding the stick right in there seems like the more comfortable and natural thing to do. The reason why I am so concerned is that for years, I've been purposely trying to keep it open and hold my stick at the first knuckle in my forefinger, even though I don't want, and I don't feel that I get as good of rebound as when I just hold at the second knuckle and what seems more natural to me, and what I grew up playing with. I'm just confused. I force myself to hold my sticks the way 'they tell' me I should, but I want to be a better drummer, but I'm not so sure anymore. Does anyone has any thoughts on this? thanks.
I haven't read any responses so I may be repeating this, but you should look at Bonham's "Moby Dick" video here. Pay attention to how far forward his ring finger is on the stick. There's no way I can see how his thumb and forefinger can be closed. Also look at how loose his grip is. It's usually very loose.

The only Donati I have is a DVD with him playing with Vai. Can't really say anything about the gap, but his right hand grip is pretty loose. Traditional grip with his left hand. It's does seem a little stiff in appearance--in reality?--, but considering what he delivers more power to him.
 
Top