Fulcrums and gaps and buzzes, oh my...

BillBachman

Gold Member
Hey guys, here's some food for thought that stemmed from an earlier thread with questions on fulcrums,gaps and buzz rolls. I think it got lost in the shuffle over there and I think it can start a good discussion on its own. Here goes:

I think it's foolish to lock yourself into one fulcrum or the other (1st finger or second finger). Both are great tools for different applications. Plus, sometimes it's somewhere between the two and sometimes there's pretty much no fulcrum (like when the wrist does pretty much the whole job while the fingers just lightly contact the stick).

As a general guideline, the first finger fulcrum should be used when playing any combination of low/light/fast when lots of finger control is needed. This also sets up the all important trigger finger for the finesse up front. AND, second finger fulcrum (or sometimes no fulcrum/general grip) should be used when playing bigger slower strokes where the wrist or arm is primarily driving and there's less need for finger micro-management.

Another general guideline: If the wrist can do it, let the wrist do it. If the wrist would struggle at all, then the fingers come in to bail it out (and the back fingers take priority over the front--don't micro-manage up front with the index if the ring & middle finger can get the job done). If the whole hand would struggle, then the arm comes in to bail it out (either through a general big motion or pumping motion, or through Moeller whipping style where the wrist motion is replaced by a forearm motion).

Now, I know there are guys who've thrown out the blanket statement, "If there's no gap between your thumb and index finger that means you're tight." That's a terribly incomplete blanket statement and I've had many students come to me with tendonitus because they were squeezing the crap out of the stick in order to "stay relaxed" maintaining an open gap. (These guys should specify that an open gap assumes you're playing second finger fulcrum, spelling that out would help prevent injury.) From that standpoint, if you go exclusively second finger fulcrum with a gap then you're quite often shooting yourself in the foot as far as high speed & low dynamic playing is concerned, and anything requiring downward pressure. (Also note, second finger fulcrum does not assume there's a gap, there's a time to have no gap when using both first and second finger fulcrum.)

And now, "The Gap." It's not about a gap or no gap, it's about the placement and function of the thumb. When there's a gap the thumb is functionally on the side of the stick, when there's no gap the thumb is functionally on the top of the stick. Both are fantastic and fantastically vital for completely capable and relaxed hands. (Yes, having no gap allows you to play many things infinitely more relaxed!) The beauty of American grip is that the thumb (and hand) is at about a 45 degree angle such that the thumb can easily jump to either of these roles in the blink of an eye--and it will need to quite often. The placement of the thumb in American grip borrows on the attributes of German or French grip. Pure German and French grip are "one trick ponies" where the thumb is relegated to one or the other (not that that's bad of course, I use lots of French grip in addition to my primary American, and occasionally a tad bit of German).

And finally the buzz question: If you play a buzz roll that crescendo's from ppp to ff, you'd start with first finger fulcrum and only your index finger (2nd finger fulcrum would be a way too big/heavy/klunky tool for this level of finesse). As you crescendo and more pressure is needed you'd gradually add fingers one by one toward the back of the hand to easily add more pressure.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I think I understand what you are saying and my strokes follow much the same way as you describe. i do keep a gap between my index and thumb, but on my downstrokes I tend to have a very relaxed grip and push on the stick with my thumb towards the fulcrum, which is usually first finger, first knuckle. This way I'm holding it very firm at the point of impact, but I don't have to hold the stick very hard at all times. Using the index and thumb works best for finesse, like you said, but I tend to throw the stick with the wrist on the quarters or eighths which is sorta like a Moeller stroke, while finessing the sixteeths, etc. with my fingers.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I appreciate that you (Bill) can switch between the different techniques but I don't know if I even have one of them down correctly so I just stick to one at a time so it can develop.

I do naturally switch between german and french depending on where my right hand is though. Right now I'm realizing my fulcrum is shit - my thumb isn't even opposite the joint where the stick rests so I am trying to learn to hold my hand differently. I'm also noticing my thumb is bullying my index finger into an awkward position, sort of like a woman taking up more than half the bed and the guy is all the way on the edge.

It's definitely something we have to work out ourselves.

I saw Chris Dave the other week and he had this backwards flick thing going on with his right hand and it reminded me I used to do that naturally on the ride cymbal. There's always an exception to the rule (watching him play you'd know what I mean).

I don't really know if I'm contributing, I just want to fit in, haha.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I don't really know if I'm contributing, I just want to fit in, haha.

Ya, me too, more or less. I was hoping more people would find this topic interesting, but, then again, it's not about about shiny new stuff that was ordered online.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I think there is some misinformation about the fulcrum. I've heard many times, "I'm not holding the stick at the fulcrum point". Which is misinformation. There is no fulcrum point on the stick.
The fulcrum is defined as the part of the stick where the direction changes. This of course depends on the individual gripping the stick. It's not the balance point of the stick. The balance point of the stick and the fulcrum are 2 different things. Should you place the fulcrum at the balance point? I don't.

But back OT, technique is such an individualistic thing that I'm not sure there can ever be any majority agreement. For instance Dre...I bet you use all 3 techniques without even realizing it.

I never practice French grip per se but I use it on my ride (which is over my floor tom) because A. that's where my hand naturally wants to go, and B. I like the sound of the ride better with my thumb on top rather than on the side. Thankfully, I don't even realize I'm doing it.

Speaking of technique, particularly weak hand technique..I discovered not too long ago that the difference between my dominant hand and my weak hand...physically, it came down to my thumb. My weak hand thumb wasn't nearly as strong as my dominant hand thumb. Since the thumb is a big part of my technique, this information was very valuable to me. So I'm taking steps to correct that, but I didn't even realize for many years about the importance of a strong thumb. That's why I'm saying it here. But not everybody holds the stick like me so maybe that wouldn't apply to a lot of people. That's why technique threads are very hard to get a general consensus.

I like it when people just state how they work a stick, like Bill. This is how one guy does it. You may like it or you may not. But it works for Bill. That's info I can use.
 

vxla

Silver Member
I see no reason to change my fulcrum from pianissimo to fortissimo, but I came up through orchestral playing where everything is methodically practiced ad nauseum.

And finally the buzz question: If you play a buzz roll that crescendo's from ppp to ff, you'd start with first finger fulcrum and only your index finger (2nd finger fulcrum would be a way too big/heavy/klunky tool for this level of finesse). As you crescendo and more pressure is needed you'd gradually add fingers one by one toward the back of the hand to easily add more pressure.

That may work for you, but not for everyone.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I see no reason to change my fulcrum from pianissimo to fortissimo, but I came up through orchestral playing where everything is methodically practiced ad nauseum.

I see no reason to use terms like "pianissimo to fortissimo". It gives me regular nauseum.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
I use several grips

Trad, French, index or 3rd fulcrum.

It feels good shifting around during extended songs or late in the set when some fatigue sets in.

I naturally gap... and have for years. If you keep your grip loose I think that the gap occurs.

Loose grip is achieved when as you are say doing doubles and you look at the logos on your stick you should see the logos rolling around in both hands. That's loose. That's good. The death grip tightens the forearms and wrists and stifles the bounce.

Fulcrum points are determined by stick length, weight and the size of your hand. At least that's what I would assume.

I never really studied the grip, it sort of happened during those early years of drum pad lessons in Marching Corp. We had good instruction and while I can't remember exactly if that was even addressed... it probably was covered as our drum instructor was a solid rudiment drummer with a lot of know-how and he was extremely meticulous.
 

BillBachman

Gold Member
Also, I agree that there is no fulcrum on a stick, it's just a piece of wood. Where you place your fulcrum on that stick is of course important. You want it where the stick rebounds the most, that way nature/physics does more work and you do less.

On that note, people who play too tight usually choke up on the stick too far because that way there's less mass to manipulate out front. And they way to know that you're too far back (which will make playing things requiring downward pressure harder) is when you feel those vibrations in your back fingers. It's kind of like picking up an aluminum baseball bat on a cold winter day and hitting the side of a brick building. Yuck.
 

moxman

Silver Member
Thanks for the clear descriptions Bill.. I think you pretty much summed it up! Wrt to the other post about orchestral playing and not changing the grip..
.. Interesting because I used to play in orchestras and the snare drummer never played a buzz roll ( like the whipcream roll) . He always played pure double strokes and would open up his grip when playing fff.. and close it down when playing ppp. He got a really consistent sound.. So whatever works!
 
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