Grip and finger length

DrumDoug

Senior Member
I was perusing around the web and came across an article about finger length. Apparently most men have a shorter index finger than ring finger. My index finger on the other hand is about half an inch longer than my ring finger. This got my thinking about drumstick grip. A lot of teachers tell you to place the stick in the first joint of your index finger. I have always found that very uncomfortable and hard to control. After reading this article, I wondered if this is because my index finger is so much longer than that of the average male. Assuming all other fingers are in relatively the same place in the grip, the first joint of my index finger would be further down and I would either have to straighten my index finger out past my thumb to get the stick to that first joint, or let the stick fall more away from my palm, which feels very much out of control. If I use my other fingers and have the stick touching my palm my first joint hangs well past the stick.

Do any of you guys who play first joint have a longer index finger? Or do you find first joint comfortable and natural because your index finger is shorter? Is there anybody else out there with a longer index finger? Where does the stick feel most comfortable to you? My stick usually ends up either between the fist and second joint or all the way up in the second.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I don’t think Drum teachers should be instructing students to place the stick at the first joint of the index finger until they have observed the students hands; And evaluated how the student would naturally hold the stick.

My index finger is exactly the same length as my ring finger. I hold the stick between my thumb and my index finger right at the second joint of my index finger. Holding the stick at the first joint of the index finger would not work for me.


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8Mile

Platinum Member
I'm no teacher, but I feel like individual anatomy has to be a factor in things like grip. We just aren't all made exactly the same.
 

trickg

Silver Member
For me, it's not so much that my index finger is shorter than my ring finger, it's just placed lower on the palm of my hand - the fingers themselves are the same length.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
teachers who overthink this stuff should not be teachers

stop thinking about finger joints and hold the stick where it is comfortable and where you will be able to manipulate and motivate the stick to produce the desired sound

that is all technique is ... it's being able to motivating the stick to produce a desired sound .. that's it ... nothing more

if I can produce my desired sound with the sticks in my armpits then that is my technique

no ones hands ... or arm pits ... are the same
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Man I think there is a lot of overthinking and getting caught up in "technique" or a stereotypical pattern-yet reality plenty of pros have, what many would classify, as poor technique. I've been enamored with jazz and for some time now been working on various things trying to stereotype jazz really into a category that I just do these things I can play it-ignoring the reality of what I was really listening to. This video was an epiphany and I realize how what I was doing was all wrong-I was trying to simplify it to a "pattern". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PlVCNxnNEU Which don't get me wrong the spangalang pattern is a great place to start-but it's just a start. So now I've been working on just listening and responding to the music.
 

trickg

Silver Member
It's amazing how over-analysis can screw things up in music. I see it all the time on trumpet player forums - not only with technique, but with gear too.

When I was doing my best playing as a trumpet player (during my years as an active duty Army trumpet player) I was doing a fair amount of work on technique, but my practice was always results based - the adjustments I was making were to try to dial in sound, control, and cleanliness in my playing, and I wasn't thinking about it in a mechanical way. Sometimes the only way a person can dial in technique is to just work on it a lot in a focused way. Granted, a person can have some bad habits sometimes that can thwart advancement, but just as often, if a player is putting in the time and working in a focused way making the necessary adjustments, the mechanical aspect of technique improves all by itself in a very natural way.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
It's amazing how over-analysis can screw things up in music. I see it all the time on trumpet player forums - not only with technique, but with gear too.

When I was doing my best playing as a trumpet player (during my years as an active duty Army trumpet player) I was doing a fair amount of work on technique, but my practice was always results based - the adjustments I was making were to try to dial in sound, control, and cleanliness in my playing, and I wasn't thinking about it in a mechanical way. Sometimes the only way a person can dial in technique is to just work on it a lot in a focused way. Granted, a person can have some bad habits sometimes that can thwart advancement, but just as often, if a player is putting in the time and working in a focused way making the necessary adjustments, the mechanical aspect of technique improves all by itself in a very natural way.
nothing ever typed on this forum will ever be as true as the statement above in bold


an enormous problem with the "technique" discussion regarding any instrument is that no one ever mentions that it is nothing more than a means to an end and it is almost never taken into consideration that what worked for one may not work for the other... at least not without an unnecessary amount of effort

these things are often forced upon younger players without even considering letting them find their way with guidance and adjusting what they discover to be natural

people get so caught up in the name brand "technique" and what the latest hottest DVD says that they forget what technique actually is and get caught up in a bunch of "rights" and "wrongs" that actually do not exist

as I said earlier ... technique is motivating the stick, brush or beater to produce a desired sound ... that's it ... absolutely nothing more ... zero.

we should be adjusting our technique based on our ears not our eyes ... if it is not something that will cause injury ... which very few things actually will ... then develop your sound based on what your limbs feel to be natural

it's like teachers got so stuck in this mode of ... this technique has been around for this amount of time so you HAVE to use it and we are going to spend five months forcing it upon you... hogwash ... horrible teacher ...

I find so many teacher to be lazy and want to teach each student the same way and have them play the same way as far as stick motivation ... which is great for me because I end up getting a lot of those students when they get fed up with that teacher and leave

based on this video ... if these forums existed back then Kenny would have been ripped to shreds for his left hand "technique"

someone please tell Kenny Clarke he is doing it "wrong"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4c7SmAAiMg&list=LLAvgPUOKuki46TTo17GtNDw&index=10&t=0s
 
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TMe

Senior Member
I don't think over analysis is the problem so much as advocating a "one size fits all" solution.

To find the grip that works best, you might want to learn a bunch of different grips and techniques first. Then you'll probably find yourself using different grips in different situations without even thinking about it.

If you get married to one specific approach, it's pretty difficult to develop your own unique style.

I was taught German grip and wasted a lot of time before finally realizing it's probably the worst grip I could use.

Some people are intuitive enough that they go straight to their natural grip(s) without giving it any thought. Most of us aren't so lucky.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
I don't think over analysis is the problem so much as advocating a "one size fits all" solution.

To find the grip that works best, you might want to learn a bunch of different grips and techniques first. Then you'll probably find yourself using different grips in different situations without even thinking about it.

If you get married to one specific approach, it's pretty difficult to develop your own unique style.

I was taught German grip and wasted a lot of time before finally realizing it's probably the worst grip I could use.

Some people are intuitive enough that they go straight to their natural grip(s) without giving it any thought. Most of us aren't so lucky.
I feel like as soon as you start attaching names like "German" "French" "American" bla bla bla ... you are so unnecessarily making thins so cumbersome (not YOU ... the collective "you")


in my 19 years of teaching I've never met one student who cared about what these things are called ... and that the name of his grip changed when he twisted his wrist one inch

it's completely silly

let them play how they are comfortable then suggest things like turning your thumb up to play the ride cymbal and floor tom because it is natural ...

so many teachers will sit students down in the very first lesson and start talking about ... ok this is "german" this is " french" bla bla bla ... so amazingly pointless that it's not even funny ...

the minutia is exhausting

the secret to teaching is hiding the vitamins in the in the candy ... not boring them to death with meaningless names of things

they will eventually pick all those pointless names up as their journey progresses

I have found that the majority of students learn best visually ... Inner Game Of Tennis style ... if we play naturally and relaxed in front of them they will pick up on it and find similar things that work for them and we will guide them along the way
 
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trickg

Silver Member
Great post WIT! The one-size-fits-all approach hurts a lot of players.

When you stop and look across the spectrum of pro players out there - and it can be on almost any instrument - they all are doing it differently, but they are doing what WORKS FOR THEM!

Here's a non-musical, but related example. My son was taking a typing class in HS, and his teacher kept dinging him and giving him grief because he wasn't typing according to the "home row" method, but rather, his hands tend to float all over the keyboard. My son developed his typing technique playing World of Warcraft - if you wanted to chat with the other players, you had to type quickly, so he developed in a very natural way that worked for him.

I went back and forth with the teacher. His argument was based on the idea that "most" kids won't be able to type very quickly if they don't use the "home row" method, but the conversation ultimately went kind of like this:

Me: Well, how fast does my son type?

Him: He's typing about 90 words per minute.

Me: How fast do you type?

Him: Well....I type about 60 words per minute.

Me: Seriously? Stop giving him grief - grade on the results rather than whether or not his technique is "correct" - seems to me his technique is more "correct" than yours.

He got into it with his HS guitar teacher too. My son will sometimes fret the top string on his guitar (the low E string) with his thumb over the top side of the neck. His teacher kept trying to get him to stop, saying that it was "wrong." That argument worked until my son pulled up a video of Hendrix on his phone, and he asked his teacher if Jimmi was doing it wrong.

I should also point out that at the time, although his teacher was better (at the time) at finger picking, there was a ton of stuff my son could do that his teacher couldn't. Eventually they developed a relationship that was less of a teacher/student relationship and more like that of colleagues, simply because my son kicks @$$ on the guitar. :)

Anyway, bringing this back to the whole idea of technique, I know that there are things I could improve, but I tend to structure my practice towards music and sound rather than the mechanical aspects of playing. My technique continues to improve, but it develops naturally as I continue to try to be a better, more musical drummer.

One more story - my daughter dated this kid for about 10 minutes who is/was a drummer. He thought he was hot stuff and loves the chops aspect of playing. Trouble is, he was sacrificing musicality (time/tempo/dynamics) for the sake of trying to show off all of the flashy tricks he thought he could play. I tried to gently nudge him in a more musical direction when he was over at my house talking shop, but he wouldn't listen to me - in his mind, because he could play faster and could play some tricks I couldn't (he's also a double bass player - I don't do that.) he thought he was better than me.

Fast forward a few years, and he came to audition for the National Guard band I'm in. He wasn't even close to being able to pass a screening AMPA (Army Musician Proficiency Assessment) because his time was awful - he couldn't play basic beats and fills with a backing track. He thought he was just going to dazzle everyone with the flash, but musically he was a train wreck.

Technique outside of the lens of musicality is useless IMO.
 

cornelius

Silver Member
To answer the OP - if your hands don’t like first joint index fulcrum - use second joint, or middle finger, pinky - whatever feels good.

The only time I get into technique with someone, is if what they’re currently doing is holding them back. But I never touch someone’s hands and place this finger here and that finger there...

It would be unfortunate if we all held the sticks the same way and all got the same sound...
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
To answer the OP - if your hands don’t like first joint index fulcrum - use second joint, or middle finger, pinky - whatever feels good.

The only time I get into technique with someone, is if what they’re currently doing is holding them back. But I never touch someone’s hands and place this finger here and that finger there...

It would be unfortunate if we all held the sticks the same way and all got the same sound...

100%
..................
 

n1ck

Member
I think the answer is a little more in the grey than it is the black or white (surprise surprise).

Of course it's stupid to make everyone conform to one EXACT technique. And of course it's stupid to elevate technique above music.

But it's not stupid to TEACH technique and use names for things that have existed for (in some cases) hundreds of years. Saying that's stupid is what's stupid.

Particularly when teaching beginning students, names and words can be tremendously helpful. My teacher from 6th grade to 12th grade was an old army drummer, and I can assure you he told me the correct names for everything. And now I'm awesome and have great hands.

But seriously (even though I do have great hands), there's a time and place for techniques and names, and there's a time to let kids explore on their own. Both things can exist.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Yep saw the video of Tony Williams explaining his grip and Gavin is right it does sound cleaner and louder-one of the reasons I think Tony's double stroke so impressive. I note the thread about hitting in center too. Seems the point its really it's all of it isn't it-you move hand up and down the stick, different grips (different fingers), you hit center and off center, just like hitting a cymbal different place different ways. Seems like there is always someone telling you there is only one way to skin and cat-and I can tell you from experience in cat lab dissection there's a bunch LOL.
 
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