[JPL] Drum Grips

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 30 12:32:25 EST 2006

I was asked a very good drumming question off the list but I thought I would also share my answer with the JPL. It's totally a drumming question about the "grips" - matched vs traditional - but I thought some might find this info interesting.........in how it relates to jazz............my answer... 
  Funny. That is now probably the most asked question in drumming.....which grip is better or are there differences? Well, personally, I'm a "traditional" grip player....and since I'm right handed the left stick rests across the palm of the left hand and in between the middle and fourth finger - counting from your thumb. This position is important - particularly in jazz - and I'll explain more later in this note. The right hand position is over the stick. I'm from that generation of drummers that ultilized the traditional grip, like Tony, Elvin, Buddy, Steve Gadd, Vinnie, Steve Smith, etc...they are or were all traditional grip players. One of the first true great match grip players and certainly one that set a standard with this technique is Billy Cobham. Today most play "matched" grip for the simple reason it's easier to teach. Both hands in the same position. The second reason is that you get more of a linear feel this way in ideas ....which is the way most most music is
 played today......except jazz and there is the problem.
  One of the most fundamental problems with the match grip is you lose a good degree of the triplet push and pull "flow" and dynamic range in the stroke. These elements are obviously of paramount importance in jazz. Since jazz is based on a triplet and swing feel - having the left hand "over" the stick like in the matched position - hampers your ability to control your accenting and dynamic capabilities. Matched grip players are also consistently louder than traditional players because of this. In straight eighth note playing like rock this isn't an issue. You lose much of the nuances of the "jazz" stroke in the matched position. Many will tell you that there really is no difference but they would be mistaken. I've gotten so where I can hear a matched grip player a mile away and in jazz it really sticks out to me...no pun intended. 
  Now there are very good matched grip players in jazz like Bill Stewart, Eric Harland and a few others but even with them I hear it in their strokes. Plus, I can tell they are also good traditional players but for some reason they prefer the match technique. Because they are good traditional players they can hear the jazz triplet concept even when they play with the matched position. It's a complex thing to explain...even to drummers but trust me there is a difference and it's gotten to a place with me where it's become annoying when I hear it in jazz. Yep, there's another matched grip player. It's funny because my bass player came to me about a month ago and said that now he's hearing the same thing in drummers that play with the match grip. He can now hear what I'm talking about. You tend to get more of a "rock" feel with the match position and sadly many can't hear this. I'll switch to match grip when I'm playing funk,latin or rock (straight eighth note concepts) but in
 jazz it's always traditional grip. Hope that answered your question.  
  Jae Sinnett

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