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So far I've just been learning matched grip for my snare and drumset playing, but I see of lot of people using traditional grip as well. I'm curious, what are some of the pros and cons of matched vs. traditional? Is it hard to develop them both at the same time? Where is traditional most commonly used and why?

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8 Answers 8

Traditional Grip Pros:

  • Very common in Marching Percussion
  • Looks 'cooler' (subjective)
  • Easy to play on a tilted drum, harder to play on a level drum.
  • Easier to play very soft as you are pulling the stick down instead of pushing it.

Traditional Grip Cons:

  • Harder to keep both of your Right and Left hand sounding the same.
  • Slightly more difficult to learn properly as it involves less common muscles and the motion is awkward to start out with.
  • Harder to move around and play different drums.

The pros and cons for Matched Grip are basically the opposite of those for traditional.


I am and advocate of learning matched first, and traditional later if you need/want to. I regularly play with both and my left hand is equally good in either grip, although it does take some extra effort to keep things that way.

Traditional grip is most commonly used in marching percussion because it is great for playing on a tilted drum (in fact, that's why it was invented). Many jazz drummers use traditional, but I've noticed that most of them switch to matched when they actually need to move around the kit.

It ultimately comes down to what works for you. :D

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It's mostly a feeling-thing. Traditional grip gives you a different kind of control, in my experience it allows finer nuances of sound: you can freely adjust the angle in which the stick hits the drumhead, and also the after-impact pressure – that's also possible in matched grip, but it feels less "integrated" to me. Apart from this, traditional keeps the left hand better out of the way of the right one; but this should not really be a problem anyway.

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The traditional grip was developed by marching drummers to accomodate a drum hanging from a strap at a steep angle. Trad grip was pretty much the only grip in the early days of "trap set" drumming, and remains popular in jazz. Having said that, Ian Froman is a jazz artist and teacher who wrote an article about this in Modern Drummer. He plays mostly trad grip, but would learn matched grip if he had the time, and he teaches matched grip. See also Billy Cobham, Simon Phillips, Carter Beauford, Lenny White et al, who play open-handed, i.e., they play the ride rhythm with the left hand on a right-handed kit - the advantages are that you don't have to cross your hands to play either a ride rhythm on the hihat or accents on the toms while riding. People usually play open-handed with matched grip as opposed to trad grip.

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I would think you would want to master the basic rudiments (particularly the rolls) with one grip first before tackling a second grip. So yes, I think it would be harder to learn them both at the "same" time. That said I learned both grips fairly early in my drumming journey and I'm glad I did. For whatever reason, I was more willing when I was younger to spend lots of time on technique and learning a new grip. I was taught traditional and learned matched when I started playing a kit. I used to always revert to traditional when I needed to do a roll. That got old, so I learned to roll with matched. To this day, I am still more comfortable rolling with trad. grip. Now when I play I'm always sliding between the two grips. Sometimes parts of a song compel me to go for traditional, sometimes matched so I like having the choice.

There is a video "Neil Peart: A Work in Progress", where he "reinvents" his drumming by learning trad. grip and playing with a more circular motion. I didn't find it very convincing but you might want to watch it to get his perspective.

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I don't even think Neil was all that convinced by the idea. I think he was just trying to shake himself up. In 1980 he said that he does rudiments with trad because that's how he learned, but he doesn't recommend other learn that way. On Anatomy of a drum solo, he goes back and forth between them. –  Hack Saw Aug 20 '11 at 4:30

I have nothing against traditional grip, but if you've made it so far without it, why change something if it ain't broken? Keep in mind why traditional grip came to be. When you know the history, you'll see how little sense it might actually make to learn it for a drumset player.

I'm not saying it's a bad technique, but are there enough real benefits for you personally to learn a new grip? How much time do you think it would take to get comfortable with it and what else could you achieve in that time. That's a question I would really ask myself before learning a whole new grip/technique.

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The same thing is true of learning matched grip after you've done traditional for many years. I agree that it doesn't make much sense to learn the other unless you are somehow unsatisfied with your current grip. :) –  Gordon Gustafson Oct 24 '12 at 21:05
    
Absolutely. Unless you're unsatisfied with your current grip or you feel you can gain so much more from another grip, there are many more things I would put my time into before learning another grip. Obviously mastering both has never hurt anyone, but as most of us have limited amount of hours, I would seriously compare the benefits you get from learning a new grip vs. improving your current abilities. –  Timo Häkkinen Oct 25 '12 at 5:16

I am a band director with a degree in percussion performance and played and taught Drum and Bugle corp a long time. I am an expert on drumming rudiments. I first learned traditional grip and later switched to matched grip. I now use both of grips, because each has its own advantages.

Traditional Grip: it is easier to produce a double or multiple bounce with the left in this grip, because the the weight of the hand is mostly under the stick and this allows the response to happen easily. This is only true for a right handed person. Also, it is easier to cross over when playing multiple drums or cymbals, because one hand holds from underneath the stick while the other is over the top and this means there is less interference as the hands cross over each other. Furthermore, it must be remembered that when the drum set came about the traditional grip was it and the drum set is set up for it. That is why some drummers now play the Hi Hat with the left hand (maatched grip), so they can avoid crossing the sticks and get more power on the snare. This is a non issue with traditional grip. Another advantage of traditional grip is that it allows you to tilt your snare drum toward the mounted toms and shortens the distance allowing for quicker changes.

The downside of traditional grip is that is takes longer to develop so that both hands have equal strength and endurance. With traditional grip, your left hand has less reach so if you have an extensive set up it can prove prohibitive.

The advantages of matched grip are obvious. It is easier to develop strength, power and endurance and is easier to facilitate reaching around a large set up. The downside is that, because of the many more muscles involved is takes longer to learn left hand subtlety on graces notes and multiple bounce patterns. It is also harder to cross over in playing multiple surfaces.

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Would a matched grip avoid some of the issues you mentioned if the drummer is using a "remote hi hat clutch"? –  The Chaz 2.0 Sep 18 '13 at 4:17

The over-riding pro I have for matched grip mainly pertains to novice players, in that it is easier to allow the weaker hand (traditionally the left .. no pun intended) to echo the right. I'm often telling students who have good right hand technique to use that as a model for the left.

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There are some techniques that can only really be done in matched (freehand), other things that can only be done in traditional (lots of brush stuff, certain finger control techniques).

The greatest benefit of traditional grip is that you can vary the angle of attack between the drumstick and whatever surface you're playing on (therefore changing the sound) in a way that would be entirely impractical in a Germanic style grip and all but impossible in a French style grip. The biggest thing going for matched grip is the accuracy to which you can mirror what each hand is doing so that both are consistent.

You could literally write a book about all the intricate little differences. What it comes down to though, is that traditional grip gives a totally different feel versus matched grip. Neither method is the "correct" way to play drums, and each has their place. When you get to the point where you are proficient at both styles you'll begin to see where and when to use each one.

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