There's a wonderful thread What are the pros and cons of Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip for snare and drumset?. Are any of the points mentioned there different in the case of a leftie?

In particular, my twelve-year-old leftie learned matched, and has never tried traditional. Oddly enough, his left stroke is not as strong as his right, and this causes some problems with some of his rudiments. He tends to practice his rudiments starting with the right hand. When I am able to convince him to start with the left, that seems to help somewhat.

Basically I'm looking for percussionists and drummers only to respond, and I'd like the responders to read the linked thread first. Thanks.

  • 1
    Has he tried playing on a 'right-handed' kit? As long as he comes back in on beat at the end of a drum break, it shouldn't make a lot of difference. In fact, holding the sticks in either way won't influence what you describe. Sounds like eventually, he'll be able to lead with either hand - not a bad thing.
    – Tim
    Sep 21, 2015 at 7:51
  • Pretty much all musicians have to learn to train both hands to do their "jobs." While there have been a few lefties who stubbornly insist on playing guitars backwards, you'll never see a bowed-instrument player to that route. Similarly, lefty vs. righty for a pianist has no meaning. Sep 21, 2015 at 11:59
  • 1
    @CarlWitthoft - there was a (rich) guy who did have a left-handed piano made. I mentioned it a couple of years ago, but, sorry, can't remember in what specific connection. Interesting that while violins et al are all played right-handed, if you call it that (!) guitars are handed preferentially.
    – Tim
    Sep 21, 2015 at 20:12
  • @Tim - His drumset is standard. My comment about the rudiments was just in the context of practice pad (ersatz snare drum). Sep 22, 2015 at 5:01

2 Answers 2


Many of the referenced thread's pros and cons of a trad grip for a right handed player still hold true for a left handed player, namely a trad grip for a leftie would still look subjectively cool, and would still make it easier to play softly, as much as that is ever true. It will still be tricky to maintain balance, and will create similar obstacles in moving around a set.

The differences depend on whether he does the trad grip with his right or left hand, and I would suggest trying the trad grip with the left hand for a few reasons:

  • If he ever wants to march, he will match his bandmates (this may not just be a nice-to-have, it may be required)
  • I think it would be easier to do the more awkward underhanded grip with his dominant hand. You may ask, if so why didn't traditional evolve this way? I would argue that it's less awkward to drum with your left palm up than to march with a drum resting on your dominant leg.
  • Since he's playing a right-handed set he can look to plenty of successful examples who have done this before, and he'd still be conveniently set up to play the hi-hat with his dominant left with no crossover issues. LH trad on a RH set could certainly also be made to work, but he would have to figure some things out on his own without as many examples. This could be a good or bad thing depending on the style he's pursuing.
  • Your second point is exactly right - that's why traditional has the odd left hand. Having a drum hang over your right leg is really uncomfortable and makes your first step (leading with left foot) really off.
    – Josiah
    Jan 21, 2016 at 15:25

I teach ancient style snare on old rope drums, so we only do traditional. I can't comment on the pros and cons of each for lefties, but I have noticed that they pick up the traditional grip more easily than righties. Last night I had a first lesson with a pair of twins, one righty and one lefty. It was obvious the lefty "got" the grip much more quickly than his brother.

It seems that after that initial moment, the challenges are pretty similar - retrograde motion is just as difficult, bouncing seems to depend on the student more than the dominant hand, stick control just takes time.

I would suggest that unless you're playing on a sloped head, the difference in power between the hands probably won't be resolved by changing grip. The best thing is to play your most basic rudiments (start really basic - singles and long roll) with your eyes closed and really listen for evenness at every speed. Then record yourself playing them and listen. Do daily for a couple weeks and it will probably clear up.

/* What follows worked for me, and I'm pretty sure that it's not a good idea. The concept could probably be applied in a safer way. I have not used this method with any of my students, but I believe the concept is sound: balance the hands by building hand strength independently. Below the picture you can see exercises I use with my own students. */

I really struggled getting my left hand to perform well, my wrist was really stiff and tired easily. My instructor installed an old rusty socket on a stick for my left hand, along the lines of one of these. When I switched back to my regular sticks a few weeks later, my stamina (and flamacue) was immensely improved. I've never done this with any of my students, as I'm concerned about repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), but it certainly worked very well in my case. He later also made each of us a "stick" from 1/2 inch steel dowel (smooth, not rebar) for stamina building, 500 on a hand. I still use it periodically for a workout.


If you determine that the problem is either strength or stamina, here are some exercises I use:

  • Use different weight sticks (probably heavier) for a week. The change seems to reset the autopilot and help players focus on sound and feeling.
  • Play on a pillow. This builds wrist strength since there's no rebound. A bowl of water also works well but it potentially messy.
  • All on one hand, either bucks (soft LOUD soft LOUD) or just straight beats, at a steady tempo (140-180bpm) for either a time limit (3 minutes) or a number (600), depending on age.
  • Old style long roll (pre-1850s), where the second stroke on each hand (rebound) is accented.
  • Roll as fast as possible (cleanly) without bouncing.
  • In all cases, daily practice is necessary to be most effective.

Then, once the hands are stronger than they "need" to be for general playing, focus on listening to balance the hands. Eventually this will become second nature.

  • Use two different style sticks and make them sound as even as possible. Perfection won't be possible, but the exercise helps to focus on the problem.
  • Close eyes and play simple rudiments while focusing only on sound. The teacher can make a sound (click for example) when they can identify the hand that is playing without looking.
  • Record rudiments and listen to yourself.
  • Play on something that isn't a drum, like a countertop, and try to even the sticks.
  • All these should be done slower than normal and on a pad, not a drum.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.