Traditional vs. Matched Grip – The Paradiddler’s Take

by Omar on January 2, 2009

in Editorials, Education

What’s this? Yet another article and opinion on traditional vs. matched grip? Will it ever end? Maybe not! But what’s wrong with that? That only inspires innovation and creativity.

As sort of a preface, let me give you a little background. As I’ve mentioned previously (go ahead, check my previous blog entries if you haven’t already!), my drumming influences growing up all used matched grip – all of them: Neil Peart, Alex Van Halen, Alan White, Peter Criss, and so on. When I was a wee little lad I didn’t even know there was another way to hold sticks – no other way was even logical. You hold the sticks the same way, then both hands can pretty much do the same thing. Eventually, of course, I did see drummers hold the sticks differently, even if I didn’t know it had a name. I always wondered why some drummers held sticks that way (traditionally speaking).

Then I started noticing more drummers, particularly in jazz, using the traditional grip, and I couldn’t understand it. What benefit was there to hold the stick that way? When I had a chance to try both grips, the traditional grip was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t stand it! Mind you, I never took lessons, even to this day (which I’m working on, actually – more on that in a future article), so I never had someone teach me the nuances of the traditional grip. When I got a drum set in my teens, you guessed it: matched grip all the way.

Well I couldn’t just ignore the huge amount of fantastic drummers that only used traditional grip (or at least used it most of the time). We have the “problem” of arguably the best drummer of all time, Buddy Rich, playing the traditional grip almost exclusively. He did at times use matched grip, but for the most part it was traditional. Anybody gonna argue with him as to what grip was better? Steve Smith, currently one of my favorite drummers, swears by traditional grip as well, even though on occasion he too switches to matched grip.

So really, what’s the deal with traditional grip? Now this is history anybody can look up, but to save you, my precious reader, some time, I’m going to sum it up, if you don’t know it already. The traditional grip was a solution to the problem marching drummers had way back when who slung the drum over the right shoulder, thus having the drum hang over their left side. In actuality, matched grip was used first, so it really is the traditional grip!

But I digress. When the drum was slung over on the left side, it was difficult to use the same grip on the left hand as the right. The left elbow had to come up considerably so that the drum head could be struck properly. To alleviate the left-handed grip, the “traditional” grip was devised for the left hand where the butt of the stick rested in the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and index finger, and the rest of the stick continued through the middle and ring finger, with support from the index finger folded in. This allowed the left arm to rest more comfortably on the side, and thereby allowing easier control of both sticks on the drum.

As time passed, and drum kits started to pop up, this “traditional” grip stuck around, and with the jazz scene increasing, this was the grip of choice. There were a lot of fantastic drummers using this grip, and I don’t think it was questioned very much.

The matched grip, although used, was not the popular grip of choice until most likely about the time that Ringo Starr came around with The Beatles. We know how popular they were, so more aspiring drummers started using the matched grip more extensively. And as time went on, more and more drummers from the rock scene were adopting the matched grip, while the traditional grip remained more popular in jazz.

In analyzing the above, what can we conclude about why the traditional grip came to exist at all? It was a solution to a problem, the problem being the slanted hanging drum on the left side of the drummer. Naturally speaking, the matched grip is a more comfortable grip for the hands. The total amount of muscles used for matched grip exceeds the amount used for traditional grip, which actually allows for more flexibility. This is especially true in a drum kit setting. You will notice that for some drummers that play with the traditional grip, they slant their snare drum a bit to accommodate the grip they’re using. You’ll also notice that for most forms of percussion that require sticks or mallets, matched grip is almost exclusively used.

So why is the traditional grip still used? Why do so many drum teachers still emphasize it? Well, it’s tradition! Generation after generation have taught it, and I believe it won’t go away, nor should it, for reasons I'll discuss shortly.

I am of the strong belief that if you’re going to learn how to play drums, you should start off with the matched grip. It simply gives you more options around a kit than does the traditional grip. The traditional grip is more specialized, and if you really, really want to learn it, then by all means, do so! But not at the expense of the matched grip.

I’ve heard (and we’ve all heard) arguments from both sides as to why this grip is better than that grip, real drummers play traditional grip, and the like. Me personally, the matched grip has more advantages. I’ll just name a couple. One, it is easier to play “open handed,” or using your left hand to play the hi-hat using matched grip, than with traditional grip. This opens up a whole range of playing options that are just too difficult to pull off with the traditional grip. I think that’s a huge a benefit. Another advantage is that the traditional grip somewhat limits your reach of drums and/or cymbals on you left side (or right side if you're a lefty drummer), which would be reached easier if you’re playing with a matched grip. This is especially true for drummers that have many percussive instruments in their kits all around them.

I concede that, if you get really, really good, a drummer with a traditional grip can play exceedingly well, and there are many drummers using traditional grip that are stellar. This grip may allow for a little more nuance in playing, possibly for ghost notes for instance. Some drummers also cite that when they play with the traditional grip, they seem more inspired and play more instinctively. But then again, some of those play matched grip as well!

A good drummer will have as many “tools” in their “toolbox” as possible that will make them a better player. Although I advocate more emphasis on matched grip, there’s nothing wrong at all with learning the traditional grip as well; it’s just that I wouldn’t learn it at the expense or in lieu of the matched grip. Learn it, play it if and when it feels right, then switch back to matched when need be. It also depends on the music being played. Jazz tends to lend itself to playing traditional grip due to the nuances required, and usually it is not played with a lot of force. Compare that to rock, or metal, where playing matched grip is almost a must due to the force needed to play those genres of music (although Stewart Copeland makes a great case for playing traditional grip with force – read “Taken to School, Reprise”).

So what can we conclude? I believe that if anything at all can make you a better drummer, then by all means strive to get better at that. With all being said, I have absolutely no problem with using traditional grip. I think it looks really cool! I am focusing on my matched grip playing now, and developing hand speed and working on certain rudiments. But when I get that down pat, I’m going to add the traditional grip to my “toolbox,” because although I don’t think it mandatory, I do think it a great addition to my repertoire. I also think it a great addition to all drummers' repertoire!

I would love to hear your take on this topic as well, so feel free to let me know what you think about it. Maybe I left something out, so let me know! All comments welcome.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Cedric January 25, 2017 at 3:07 am

Wow, I just read this article, and then all of the comments! I had to chime in. I learned to play using matched grip, and I can play traditional… but after breaking my left arm, I only play matched grip anymore. The way my arm set back makes playing traditional grip incredibly painful for me. I will concede that it is a bit easier to play ghost notes with a traditional grip, but everything else becomes more tedious (for me at least). Contrary to popular opinion among snobby drummers, you can easily and accurately play ghost notes with a matched grip. So what’s the big deal?

Finally, Buddy Rich was a phenomenal drummer, but he was also a jerk, so who cares what he thinks? It’s my opinion that he championed traditional grip in an effort to discourage new drummers. Can you imagine how many drummers have given up over the years because they couldn’t play traditional grip?


Omar January 25, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Hey Cedric.

Good points by you! Traditional grip is really not necessary; it really is just a holdover from another time. I don’t have anything against it (I try it sometimes, but for fun), but if anyone insists on traditional grip, I would just move along from them. Even Steve Smith came out with a recent instructional video emphasizing matched grip, and he’s a traditional grip king!

I wrote an article on this site in a similar vein called “Your Way Is the Right Way” – I think you’ll enjoy that one as well, Cedric.

Thanks for the feedback! 👍


David November 26, 2016 at 11:42 pm

I first started to lean how to play the drums in 1971 . My drum teacher preached to me the orthodox or traditional way as the only way . I have never and will never play any other way . I look at it this way if Buddy Rich , who arguably was the greatest drummer of all times preached orthodox it must be right .


Chuck October 25, 2016 at 3:46 pm

It’s 2016, I’m 52 years old and I was alive and playing when the big switch from traditional to matched grip took place. It was when the double/over the shoulder harness with the waist bumper was first invented and marching snare drums went from slanted, and a bit on the left side of you, to flat, and directly in the middle.

I started marching in high school in ’77 and during my freshman year we used a shoulder sling and played traditional grip, but it was only out of necessity. My sophomore year, we got a hip new band teacher who was able to get us new snare drums and the new shoulder harness style snare drum carriers. He required us to ditch traditional grip and play matched. ALL of the drum corps had made the switch. ALL of the up and coming drummers of that time period played matched grip. Since traditional grip has it’s usefulness in visuals, we would use it for certain twirls, flips, juggling, line clicks and such, but for the most part, matched grip was used by everyone, including the formally trained. The old school jazz drummers and some funk guys kept using traditional grip, but that was it.

I went on to college and majored in percussion performance during the early 80’s and I was NEVER required nor was it even suggested to me to play traditional grip at any time other than as I said before, for the sake of visuals. Other than playing with brushes, because “stirring the soup” is easier to perform using traditional grip, I have no use for traditional grip. There is not even one other percussion instrument which requires any other grip than matched. The bass drums, quads, timpani’s, and mallets all play with matched grip. The reason why is obvious.

But who am I and what do I know? In my younger days I reached a level of performance where I took master class lessons from the great Ed Thigpen, Carmine Appice, and Tony Williams, just to name a few, and I played a drum battle with Louie Bellson. I play matched grip, I almost always have and I can still play paradiddles faster than a store bought metronome can go.

A person’s preferred grip is just that…it’s their preference. Buddy rich didn’t develop blazing hand speed over night and I don’t believe he reached his level of performance due exclusively to his grip. He mastered the grip he preferred, and in that, he was able to reach his level of performance in part…just because of WHO HE WAS…he was a freak of nature! Michael Jordan was to basketball what Buddy Rich is to drumming, a phenomenon. If traditional grip alone was able to produce faster hand speed, it would be provable and everyone would use it for the obvious benefit. And…you wouldn’t just use it with your left hand, you’d use it with both hands and rearrange your kit to accommodate this superior grip. None of this has happened.

Fast forward to the mid 90’s and my sons are in beginning band class. Much to my surprise, the snare drummers are using traditional grip. I question people why and nobody can give me an answer. I do a little research and find articles like this one. Btw…thanks for writing it!

One of my great influences is Neil Peart. He gave traditional grip a try for a while, and although he has become somewhat proficient at it, for the most part, he still plays matched grip.

Some people say you can’t really play jazz the way it was meant to be played unless you play using traditional grip. My first response is, wanna bet? My second reply is…who cares? How many jazz drumming gigs have you landed lately? I have played a thousand paying rock, pop, blues, and country shows. I’ve even played a handful of paying polka gigs, but I have never played a single paying jazz gig in my life. Even if I had, do you think the folks in the audience would give a rip how I hold my drumsticks?

Play on…!!!


Omar October 25, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Chuck, I don’t think I could’ve said it better myself!

I think some folks need to realize that what’s called “traditional grip” came to be out of necessity – not out of convenience. If the marchers of old had created a harness for holding the marching drum right in front of you, what we know now as “traditional grip” would’ve never come to be.

In saying that, I’m not against traditional grip. I use it sparingly to entertain myself really, but in the end, matched grip is the way to go.

You’re comment was inspiring to me, so I also say to you: play on!


Gene September 17, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Traditional gives you more options when using brushes, etc. It also allows for better control when using emphasis. I was always taught that matched grip is lazy and is used mostly for power. For most performances, use traditional, esp. snare.
But, to each his own.


GK April 27, 2016 at 11:24 am

If anyone claims that traditional grip is superior, then ask them to hold both sticks that way.


Jules February 25, 2016 at 10:15 pm

I feel like you should teach traditional grip first then matched because the transition is easier. Personally I found going from matched to traditional a complete pain in my ass. Also, I feel traditional gives a sharper crisper sound on the snare while matched makes it soft and lazy with hit techniques.


Atin Dasgupta May 16, 2014 at 2:01 am

I think its all about comfort and whether the drummer has an obsessive compulsive attitude towards such things. A person with OCD will spend endless hours ruminating about whether he is doing the right thing by playing his preferred stroke and will try to surf the net trying to find articles that will strengthen his case in his mind! It happens to the best of us. Me, as a learner I am just enjoying playing drums and trying to get better with every passing day.


Omar May 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I agree Atin. Just try to get better every day, enjoying every step and not worrying too much about the specifics. Just have fun!


Frank September 2, 2014 at 12:09 am

I learned using the traditional grip years and years ago. That was the prevailing method at the time.. Since then, I have also used matched grip in certain situations. Some may consider my preference biased because of my early instruction, but I can honestly say that, for me, playing brushes is so much better and easier with the traditional grip because of the circles and nuances that can be produced. There is a certain pressure from the brush as the left hand circles the drumhead that occurs in only one spot because of the way the left hand holds the brush with the traditional grip. Try as I might, I cannot replicate this with a matched grip myself.


Jasbat March 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Well, I play marched grip like the majority of us. But I thing traditional grip is just a different tool.
The both grips are tools that have to be mastered in order to be a good drummer (by me). I’ve seen Gadd played open-handed in traditional; it was impressive, not just because it’s Steve God but also cause of the logical speed gain on the HH. When you hold your left stick the traditional way, you do a twisting motion so you get more control of nuances and, if it’s your weaker hand like for most of us, a balance of speed ans strength. When you hold your left stick the “ancient-modern” way, you gain more access around a standard set-up… and remember : German, American, “Timpani” and French grip are all matched-grip. so you have more possibilities within the “matched family”.
But you can set-up your drums for the traditional grip as well, in fact I may be wrong but I think it’s crucial if you don’t want your left hand to play snare only. Most jazz drummers play traditional cause they are not self-taught by many, when most rock drummers are.
The intuitive way to hold drumsticks, and the more easy to begin with as well, is the matched grip. I remember me giggling around the surface of a big book randomly (my first practice pad) with my first pair of sticks. The frustration I had to not be able of any control with the matched grip! I knew the traditional one but… It felt like it was a magical technique. And now I feel like it will be a great tool… Once you mastered it, it’s like everything, I think you start to see the nuances in the opportunities… Like grip-switching during a song, and know when it’s better to play traditional (example : snare solo, playing jazz, marching) and when it’s not (big fill all around, playing rock or timpani). That’s my two cents… The las thing is about how much time you play with this or that grip. If you began with traditional cause your first teacher forced you to do so, then you’ll probably continue to be naturally more comfortable with traditional. But if you began with the matched-grip, it’s simply versa : your reflex will be to play matched. Voilà.


Tim January 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Disclaimer: I’m not really a drummer at all, just banged around a couple of times. But it occurs to me that you can get faster response combined with great power when also needed, because instead of moving your forearm, wrist or hand through space, you’re mostly just twisting your forearm-wrist and this works with trad. grip but couldn’t with match grip. It conserves energy without sacrificing power, especially if you want to be drumming as fast and as ‘nuanced’ as people like Buddy Rich. But I’ve never seen this mentioned by anyone in discussion.

Glad to see someone advocating for the easier and more popular grip style, makes total amateurs like me feel better.


Ray December 1, 2012 at 2:30 am

Using Traditional or Matched grip is like using any techinque as you would use for other musical instrument. The violin has an awkward technique, Playing the cello has an awkward techniqe and neither oe is wrong.

When you learn to play a musical instrument, it requires you to play that instrument a certain way. The drums work the same way. While neither drum technique is incorrect, it still is a skill that can be mastered with lessons and alot of practice.


Stuart Goodall September 29, 2012 at 7:53 am

I began playing in the 1970s, ceased in the ’90s, and began to play again recently as part of the mid-life crisis package! The music has been exclusively modern jazz on a small kind of Elvin Jones kit, and my grip has “always” been matched. I say “always”, because initially I tried to copy this strange left-hand grip that I saw, and got it wrong – with the hand turned too far clockwise, and the index finger knuckle uppermost. I than went straight for what is “natural” – as described variously above – and settled for matched grip. Interestingly, I never felt my technique lacked in either velocity of subtlety of nuance, but certainly felt some awkwardness in brush playing. This idea of using the traditional grip for the brushes ONLY, is quite a revelation, and one I am going to pursue. Many demonstrably fine brush players, such as Ed Thigpen, use the traditional grip for brushes to great advantage, and I’d say this makes more sense than its application to sticks, since brushes and brush techniques themselves have a quite different vocabulary to sticks.


Omar October 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Great points by you, Stuart!

As far as the traditional grip for brushes, I’m not sure why it would feel more ‘natural’ to hold them that way. I think it’s more of a mindset than anything else, but then the question remains: Why not have both hands hold the brushes the ‘traditional’ way? In the end, I say, whatever works for you, go for it. I still prefer matched grip though. 🙂 Someday though, someday, I’ll do a drum cover using traditional grip. We’ll see how that goes.


Stuart Goodall October 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

Hi Omar,

Yes, do that drum cover! It would be interesting. All I’ll say is, that in jazz stirring with the brush on the head is peculiar to one hand, whilst the other tends to strike the head in a rhythm.

Now, having made that comment about awkwardness, I’ve since listened to some old live tapes of myself and was very happy with the brush playing. So, maybe the years just clouded my memory. Generally, I go with what you say, and believe there’s no great difference to the result between traditional and matched. However, I used to like the kind of crescendo flutter with the left hand that Paul Motian used to create on early Bill Evans trio recordings. That kind of effect would be hard with matched grip.

I enjoyed your cover, and appreciate the emotion behind it, nice kit sound and well balanced. Keep it up,


Mike Bethany August 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I think this 2 minute video on why Buddy Rich doesn’t use match grip says it all:


Omar August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Hey Mike.

You said it, ‘why Buddy Rich [didn’t] use match grip’. For him to say holding the sticks with a matched grip is ‘wrong’, well, that’s just wrong! He did a drum roll on the floor tom as a timpani player would, then said you can’t do that on the snare. I’m not sure how serious he was when he said that, because I’m pretty sure he could have belted out a blazingly fast drum roll on that snare with matched grip if he wanted to. I don’t know who he was talking about when he said ‘they’ at the beginning of the video, so maybe he was referring to a very specific group of drummers. If he was born, I don’t know, 30 years later, he’d probably be playing matched grip just as fast, and saying that the traditional grip is the ‘wrong’ grip. Look at Thomas Lang, for example. He’s pretty fast, either grip. And he can fly all over the kit, either grip.

But that’s why we love Buddy Rich – besides being one of the best drummers of all time, he could get away with being cocky. 🙂


Taz January 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I really cannot believe that after all this time we are still debating this silly topic. I have played for 40 years now and I thought the debate ended in the 70s. Omar you are absolutely correct that traditional grip started because of wartime drumming and nothing else. It was passed on to early drummers straight from the battlefield and then from generation to generation. Early jazz drummers played this way because “This is the way we have always done it” was the prevailing attitude and if you wanted to be taken seriously as a musician you played traditional grip. As drummers figured out that it was no longer necessary to play in a manner designed to compliment a tenor drum on your hip they started doing what comes natural.

Many in rock music were self taught and therefore did what comes naturally. Those who took lessons were taught traditional methods. It was because they took lessons and sought education in the topic that made them better and more advanced than their self taught counterparts, not the way they held their sticks. As a result drumming divided into two different schools of thought, one feeling that it was superior to the other. To think that great drummers such as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson and Joe Morello were great because of the way they held their sticks is silly, they would have just as great had they practiced match grip from the beginning. It was their great minds, great creativity and dedication to their art that made them great, not the way they held the sticks.

I was taught by a superb teacher who was a drummer for several big acts in the 70s and 80s. He taught me traditional grip and I played this way for many years despite the fact that it never felt right to me and I did much better with match grip. One day he saw me playing match grip and said “If match grip feels better to you go ahead and play match grip, it really makes no difference which you use”. He was right. I have never seen a roll, rudiment, trick or technique with traditional grip that could not be duplicated with match grip. If one closes their eyes and listens to a drummer there is no way of telling how they hold the sticks, and this is all that matters.

Whenever possible one should avoid going against nature. Traditional grip is not natural and one must fight nature in order to master it. When we grip things we do not do so with our thumb and first two fingers with the palm upward, but with the whole hand palms downwards. Thousands of years of evolution based on success and failure have taught us this. There is nothing about the human body that specifies the left hand will do a better job at drumming if it holds the stick in a traditional manner, while the right will do better if it holds a stick in a different manner. One must teach the hands to do this, and once again you must go against nature.

If a child with no experience picks up a set of sticks how do they hold them? Match grip (nature). If you try and drive a nail with a hammer in the left hand do you hold it match grip style or traditional grip style? Of course you hold it match grip style because your power, hand/eye coordination and ability to keep a good grip are much better match grip style. If you doubt me try and drive a nail traditional grip style. Hold a stick traditional grip style and slowly lower your body weight onto it while holding the tip of the stick against the rim of a drum. Very soon you will no longer be holding the stick. Do the same thing match grip and you will soon be knocking the drum over.

Speed in drumming comes from the result of the lack of wasted motion. When working around the kit with match grip one can cover the same distance with much less motion than traditional grip by bending the wrist at the same time one moves the arm. This cannot be done with traditional grip. Less distance equals greater speed, period.

Let me end by saying that I am not at all opposed to traditional grip. Many great drummers have used it and if it works for you great. But lets drop the concept that traditional grip drummers are smarter, better educated, superior musicians, etc. When I lay down the beat for Take 5 or any other great jazz standard it is my understanding of time signatures, steady time, awareness of other musicians and taste that makes the difference, not the way I hold the sticks. Drumming is 30% physical and 70% mental. Great drummers in history have had great intellects, and that is what made the other 30% great, not their stick holding.


Richie June 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

Thanks for a great article. I’m really glad that I found this site. I am 44 and started taking lessons when I was in elementary school. I too am a major Buddy fan. My friend in high school was always more into jazz and I was more into rock. I told him about a year ago that he is so right. I now appreciate Buddy Rich and jazz more than ever. I also really like Gene Krupa. I’ve been in rock bands and school bands and I’m now in a concert band where we play classical, jazz, marches, and showtune medleys, and I love the jazz (as well as all of the other stuff). It feels great to swing and it’s challenging and extremely rewarding to play the kicks. I do like many musical styles, and I think that Steward Copeland has a great sound and feel. I learned matched grip, but I’ve also gotten into traditional grip and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve looked things up on the web to try to play it right. I think that they’re both great grips. I did learn a rebound technique on matched that a teacher of mine who learned with Alan Dawson learned. I learned it on matched and it works great. It also seems very important to enjoy the music and to play well. Thanks again for a great article. All the best, Riche


Billy May 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

Thanks for having this page about traditional and grip. Let me add comments as a drummer who has gone thru both traditional and grip. About 1956 my first drum teacher insisted that I master traditional sticking just like Krupa Rich Bellson and Max Roach. OK I went that route and it worked just fine. About twenty years later I joined a super drum and bugle corps and they insisted I use Match Grip because Match Grip was the way to go. So we adapted to Match Grip. Now all the great tremendous drum and award winning drum corps use Traditional Sticking. You want to know why? Press Rolls are in the open style mama daddy roll is still there but the buzz roll or press roll is mastered and made to sound like a beautiful BUZZ played clean and ultra clean is accomplished by using Traditional Sticking. If you just want to make noise and bang away at your drum kit go right on and grip your drum sticks like handle bars on a bicycle. Yep I watched Buddy Rich too many times to count and he had that purr purr press roll down solid and he made it sound like a ocean wave coming into shore. Buddy used that traditional thing and his left stick if you watch it closely never ever stopped. Louie Bellson was another one who was a complete master of a drum set and then again he used that old time GREAT GREAT traditionl sticking. Buddy and Louie did it and that is more than ample to prove the pudding. Stick with TRADITIONAL STICKING


Stuart Goodall October 7, 2012 at 9:22 am

What an insult to some fine drummers! Louis Moholo-Moholo, Jack DeJohnette – to name two just from jazz.


Omar October 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

Points well taken! 🙂


Victor May 17, 2011 at 8:03 am

Have to agree with Gaetano and all he said. He hit the nail on the head when he mentioned ROCK DRUMMERS. They are one beat drummers and will remain that way. As far as Buddy Rich goes I have yet to hear one drummer out there today that can come close to Buddy Rich. Buddy has passed away quite a few years ago but still there is no one who can match his ideas and his clean style drumming. What I am hearing and seeing today are guys who get behind a mega set of drums with GARBAGE CAN cymbals and hammer away at the snare drum. Its the same over and over and over Rock Beats that sound like tupper ware plastic tubs. As far as traditional and match grip it’s useless saying what is right and what is wrong. Years ago everyone played traditional grip and then all of a sudden match grip came into play. You can pick your style of sticking but the main ingredient is can you master a perfect sounding roll? Also being TASTY behind a set of drums is essential. Usually in most cases of today’s drumming it’s loud louder and louder and more louder. Once again I will go back to Buddy Rich for the finest drumming in the universe.


Christian July 25, 2013 at 1:23 am

Two words. Mike. Mangini.

He was playing buddy rich solos in high school.

Mike Mangini Dennis Chambers Drum Clinic Pt.1

Btw, he’s matched all the way.


gaetano February 23, 2011 at 10:52 am

Sorry, but I have to put my opinion in. I am 67 years old. I started drum lessons when I was 4. Holding the sticks properly, is like a golfer’s grip. If it is the wrong grip, you will master bad habits. You will never get to the position of perfection. Yes, Buddy rich was the best as far as I am concerned. Anyway, I played a single stroke roll faster than most drummers today can play a double stroke roll. I would have to say that matched stick holding drummers never took drum lessons, but it makes no difference, how they hold them little babies so long as they can perform. And I don’t mean ROCK DRUMMING, which to me is nothing but a one beat drummer, that does not know what a waltz beat in 3/4 time is, or a jazz beat, or a country beat, or a shuffle beat or a rumba beat, or cha cha beat, or a polka beat, or a blues beat. All he knows is to beat the hell out of a snare drum and a cheap garbage sounding symbol. I now live in TX and will estimate that 90% of drummers are self taught, can’t read, and consider themselves pros. Also, 95% are mostly HARD ROCK, EAR BUSTING SHOW OFF DRUMMERS. A beautiful set of drums does not make a drummer. If you can`t play the different beats to accommodate all styles of music, then you are not a pro. At least by my standards. Now, when it gets to solos, how many times does a drummer take a solo? How fast a drummer can move his or her hands around a set of drums means nothing, except for show. I have seen self taught sax players, and lord knows how many self taught guitar players, and yes they can be great, but never will they be the best. I am old and my drum speed has diminished over the years but drumming does not change, only the kind of music played and the equipment being used. Today, there are rock drummers all over the world, and they will remain rock drummers the rest of their musical life, until they get a little older and find themselves out in la la land with no groups to play with. Nobody wants an old person in a rock band, and if you don’t know other beats, YOU’RE FINISHED, as a drummer, playing gigs. Anyway, that is my opinion, and what the hell do I know?????????


Taz January 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm


I agree with you in so many ways and a good drummer should have the ability to play a wide variety of styles, not just one. I remember that Buddy Rich took offense to being called a jazz drummer. He said “There is no such thing as a jazz drummer. If you can play you can play anything”. I still however believe that the way you grip the sticks has nothing to do with how well you can play.

I am now 50 and I too enjoy good jazz over about anything else, especially Stan Kenton and Dave Brubeck. These folks liked complex music and different time signatures and so do I. To this day I have never heard a single song from these guys or any jazz standard that I could not duplicate with match grip. Sometimes the older we get the more resistant to change we are, and sometimes we refuse to question why we do things the way we do. I think traditional grip falls into that category and always has.

There is simply no physical reason that match grip cannot do everything traditional grip can do. If my right hand can do a single stroke roll, double stroke roll, paradiddle or any other rudiment match grip style why cant my left hand do it the same way? It can of course, and I think people just tend to prefer to use the style they originally learned. When I was in the Army it was clear that the M-16 was in every way superior to the M-1 carbine but you would not believe the old timers who would insist that they preferred the carbine.

Remember that in Buddy’s time everyone played traditional grip, yet no one but he ever rose to the level of his playing. There was much more to the genius of Buddy Rich than the way he held the sticks. I learned traditional grip from an excellent jazz teacher but abandoned it in early adulthood after researching its origins and questioning its advantages. No one has ever been able to show me a thing that the left hand can do traditional grip that I cannot do match grip. I have never gone back and do not regret the decision.

You spoke of the ability to play many different styles and beats and I could not agree more. Solos, speed and power have their place but they are not everything. I can play multiple styles including swing, jazz, rock, reggae, samba, latin, etc. and in any time signature. I can play loud and powerful when needed as well as soft and subtle. The way I hold the sticks has never held me back from anything.

Take care.


Oliver November 3, 2010 at 8:28 am

Good to see drummers coming here and putting there two cents in about sticking and what seems comfortable to them. Admire everyone’s insight and everyone has a way of playing drums and if its good for them let them play the way they feel nice and groovy. As far as Buddy Rich goes Man that’s a whole ball park worth of comments to go into. I met him back in the l960s and he did the ultra great drum work that astonished all of us. When he played in New York before his Big Band that he called the Buddy Rich Big Band I saw Buddy in a small Jazz Quintet. I think he was using Rogers Drums at the time anyway he had this thing going with his left stick and bass drum that was mind boggling. My drum teacher and I would go to Birdland when Buddy was in town and it was like watching Jesus Walk on Water. Buddy would do these incredible drum solos on a chart called Surrey with the Fringe on Top. When Buddy took his drum solo the whole night club would go silent and everyone stopped what they were doing. I saw the waiters put their trays down and stop to look and listen. And then after he finished his drum solo there would be a roar of applause that would last for five minutes. Just pure Buddy Rich adrenaline pouring out. And another thing about Rich he used a standard set of drums no Two Bass Drums or a battery of cymbals just a plain set of drums. No mikes no special lighting just pure Buddy Rich. We could have a thousand new drummers out there today and maybe another two thousand new drummers in the upcoming years but no one repeat no one can come close or near to the expertise of a Buddy Rich.


GougeMan September 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I agree with you guys. I have been vigorously trying to get the traditional grip down over the past year. I’ve been playing for 30 years so this was an adjustment for me. I am intentionally using it in everything I do. I have it down for the most part, but still trying to get the speed of singles up to my matched grip speed. I don’t think one grip is better than the other, it’s just traditional grip is something that has eluded me over the years and I want to master it. Maybe in a few more years I’ll have it to where I am happy with it….
Don’t let a grip hang you guys up. Matched grip can be just as “touchy” as traditional just turn your hand to the side in more of a French grip.


andy petko October 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I play drums and percussion for 40 years, and I play 80% matched grip, and 20% traditional. In Europe, where I live, people play matched. Traditional grip play rare lovers of that grip. For me traditional grip is better for jazz, but one of the best British jazz drummers of all time Phil Seaman, played matched grip. When you hear him, you think he is playing traditional. He teaches Ginger Baker. But other matched grip jazz drummers, like Bill Stewart, Aaron Scott, Jack DeJohnette (he play now matched), Max Roach (in his late years), Billy Cobham (when play bop)… etc., sounds matched, and that’s it! This is new standard now and in the future.


Cdrone92 August 28, 2010 at 7:17 pm


I’m a day away from auditioning for The Ohio State University Marching Band, and I have to say, I couldn’t even imagine trying to play our marching snares matched grip, seeing as we hang our drums on a strap, about the same as what the old colonial folk did 😛

But my comment in terms of the article, I guess, has to do more with college bands and drum corps, but can also be applied to every other type of drumming. A good reason besides tradition itself that groups/drummers use traditional grip comes from the fact that it’s just harder, and to master it is a bigger accomplishment (at least in their minds.) Take DCI for example: if you had two exactly same corps, but one marched their snares w/ traditional and one marched them with matched, which group do you think the judge would give the difficulty points to? So I guess my only reason I can think of is that to master the more difficult grip is more of a feat, a bragging right, which kind of helps the tradition of using traditional grip push itself on and on in the process.


Adam August 26, 2010 at 9:56 am

Have to agree with Preston about Buddy Rich. Preston is exact and tells it like it is. Too much emphasis is placed on rock drumming and really it is nothing more than constant repetition. What drummers are doing today is like taking one stick and tying it on to a broken machine part. Let that machine play the same beat today. Come back 24 hours later and its the same overplayed drum part. Now that I have discovered Buddy Rich I tend to listen to the Master Drummer. Give me Buddy Rich any old day as to what is being played today in the world of drumming. Buddy Rich ruled back then and today he even sounds better compared to the square overplayed drum parts we are listening to.


Preston Littlejohn July 23, 2010 at 9:17 am

Circa today new modern drummers are all stuck in a rut. Its the same same same same same same saturated fiber glass table top drumming that sounds like a car stuck in neutral. Listened to Weckle and Cobham and Gadd and Travis Barker and its really nothing but boring over played plastic tupperware drum sounds. Now the One Man that never ever bores me is Buddy Rich. Buddy Rich played exciting drums and no one could ever touch him in technique ideas and great sounding drums. I do not waste my time or energy on any one playing out there today. A total waste of Time. I go back to Buddy Rich. Buddy Rich is and always will be the greatest drummer ever hands down. Buddy Rich.


Trevor July 7, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Hello Claudio Hey Man. dig your post and pages on sticking. I just gave away all my rock drummers on compact discs and vinyl and everything Rock and that includes neil peart and bonham and all rock and heavy rock drummers. I gave up on all of them.. Just noise and more noise and trash drumming. I keep reading about this guy called Buddy Rich. so I went to this music shop in my home town and bought about eleven compact discs on this guy called Buddy Rich. Hell Claudio its over. I do not want to hear or see another rock drummer or heavy metal drummer ever again. Buddy Rich for me Man. I will not waste my time on another rock drummer. Case Close Claudio its Buddy Rich for me from now on. Buddy Rich he is my new idol. Claudio Buddy Rich


Omar July 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Hi Trevor.

I love your passion (you too, Claudio)!

I wish you gave me those CD’s and vinyls, though! Yes, if you want the best hands in the business, you could just study Buddy Rich and be done with it. But to be a well-rounded drummer (if that’s your goal), you may want to check out other drummer stalwarts.

I’d say that if you want great feet as well as hands, you may want to get those CD’s and vinyl’s back! Although Buddy Rich may have had good feet, you’d learn a lot more from more modern drummers, such as the aforementioned Neil Peart, or one of my newer favorites, Marco Minnemann (both of which are featured on this web site).

Other drummers I think you’d learn a lot from are Steve Smith, Thomas Lang, Steve Gadd, Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham, etc. All for different reasons, who offer perspectives that you won’t get from Buddy Rich (although I’m sure all of them were influenced by Buddy).

So Trevor, go get those CD’s and vinyls back! 🙂


Claudio Hector Sobrales May 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I agree!!!!!


Got to Go with Buddy Rich May 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Really enjoy reading all the posts here about traditional sticking and match grip sticking. Everything makes sense here and I admire everyones opinions. To me. Buddy Rich would be the most dominant force in drumming. I have seriously tried to pay attention to todays modern drumming whether it be jazz fusion rock heavy metal you name it. The one man I keep coming back to is none other than Buddy Rich. Simply because Buddy Rich played the greatest set of drums in the universe. There are many drummers out there that have something to say behind a drum kit but but but Buddy Rich out plays out shines and out musicaly drums each and every one of them. When it comes down to the most tremendous drumming ever I would have to go with Buddy Rich.


Claudio Hector Sobrales May 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Buddy Rich it’s a basical reference to understand why the drumming evolved in the way what is nowadays… I tried to balanced the opinions ..if in some way misunderstood …I’m sorry ; but I don’t Say I’m sorry , because each grip has it’s advantage and disadvantage. If Buddy Rich had learned in matched grip …? He would play as incredible and one-of-a -kind drummer , nothing had changed . I don’t argue nothing about Buddy Rich ….so why are We talking about him ?. It’s all about grip .maaaan…..!!!!! just grip!!!!
What I tried to express is just Sound ..if you close your eyes and try to discriminate which grip is every player uses , it would be a great surprise , who was playing with which grip …!!! that’s what I tried to refer to,!!!! if you like traditional excellent , if you don’t it’s the same…!!! it’s not a problem to me ..!!!! so the next time try to understand first and if you don’t understand ask me in a respectful way ; ‘cos I didn’t refer to nobody ,in a particular way . I could be Wrong or Right it’s my opinion!!!


Missing Buddy Rich so Much. No one out there to ADMIRE May 23, 2010 at 9:29 am

Read all the comments on this page from all the drummers and fans. Please let me say my two cents. Went thru all the books of drum instruction. Sat in classes for percussion and jazz drumming and rock drumming and fusion drumming and drum and bugle corps drumming and how to Grip Stick and how to play Traditional Stick and how to practice and build your chops? All a waste of time and money. Go to the local music shop and get anything by Buddy Rich. Buddy Rich showed me more than any instructor or drummer out there today. His excellent way of playing has inspired a trillion drummers. Don’t give me this . You have to be a Jazz Drummer. You have to be a Rock Drummer. You have to get a Groove or a pocket in your playing??? This is total nonsense. Just watch and listen to Buddy Rich. Say your prayers at night and pray that some day you might just might have fifty percent of Buddy Rich in your playing. By the way there should be a Shrine built for Buddy Rich. No drum company or drum stick company or cymbal company could build a shrine tall enough or big enough to honor Buddy Rich. The master drummer. Buddy Rich. You can not be more emphatic than that. Buddy Rich


Claudio Hector Sobrales May 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm

During my personal experience , I learnt, what matters is the sound ; if you feel comfortable with matched grip go for it ….if you feel comfortable with “traditional” grip good for you !. What I don’t understand ,is , why people fight each other in parties which must be friends and colleagues!!!! ; traditions are traditions and if someone says “Jazz sounds better in “traditional grip” ” ..that’s not a mistake …first Jazz players where kids when played drums in American Civil war and transladate this grip to the just born drum kit ….. Remember there are three “traditional grips” … Swiss/German ; French and American …all of them developed during wars. when Drums were replaced in battle field by radios , the Matched grip grew up . Again IT’s Sound which matters …..!!!!!


Jordon Gonzales March 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

What about the one thing I didn’t see anywhere in your post and primarily left out of the entire conversation: EXPERIENCE.

I do not hold to a notion that one can be better than the other. But there is obviously a case in every situation and drummer personality where one grip is better than the other. The only reason is this: The one that is better is the one practiced more often for that drummer or that specific style / song.

Practice is what determines which grip is better.


Greg March 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

Agreed !!!!!!!


Buddy Rich no one but Buddy Rich March 9, 2010 at 10:30 am

Here’s the way it goes plain and simple. You Grip Stick you Traditional Stick you listen to Jazz you waste your time on Heavy Metal or Funk. That’s not it. Watch Buddy Rich listen to Buddy Rich. The Master at work. Before his death someone interviewed him and said how did you get that sensational technique that everyone admires? Buddy said I do not know the difference of a paradiddle to a ratamacue. If I go behind my set of drums and everything comes out sounding all right I am Lucky. That was why all serious drummers admired and respected Buddy Rich. It’s not the drum company the cymbals the mikes the special lighting or who makes the best drum sticks or should I grip or should I play Traditional. Study Buddy Rich take close close attention to his mastery of drumming period. Don’t waste your time or energy on heavy metal or rock drumming. You want Heavy Metal??? Go to the junk yard and watch heavy metal getting loaded into dump trucks. It’s free and it’s very very loud and noisy. If that’s what you want in drumming??? You want class precision silk drumming perfection drumming? You make sure to listen and learn from Buddy Rich


Greg February 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm

O.K. I am going to throw something in here that may seem odd, but think about this…. Most agree that the trad.left hand is weaker than matched. When playing matched.. the stronger left hand is battling against the dominant right therefore creating less fluidity and sounds sometimes stiff and choppy. When playing trad. the left hand may be creating strokes that are weaker in volume, but create more of a sense of forward motion with the stronger right leading, which sounds more flowing. In essence, the reasons most people dislike this technique is actually a positive factor in internal dynamics.


matt October 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

I have been playing drums since i was about 7 years old . I’m 36 now and it’s only in the last few years that the traditional grip idea has really hit me.I always played matched because when I started out i was given the option of either one by my tutor and that just seemed like the logical one to choose.I did’nt know why at the time but I can see now that all the logical arguments for it make perfect sense. I like the feel of trad grip but I find that certain things are harder to play. I get really messed up trying to play six stroke rolls for example, whereas doubles seem to flow pretty naturally. I have to admit; my left hand matched grip was never really all that good and I could never get the hands to look the same in the mirror.I can get quite a good finger controlled speed up in the RH but it’s half as good in the LH with matched.
I play a lot of Jazz now, and I tend to feel that I owe it to myself to get the trad grip together as it suits the music better.A lot of the drummers I listen to are TG players too which has an influence on me.


Rick Johnson June 8, 2009 at 1:12 am

Buddy almost always played traditional the only time he used match was if he was doing cross sticking on the toms. As soon as he went back to the snare he would go back to traditional. When he had his clubs in NYC I lived about 20 minutes from them and when he was in town I was there 2 or 3 nights a week and I can say without a doubt he played traditional 99% of the time.


Omar June 8, 2009 at 1:18 am

Hi Rick.

No doubt, I probably agree with your percentage – 99% traditional grip for Buddy seems right! To this day I still can’t get over how fluidly he went all over the kit with traditional grip. He was a freak of nature, no doubts there! It must have been just awesome to see him in person. I’m jealous!

Thanks for the post, and please, come back often!


James Hernandez March 23, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I learned traditional in school. I’m a lefty, but my band instructor turned me around and made me learn to play as a righty. That sort of thing happened alot back in the day when being left-handed wasn’t accepted. Anyway, it felt unnatural to play trad at first, but now it feels more unnatural for me to play matched grip. I have been working on it for the very reasons you mentioned (open handed playing, reaching). I play more evenly using trad right now, but my matched grip is improving and I agree that the more tools you have opens up more possibilities making you a better player.


Omar March 24, 2009 at 11:11 am

Hi James.

Hey, whatever’s more comfortable, play that way! It’s all fun. Even though I find playing traditional grip a little difficult, to me it’s so much fun. Soon (don’t know when, though) I’ll be recording myself playing a song traditional grip just to see what I look like. Anyways, drum on!


Greg March 5, 2009 at 11:41 am

My story is opposite! I began with trad. and recently have been switching to matched. There is more subtlety with trad. because of the natural “drop” of the stick from being cradled in the hand. This creates a more flowing sound. However, it doesnt make it when you need consistant volume which is why the great trad. players will occasionally switch to matched. If you are looking for consistent sound from stick to stick,stay with matched. If you are looking for more internal dynamic expression, go with trad.


Omar March 5, 2009 at 11:53 am

Hi Greg.

I think I’m coming around a little bit regarding the traditional grip. I never had anything against it, but I did find it a little unnatural. But it’s actually quite fun to play. I’ll have to record myself playing traditional grip and see what I need to correct, and use it more. But all in all, I still think matched grip is more versatile. But your points are all valid!


derek February 12, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I’ve played traditional for about six years (i learned in through marching band) and love it on drumset… when i play pop and jazz. for whatever reason ghost notes and doubles feel more natural. Also, because you have more control over the stick angle (in regards to the head), with an acorn tipped/oval tipped drumstick you can strike the drum with less surface area of the stick, allowing for a lighter/thinner sound if necessary. Those things are possible in matched grip as well, it just feels more comfortable to my hands:)


Omar February 12, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Hi Derek.

Great insight! I’m noticing that the drumming community agrees that the traditional grip allows for more subtlety, which I’ll be checking more of myself!

And also, please let us all know what brand and model drumstick you’re talking about, ’cause I want ’em!

Thanks again!


T February 12, 2009 at 11:03 am

I would like to comment about the jazz drummers, the reason they use traditional grip is for the continual accent note playing; it is easyier to throw in some of this or some of that, playing traditional, as for Buddy Rich, I will argue on the grip, the couple of times that I met him he hardly played traditional, and almost always played matched. Well, thanks for allowing me to comment.


Omar February 12, 2009 at 11:18 am

Hi T.

You can comment any time you want! Thanks for the feedback.

You may be right about the accentuation being easier using the traditional grip. I guess muscle memory for accents is easier to learn using this grip. That’s one for traditional!

As for Buddy Rich using matched grip, that doesn’t shock me. What does is the times that you met him he didn’t play traditional! I’ve only ever seen him use the traditional grip, except on a very few occasions. Just goes to show what a master he was.

Please, keep coming back!


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