Loose Grip, Part 1

Having a loose grip is really important, and, if you are reading this,  chances are your grip is not loose enough.  To begin with, it helps to start thinking literally.  To get a good idea of whats going on with the drum stick, check out this slow motion video of a baseball bat.

Baseball Bat Vibration in Slow Motion
The drum stick works in a very similar way.  See all that flexing and movement that takes place?  That happens to the stick every time you hit the drum.  It rings like a bell, every single time.  This is a good thing –  you want it to move.  That movement is sound, after all.

Loss of tone Allowing the stick to vibrate freely maximizes sound production, not only of the stick, but also of the drum.  By gripping on the stick, we dampen that movement.  This means that we dampen the sound produced.  Seeing as we spend a lot of time and money making our sound the best it can be, this really makes no sense.  Or cents.  Tone is maximized when you throw the stick.  This allows the tick to vibrate totally freely.  Obviously, we can’t actually throw the sticks, but the tighter we hold the stick, the more dampening we add to the stick,  and the longer the stick stays in the head.

Loss of stamina Tone production is not the main reason to loosen your grip.  A more important one is that it wastes a lot of energy to grip the stick.  The energy does not all come from your hands …  actually very little of it does.  The muscles in the hands are the finger muscles.  The muscles in the forearm move the hand at the wrist.  Likewise, the muscles in the upper arm move the forearm, and large back muscles move the upper arm, collarbone and shoulder blade.

When we grip more than we need, we tighten every part of the arm to some degree. We expend effort to hold thing down and to keep things in place that want to move.  Beyond that, when we tense up, we lock something in place that should be allowed to move.  To move it, we have to commit more energy to overcome the muscles holding it in place.  This really adds up to a huge energy drain.  This means we lose the stamina we need to make it through a four hour show.

Loss of speed When we grip too tightly, we spend a lot of effort to hold ourselves in place.  That’s a lot of energy that we are spending in order to stop movement from taking place.  This is energy that we could use for the gas pedal instead of the brakes.  We really take a big hit in speed when we grip too tightly.

Injury This is the number one reason not to hold too tightly.  Take a look at the baseball bat video again.  That movement does not disappear.  The tighter you grip, the more of that movement goes into *you*.  You have becomes a shock absorber, accepting all of that movement.  Remember – this is movement that you want to use for tone production and speed.    All of that movement in the bat transfers to your hands and arms.  The shock is absorbed by your hands and arms. This is no problem at first, but over time it adds a lot of wear and tear on your body, eventually causing pain.

There is only one positive that I can think of.   Holding the stick tightly gives us the sense that we are in control of the stick.  Personally, it took me a while to get used to a very light touch.  However, at this point, I find much more joy in a loose touch and the feeling of the stick working on its own.  For me, the feeling of control I had was really a feeling that I was doing all the work!

Check out Loose Grip Part 2 for some great tricks to loosen up your grip!


Loose Grip, Part 1 - Drum Lessons Portland w/ John Lamb
This is me using traditional grip. I use 98% matched, though.