If you haven’t already, please check out Loose Grip Part 1. It explains why it is so important to have a loose grip. Breaking a habit is really hard when you don’t see a good reason to change. In this article, I’d like to share a few ways that helped / continue to help me use to loosen my grip. If you have not seen the baseball bat video in Loose Grip Part 1, please go back and watch it now. I build on that video here, and you won’t get the best tricks if you haven’t seen it.
A quick and dirty method is to rotate the stick in your hand, while you are playing. I first heard about this from Stanton Moore. Rotate the stick around in a circle, so that the label turns around in your hand. In order to get the stick to rotate, you must have a loose grip. I’ve had students ask if it is OK if the label turns in your had as you play. Not only is it OK, it’s a really good thing. The stick will naturally turn in your hand, if it has the space. This is a good thing.
Holding A Small Animal
This one comes from Jim Chapin, RIP. The idea is to imagine that you are holding a live animal, such as a bird or a frog in your hand. You want to hold it so that the bird doesn’t fly away, but you don’t want to break the bird’s fragile bones.
My Own Recipe
This is where the baseball bat comes in. It is a little difficult to describe, but it is a really useful trick, even when you’ve developed a loose grip. Here goes.
Step one Remember all the vibration in the baseball bat video? You can feel this. There are vibration sensors in your skin that will tell you when the stick is vibrating like that. The first step is to just become familiar with what that feels like. If you are having a hard time feeling what I’m talking about, it can help to hit one stick with the other. Hold one stick in the air, and thwack it with the other stick. You’ll feel the stick shake. This is what I’m talking about. You can also hold one stick loosely, such that the bead of the stick is resting in the drum head. Thwack the body of the sick, and feel the stick vibrate.
Step two Play slow single strokes on the drums. It doesn’t matter what you hit, but whatever is the most comfortable is the best choice to start. While you are playing, don’t pay any attention to what you are hitting, how you are hitting it, or anything else. Pay full attention to the shake of the stick on every impact. Allow that shake to get as big as it can. Step three Find this feeling during your performance and practice. Again, maximize the feeling of the shake, as you play. The neat thing about this is that through connecting with the feeling of the vibration, your grip will naturally open up to something for more effective and natural. You will automatically and thoughtlessly adapt your grip to perfection. I did not get this from Evelyn Glennie, but she does describe something very similar. Check out 5:55 and 9:00. Here’s the punch. The vibration of the sticks is sound. The stick and the drum shake, causing the air to shake. The shake of the air is what we hear as sound. By connecting with the vibration of the stick, you gain a greater connect with music itself.