Switch the Grip: Modern vs. Traditional Drum Holds


Ashley Truedell

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Hunter Doxtater, Not a Band Geek, a Marching Band Nerd

This one is for my marching band nerds. In college field bands, like the Concord California Blue Devils, there are very talented musicians. If you pay attention to all of their drumlines, the snare drummers are holding the sticks a bit odd.

The way they are holding it is called an “unmatched” grip or traditional grip. They hold the stick in their right hand over hand, but in the left you hold it underhand, mostly used by jazz drummers – and high level marching bands. Most people are more familiar with a matched grip where you hold both sticks overhand, like you would for playing at a seated drum kit. 

Traditional grip was originally used in the Revolutionary war to keep the soldiers marching in time. They didn’t have the drums we have now, they had rope tension side drums. They were held up by a sash making the drum tilt a little sideways. 

This meant you weren’t able to play it with a match grip. Traditional grip allowed the drummer boy play and not have to strain his wrist. Nowadays when we carry our drums they sit parallel to the ground. 

This brings up the question, why are we still requiring college marching bands to play with this grip? If their snare core doesn’t use traditional grip they lose points if they are competing. But we don’t have those tilted drums anymore, so why is that?

Ashely Trudell is the IRHS concert band conductor and the marching band director. For her drumline in the marching band she doesn’t teach traditional grip. Trudell says, “It’s hard enough to get a young student to do something with their hands let alone two different things.”

This is the mindset of a lot of band directors so the skill would have to be learned when the student is older and more familiar with the match grip making it harder to change.