Introduction to the Jazz Drumming Grip: Basics for Beginners

What grip works better for jazz drumming? I have been playing for more than 35 years. The grip that I find that gives a great feel and touch when playing jazz is the traditional grip. It gives me the vibes and the flow and so that’s what I’m going to share here with you.

All the amazing jazz legends that I have seen growing up played traditional grip. They have amazing technique and snare work playing with it. But it is important to note that while jazz drumming uses traditional grip, it’s not a requirement. The choice of grip is a personal one, influenced by your individual playing style, comfort, and the desired sound and expression that you might wish to achieve while playing jazz. Whether you want to play with traditional or matched grip, it’s all up to you and what works best for you. As a student of the instruments, I would want to learn both but that's for another article. 

Making Jazz Playing Easier

One of the reasons why traditional grip is preferred when playing jazz is it makes playing jazz easier. Jazz drumming can be challenging but it’s also highly rewarding and fulfilling. Its level of difficulty can vary depending on various factors, including your skill level, musical background, and familiarity with the genre.

Jazz music is known for its intricate rhythms, syncopations, and polyrhythms. As a jazz drummer, you'll encounter complex time signatures, irregular phrasing, and challenging rhythmic patterns. Developing the ability to navigate and interpret these rhythms accurately and fluidly requires practice, rhythmic awareness, and a solid foundation in drumming technique.

For example, the traditional grip is particularly advantageous for playing the snare drum. Its angled hand position allows drummers to achieve a more nuanced and articulate sound from the snare drum, especially in softer dynamics and brush playing. The traditional grip facilitates greater control over the snare drum's rimshots, cross-sticking, and rim clicks.

How To Do The Traditional Grip?

So how to do the traditional grip? If you want to dive deeper, I have a free training here about the secret to playing and mastering the traditional grip. But here’s some basics for you to get started. 

traditional grip by freddy charles

To achieve the traditional grip, hold the drumstick with your dominant hand by placing it between the pad of your thumb and the base of your index finger. Curl your remaining fingers around the stick, creating a loose and comfortable grip. Rest the butt end of the stick in the crease between your index and middle fingers. 

For your non-dominant hand, position it on the drumhead with the palm facing down and lightly rest your fingers on the drumhead for controlling the strokes. Practice maintaining this hand positioning to develop control, finger dexterity, and fluidity in your jazz drumming. 

Jazz Drumming Grip Technique

For beginner drummers looking to master the traditional grip for jazz drumming, here are some easy techniques and exercises to get started:

Grip Awareness Exercise:

  • Begin by simply holding the drumsticks with the traditional grip, focusing on the placement and feel of the sticks in your hands.
  • Experiment with different finger positions and thumb placements to find a comfortable and stable grip.
  • Take note of the angle of your wrists and ensure they are relaxed and aligned with your hands.

Finger Control Exercise:

  • Practice finger control exercises on a practice pad or drum set.
  • Start with simple exercises such as playing single strokes with each finger, focusing on a smooth and controlled rebound.
  • Gradually increase the speed and incorporate different finger combinations, such as playing groups of 2, 3, or 4 strokes with each finger.
Single Stroke Roll Exercise:
  • Begin by playing a single stroke roll (alternating strokes between hands) on a practice pad or drum set.
  • Focus on achieving an even sound and consistent volume between your snare hand and ride hand.
  • Pay attention to maintaining a relaxed grip and utilizing finger control to produce clean and controlled strokes.

Accent Control Exercise:

  • Practice accent control exercises using the traditional grip.
  • Start by playing alternating accents between your snare hand and ride hand.
  • Pay attention to producing clear and pronounced accents while keeping the non-accented strokes at a softer volume.
  • Gradually increase the speed and complexity of the accents, incorporating different patterns and dynamics.

Playing Along to Jazz Recordings:

  • Choose some jazz recordings that feature drummers using the traditional grip.
  • Play along with the recordings, focusing on emulating the drumming style and technique.
  • Observe their hand positions, finger movements, and overall sound, and try to incorporate those elements into your playing.

Seek Instruction and Feedback:

Remember, building proficiency in the traditional grip and learning jazz drumming takes time, patience, and consistent practice. Start with these easy techniques and gradually progress to more advanced exercises as you become comfortable. Don't be afraid to seek guidance from experienced drummers or instructors who can provide further direction and feedback to help you play jazz drums.

Jazz Drumming Grip

In jazz drumming, there isn't a specific grip that is exclusive to the genre. Drummers in jazz, as well as other genres, use different grip techniques based on their personal preference, comfort, and the desired sound and technique they want to achieve. What matters most is finding a grip that allows for comfort, control, and the ability to produce the desired sound and technique on the drum set. As for me, I can easily switch between matched grip and traditional grip but when I play jazz, that’s the traditional grip. 

If you wish to take your hands to the next level I have 2 books, Better Hands and Fast Hands that are great tools to build your chops.  In addition, my signature Freddy Charles Practice Pad is the perfect tool to get your hands in order. 

I highly recommend checking out my course on mastering the traditional grip.