Matched grip is the most popular drumming grip as it is ergonomic, comfortable, versatile, and easy to learn. Traditional grip is still used by some drummers as it can offer great subtlety to your strokes and it’s still very widespread in Jazz drumming.
Even though most contemporary drummers use matched grip almost exclusively, there is always a hint of fascination regarding the traditional grip. Both grips are very valid ways to play drums, but there are some pros and cons to each.
The best grip is the grip that you’re most comfortable with! How good you are at playing with a particular grip is by far the most important consideration.
That said, let’s compare the grips in more detail. They both have their ups and downs, so it’s better we break them down before determining if one is better than the other.
Traditional Grip Pros
Trad grip is mainly employed in jazz drumming. The reason is that jazz is one of the few genres that require the subtlety that trad grip offers. This is particularly true when jazz drummers start to explore the sounds and techniques jazz brushes have to offer.
Using the trad grip allows you to play the quieter notes and multiple strokes without too much effort. It is perfect for creating angles on the cymbals and on a tilted drum, which is used in marching settings.
On top of all that, it looks cooler in some musical contexts. It might be because it was the same grip used by many older drumming legends.
Traditional Grip Cons
Traditional grip can be considered an artifact from old marching drumming where drummers would hold their drums using a sling. If a drum set were to be invented today, it’s very unlikely that traditional grip would even be thought of as a relevant grip.
The downside of traditional grip is that it involves using muscle groups that most humans aren’t used to using. Therefore, the learning curve is much broader to get to a stage where you can execute your technique flawlessly. If you don’t have good technique using this grip, it’s a quick route to injury.
Another thing to keep in mind is that moving around the kit is a bit difficult with trad grip. It’s also difficult to create powerful strokes. This is one of the reasons why the grip hasn’t seen many players outside quieter and more nuanced drumming styles.
Matched Grip Pros
Matched grip is the bread and butter of modern drumming. The main reason is that it’s more natural, easier to learn, and frankly, more practical.
For a beginner player, controlling the sticks is simpler when using matched grips. Sticks are held in a similar position in both hands, so the weaker hand can emulate what the dominant hand is doing and get up to that level.
Strokes are much more even in matched grip. They are more powerful, efficient to move around the kit, and allow you to create better dynamics on the drum set.
Also, if you plan on introducing rutes or mallets into your arsenal or willing to explore open-handed playing, being proficient in match grip helps a lot.
Matched Grip Cons
Matched grip doesn’t offer too many cons apart from the fact that it’s less suited to jazz than traditional drip. It can also prevent you from playing full strokes if you’re playing cross-handed on the hi-hat.
Also, if you’re already playing traditional grip, you might find it uncomfortable to learn and play match grip.
How Did Traditional Grip Start?
There was a time long, long ago before the drum set came into existence. Then, drummers used to play marching drums in a band where they had to parade around. The drums were carried using a sling hanging across the shoulder of the drummer.
To make sure the drum didn’t come in the way of the drummers, they used to tilt the marching drum to one side. Using a matched grip in this scenario was impractical so the drummers resorted to the traditional grip and it became the prevalent technique.
Over the years, as the drum set involved, a lot of marching drummers passed down their knowledge to jazz drummers, who themselves used to tilt the snare drum to honor tradition.
With all said and done, there is no one technique better than the other. It’s whatever you feel comfortable with. Drummers who play multiple genres can switch between the two grips according to their comfort level.
Then there are jazz drummers who play matched grip and rock drummers who play traditional grip. The important thing before you sit down and start learning one or the other is to figure out which grip is the most comfortable for you.