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Contrary to popular belief, playing the drums is more than just picking up some sticks and banging away. Drumming takes skill, technique, and lots of practice to learn. Whether you choose in-person instruction, or like many others learn how to play drums online, you need to set a foundation. One of the essential techniques every beginner needs to master is how to hold their drumsticks. Not only will they help you select the right grip for a particular sound or type of music, the proper grip will also keep your hands and wrists healthy and reduce fatigue and joint pain. Here’s a crash course in different grips you can use to develop your skill as a percussionist.

Balance Point

Before we get started, we need to discuss one fundamental element of holding your drumsticks and that’s balance point. The balance point is the “sweet spot” of the drumstick. It is the place on the drumstick that will give you the best control over your sticks which is essential to learning how to hold drumsticks. The balance point will help you increase your drumming speed as time goes on and also helps to reduce muscle fatigue while you practice and perform.

How to Identify Your Balance Point

First, you’ll need to be sitting in front of your drum or practice pad to find it. Professionals recommend using your snare drum when finding balance point. Here’s a step-by-step guide for finding your balance point:

  1. Place the drumstick on your index finger, tip facing you.  
  2. Use your thumb to hold the drumstick in place to prevent it from rolling off your fingers.
  3. Bring the tip of the drumstick up and then let it drop.
  4. Take a moment to feel the bounce and rebound of the drumstick. You should get about 6-8 bounces from each strike.
  5. Alter the location of your index finger along the drumstick until you reach a location which gives the best rebound of the drumstick.


You’ll need to play around with the balance point for a while to find it, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t identify it at first. Watching professionals, like Robert “Sput” Searight, can help you find your own balance point. For most drummers, the “sweet spot” will be about two-thirds of the way from the tip of the stick. Once you truly identify your balance point, mark it on your drumstick until it’s natural.


How to Hold Drumsticks: Traditional Grip

Good for: Beginners

The traditional grip actually hails from military bands and originally created for the “side drum,” the snare drum military marching band drummers wear on their side but can be used to play with a standard drum kit as well.

How to hold drumsticks with Traditional Grip:

  1. Reach your left hand out as if you were reaching out for a left-handed handshake.
  2. Put the drumstick in the webbing of your hand, the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Extend over the stick with your thumb, resting it on the first joint of your index finger.
  4. While playing, let your left forearm rotate as if you were turning a doorknob. Guide your left stick with your fingertip, and you use your pinky to steady the stick from below.
  5. Hold your right-hand stick in an American matched grip (see below).


How to Hold Drumsticks: Matched Grip

Good for: Beginners

Matched Grip will most likely be the primary technique you’ll be taught during your first drumming lesson. In Matched Grip, both hands hold the drumsticks in the same way. This grip style works best when you hold each stick near its center. This best allows the stick to bounce off the drumhead. There are three variations of the Matched Grip: American, German, and French, which we’ll go into greater detail with below.


How to Hold Drumsticks: American Grip

Good for: Beginners, Nearly All Music Styles

Here’s how to hold your sticks American style:

  1. Hold out your dominant hand, palm facing down, index finger pointed straight out, parallel with the floor.
  2. Curl in your index finger and then slide the drumstick between your index and thumb. Your index finger should wrap around the drumstick as if it was pulling a trigger. Don’t apply a lot of pressure with your thumb, instead just keep in mind its job is to hold the stick in place and give you extra control when you’re drumming.
  3. Adjust the stick in your grip until you find the balance point.
  4. Curl your middle, ring, and pinky fingers under the drumstick to help your index finger grip it. Again, don’t grip too tightly, you want to make sure the stick has slack enough to bounce.
  5. Now hit the drum by flexing your wrist to drive the drumstick up and down.
  6. Be sure to keep your palm tilted about 45-degrees and use your wrist to drive your drum beats.
  7. Adjust your fingers and thumb to give the stick more or less bounce until you find your balance point.
  8. Repeat steps for your other hand.

The American grip is the midpoint between the French and German grips, which you’ll learn below. It’s a great starting point for learning how to hold drumsticks.

How to Hold Drumsticks: German Grip

Good for: Powerful Drumming like Timpani and Bass Drums in Classical Music, Marching Band, and Hard Rock.

How to hold drumsticks in German Grip:

  1. Hold the sticks at the balance point you did with the America Grip above.
  2. Hold palms parallel to the surface of the drum, most times facing the floor. If the drum is set up vertically, you’ll need to turn your palms at an angle which lines your palms to the drum surface.
  3. Curl your middle fingers underneath the stick so it rests comfortably on them. As a note, in the German Grip, the pinky and ring fingers aren’t as important as they are in other grips and just fold loosely beneath the stick.
  4. Bend your elbow out. This gives you the control and power German Grip is known and used for.
  5. Strike the drum using a wrist motion, avoid using the arms, shoulders, or fingers. The sticks should give a good bounce, if they don’t adjust as needed.

The German Grip is totally about power. It’s loud, ringing, and confident. Think Lars Ulrich of Metallica. His drumming almost overpowers the other instruments, but in a good way.

How to Hold Drumsticks: French Grip

Good for: Finesse and Precision as in Jazz, Technical Rock, and Technical Drumline.

French Grip is a little different from other grips because you use the fingers to drive drumming instead of the wrists. Here’s how to hold drumsticks in French Grip:

  1. Hold the sticks at the balance point you did with the America Grip above.
  2. Turn the palms in toward each other, perpendicular to the floor. Keep hands a comfortable distance apart, usually about 10-12 inches.
  3. Curl your middle, ring, and pinky fingers underneath the stick to provide support and control. You need all your finger strength for French Grip.
  4. Tuck your elbows in. Find a natural placement for them, they don’t need to be tight to your sides, let them hang naturally.
  5. Strike the drum with your fingers, keeping your wrists downward and forearms and shoulders natural.

Learning how to hold your drumsticks is a foundational skill when you learn how to drum online or in person. Practice often and soon you’ll master the techniques above! If you feel like a little extra instruction from a professional musician would help, consider taking a class with Yousicplay’s virtuoso drumming instructor,  Robert “Sput” Searight. Sput is a six-time Grammy award-winner who will not only evolve your drumming skill but teach you about musicality and finding your “voice” as a percussionist.