so, since i was always studying all percussion, i learned with matched grip and didn’t really think much about it until high school, when i got into rudimental drumming. even though i played tenors, traditional grip on snare looked so cool - so i started figuring out how to hold the stick that way and got a very ground level of proficiency on it, and stuck with matched without too much turmoil.
in college, i was the only matched grip player in a collection of trad-grip jazz majors - including my mentor. so i decided i wanted to switch, i knew there wasn’t anything “magic” about the grip (my own mentor’s words - “it’s just a grip”), but i felt like it was a cool part of the instrument’s history and i wanted to check it out.
it mostly went okay. i was diving into jazz as a whole in a new way, so maybe some of my issues with the grip were hidden inside my general unfamiliarity with the genre. i was also playing in a hardcore punk band at the time, and did WGI on drumset… basically, it felt right to play matched in those situations, and i started to notice how i had a short little adjustment period every time i’d go into a different playing situation. i started to feel like both grips were suffering because of it.
one practice session, i was working on a bob moses transcription in john riley’s beyond bop drumming, and was getting frustrated with the movement and a tempo ceiling. i decided, “what the hell. i’ll try it matched.” and was amazed to find i had lost next to nothing, chops-wise, and that i was pretty easily able to push the transcription to the desired tempo. i decided that day that i would switch back to matched grip for everything. this was towards the end of undergrad!
what i realized as i returned to some basics to re-acclimate myself to the grip is that i had accidentally created two sides of my playing, technique-wise. i was mostly practicing comping patterns and general jazz timekeeping things. long story slightly shorter, playing time felt really great with trad grip - but movement and everything else never felt right. that has nothing to do with the grip itself! it’s just how i studied it, and my own physical tendencies.
i was happily matched for a while, and in grad school many years later flirted with the idea of returning to traditional grip, since i felt like it was a more comfortable position for my left arm. i was dealing with some body pain, and trad seemed to be a quick fix. i played exclusively trad for a month before eventually returning to matched, since i realized that either way, my left hand needed fixing. i’m also still playing mallets and other percussion so matched is just the best idea for me, to keep things consistent across instruments.
SO! the moral of the story here is, if you’re interested in traditional grip, absolutely check it out! it’s a part of our instrument’s history, it looks cool… why not? not to mention, there are zero drummers (at least that i know of) who only play trad grip. everyone has to know matched, either way. so, check it out! see how it feels!
every now and then, i’ll just trad grip in the middle of improvising, often to do a little thing i stole from milford graves, where he uses his left elbow to manipulate the pitch of the snare while also being able to strike the snare with the left stick. i’ve had a lot of back and forth but for me, but matched has been the move. listen to your body and do what works for you!