Dave Weckl on Matched vs Traditional Grip

bigbonzo

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I recently read a long article about Dave Weckl in the May/June issue of Drumhead magazine. In it, he talks about the some prominent players switching to Matched Grip, and the problems that Traditional Grip can cause.

Tell me what you think.


There's been a noticeable switch to matched grip in the last few years from some longtime practitioners of traditional grip, including Steve Gadd (a few years ago he was seen playing matched grip at a recording session at Skyline Studios in New York City). This doesn't surprise Weckl, who admits that he, Steve Smith and Vinnie Colaiuta are all experiencing hand problems stemming from using traditional grip. In a surprising move, jazz drummer's jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette has changed to matched grip, according to Weckl. This in addition to Teutonic powerhouse Thomas Lang's recent switch to matched grip. Dave remarks, "We're all experiencing hand problems from playing traditional. There is a definite thing with this grip, beating the water out of your thumb for 40, 50 years. Repetitive stress is going to take its toll, and it's definitely taken its toll on me-I've got bone spurs, arthritis, all kinds of crap going on in my left hand. The funny thing is I generally don't feel it when I play. I feel it at times, but it just takes me a minute to get back into playing consistently and in position where the fatty/muscle part between the thumb and first finger cradle the stick more, and then I don't feel it so much. I don't know if Steve (Gadd) actually has any trauma to his hand or not. The only thing that he did tell me person-to-person was that playing matched grip is just easier. And Thomas Lang is switching to mostly matched now, for the same reason. He said it's just so much maintenance and he's also got his own injury issues."
 
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Corsair

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I remember reading somewhere that with traditional grip you're using 4 muscles in your hand while with matched you use 9 or so?
 

Rudy_Ment

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I've played traditional grip for 45 yrs but as a weekend warrior only. I haven't had any hand or wrist issues but I do find it to be a perishable skill such that if I don't play for a couple weeks then it takes a serious warm up to get the mechanics flowing. Still, I prefer it to matched grip.
 

Titus Pullo

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I never say it because I never indulge in these discussions, but since Weckly-Pants has taken the gloves off ... If you could put someone in a vacuum with two sticks and a drum -- for any length of time -- they would never come away from that with anything approaching Traditional Grip.
 

Rik_Everglade

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I'm sure that their repetitive use after the long hours and hours of practice has something to do with this. I don't even dream of playing as much as they do. However, I usually use traditional, but switch frequently between matched and trad. But no matter the style, if you practice that much, you will have something worn in your body.
 

Titus Pullo

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Rik_Everglade said:
They would die in a vacuum. And yet, traditional grip was formed somehow.
Thanks for reminding me why I never engage in these discussions. It does help to be reminded.
 

Bongo Congo

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Rik_Everglade said:
They would die in a vacuum. And yet, traditional grip was formed somehow.
It's entirely obvious, and a matter of historical fact, how trad grip was formed. Drummers with large marching drums slung over on the left hip found it necessary to change their left-hand grip in order to reach the head comfortably. It's extremely awkward trying to play a drum over by your side with matched grip.

Because the lower end of these large marching drums hung well below the kneecaps, it was inconvenient to try to carry them in front of a marching drummer. This style of "side-slung" drumming dates back to Europe before the Napoleonic Wars, when drums were used to signal troop movements and manueuvers.

When the New Orleans "Jass" drummers begin to combine bass drum and snare together, and took a position sitting behind the kit, it was no longer necessary. But, because they also still marched, they transferred the technique to the new ergonomic environment. Later, they taught it to subsequent generations.

Jazz drummers evolved an entire vocabulary of techniques and finger/wrist control methods to enable them to play multiple beats, accents, etc, with that left hand, without having to bring the other hand over to the snare. By World War II, it had become the widely-taught, "default" style of playing a drumkit.
 

Dave HCV

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Titus Pullo said:
I never say it because I never indulge in these discussions, but since Weckly-Pants has taken the gloves off ... If you could put someone in a vacuum with two sticks and a drum -- for any length of time -- they would never come away from that with anything approaching Traditional Grip.
If they had two sticks and a drum that that was held by means of a strap over one shoulder, thus causing the drum to hang at an angle, they probably would end up with traditional grip, since that's how the traditional grip that we all know and love (or not) came to be.
 

dcrigger

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And to continue Bongo Congo's timeline... traditional grip continued to meet nearly all drumming needs from WWII into the "Age of Amplification" - at which time the ever and ever increasing volumes demands put a serious crimp in traditional grip's ability to meet "nearly all" the needs of modern drumming.

Bringing us back as ever to the idea that 99% or more of what can be played with traditional grip can be played with matched. And while that is mostly true in reverse, when playing in the upper volume range (and I'm not talking just at the most extreme range either), traditional grip will either fall short of the mark or carry an increased likelihood of injury over time.

Much like it would for any lumberjack who insisted on a career of cutting trees down backhanded. Sure some guys might be able to pull it off - but most are either not going to get many trees cut or hurt themselves trying.

All of course IMO.

David
 

Sequimite

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Corsair said:
I remember reading somewhere that with traditional grip you're using 4 muscles in your hand while with matched you use 9 or so?
I read that around 1971 in Ludwig's drum magazine. I remember the numbers slightly differently but the point is the same. After reading that I immediately switched to matched grip on drum set even though I was still using traditional at school.
 

rondrums51

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Weckl, Thomas Lang, and Gadd play a lot of LOUD music. I think that's why they switched. Matched works better for high volume. I was trained playing trad grip, but playing rock back in the old days, I instinctively went to matched grip. I could slam the snare drum harder with my left hand.

As to jazz players: Jack DeJohnette--that son of a gun can play anything he wants, and I'm guessing he switched just to try something different. Max Roach did the same thing in his latter years, and Roy Haynes plays matched a lot of the time.

As several people have pointed out, trad grip goes back to the old marching band days when the drums tilted way down to the right. So many people see it as archaic. But I don't think it's going to die off anytime soon. It lends itself to a certain independence, particularly in jazz playing.

I recently saw a video of Chris Botti with the Boston Pops. Biilly Kilson was playing drums, matched grip. He's a very animated player, and he sounded great. But I noticed that on the jazz tunes, I didn't hear the left hand independence that I used to hear with Elvin, Philly, et al. Not knocking Billy at all. He's a great player.

I have mentioned this before: Tony Williams once said that trad grip gives the jazz drummer two different approaches to the drums, like a boxer who punches with the right hand and jabs with the left.

Interesting, though: When Tony later got into the louder fusion stuff, he played matched.

The biggest change in music in the past several decades has been volume and harder hitting. And that's what's going to eventually kill off trad grip.
 

nicmilliner

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I think that playing rudimental, orchestral, or jazz (stuff that doesn't require backbeats constant backbeats in the left hand) probably doesn't result in much pain but playing backbeats all night with that grip period of years would have to take its toll. It's absorbing a lot of shock.

I love traditional for certain things but I've always played primarily matched for backbeat stuff and I'm starting to gravitate towards matched for everything.
 

bat

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I agree. The volume of today's music, in particular the backbeat, would contribute greatly to the problems. If always playing lighter stuff, which traditional can work well for with left handed ghost notes, the problems would not be nearly as likely. The one guy who I would think would really have problems is Virgil, who plays an incredibly strong backbeat with traditional grip.
 

doctor dirt

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I used both for many years and what I was doing dictated when I'd use them. If the live performance was a high energy gig with up tempo boogie with some fat back grooves I found myself with a matched technique. If I were in a setting where the volumns and energies weren't
an important ingrediant and the music lent itself to more finese tradional was used.
I should have listen to my great drum teachers as a young kid coming up for a variety of reasons but one thing I did retain is that one grip isn't better than the other but theres definetely genres that call for one over the other at times!!
Doc.
 

supershifter2

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Rik_Everglade said:
They would die in a vacuum. And yet, traditional grip was formed somehow.
traditional grip was designed for marching drums. marching drums are tilted to the right and that makes playing the drum with matched grip in the left hand difficult. i know, i played snare drum and tennor drum in the school marching band for 3 years in the 70's. back then we had one 12x15 tennor drum tilted to the right and we played the mallets matched grip and it was hard on the left hand/wrist. i switched back to snare drum so i could play traditional grip. now days i see multiple tennor drums in the flat position. i challenge all you that never played a marching snare to try and borrow one and strap it on and play traditional and matched , you will see why traditional grip was invented. btw i tried marching with my one tennor drum flat and it was difficult to walk with the single drum flat, tilting the drum at an angle made walking/marching a breeze.
 

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