Tricks for loosenning the grip?

Sinclair

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Stop thinking so much and become a looser human being in general.
I was gonna say relax.
If you have even decent technique you don't need to grip the stick that tightly to play hard, produce a desired volume and still maintain control. When I drop either stick it's because I'm too loose and not paying attention.

Perhaps on a related topic, I had a trio gig last week with acoustic piano and upright bass in a live room and almost hurt myself having to play so quietly. I think that takes even more technique than playing loosely and letting it go.
 

foxy_shazamtastic

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You sir, hit it right on the nail... Conquering fear has been the struggle of a lifetime. I have moments on stage where everything seems under control and I can reach a certain level of flow state.

But since drums aren't my primary instrument, I don't have the same ease recovering from small goofs. And those are bound to happen quite often because of my somewhat limited experience on the instrument.

I play in a sorta novelty band made up of 5 lead singers in a "let's switch instruments just for sheets n' giggles" type of deal. It's all very light hearted and fun oriented. People in my market have known me as a singer-songwriter for the best of 2 decades, and for the last 3 or 4 years, I've been playin mostly drums in this band. So it's not like people expect me to be Vinnie Collaiuta, all of a sudden. But I still have my pride, you know, I want my band to sound decent and my pockets to make people wana dance. And although we gather a lot of goodwill and people give us a looooot of leeway, ultimately, I want people to not think "Oh well, they're good, FOR SINGERS" but rather have them think "they're good. Period."

Slowly getting there, one gig at a time. And I'm try to be looser, overall, about the whole shebang.
If you’ve found that flow state it sounds like you’re doing pretty good man! It might be time to move from wanting to be good to knowing you’re good no matter what ;) nothing makes you play better than that state of mind.
 

KevinD

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Yeah, breathing is key, I have to be mindful of it at all times since I also sing while playing, wich adds another layer of complexity to my efforts to stay loose.
I took a hiatus from playing from about '95-2000. Once I started gigging again I noticed that I had the same issue. My neck and shoulders would be sore the next day from being so tense...I had not noticed that while playing. Slowly I became more aware of that and worked to avoid it, but it wasn't until I was reading an article about how athletes work to control their breathing that I started to adapt some of those practices.
It was not easy, I tended to take a deep breath before going into a fill and things like that....holding that seemed to lead to more tension. I started working on breathing "in time" when I was practicing, after a while it became pretty routine...and playing live it was something I did, along with watching my volume and generally just trying to keep things loose.

While the breathing thing may not cure all the tension issues, I think it is a good start to being more aware of your "machine" while you are playing.

When playing live, the adrenalin and overall spike in energy and enthusisam sometimes make me forget about technique and I find myself tensing up on faster/harder songs.
 

drums1225

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If you'll bear with a long story, I'll share my experience with tension (and cramping) and the solutions that have worked for me. If it's too long for you, the upshot is, examine your grip and make necessary adjustments to relieve tension.

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's, I was working a lot in a very successful modern rock cover band (we're still together, though we play far less often). I would arrive an hour before the gig, load-in, set up, quickly soundcheck, grab a beer, and hit the ground running without warming up. We'd play 3 sets of over an hour each and, often, we'd start our sets with energetic and/or fast songs to launch into things. Basically, I routinely played our fastest, loudest songs while still cold. And I even got away with it for a while.

I was around 30 at the time (with 20 years behind the kit) and was employing (and teaching my students) a loose, "open" matched grip, with the fulcrum between the thumb and first joint of the index finger. One of the points I always stressed to my students was to keep some daylight between the thumb and index finger, and not close up that space. During this period of intense playing, I unknowingly began closing up that space in my right hand and, in turn, gripping more tightly, especially when playing fast 8th notes on the ride or hi-hat.

In 2000, I took about a dozen lessons with Mike Clark at Drummer's Collective in NYC, hoping to gain insight to his approach to combining jazz and funk. At my first lesson, he asked me to play a variety of things to assess my level. At one point, he asked me to play accented doubles on the hi hat, and after observing for a bit, he stopped me and said, "Your doubles sound good, but be careful, you're 'pinching' in your right hand", meaning I was closing up the daylight between my thumb and index finger. This was the first time I became truly aware of the issue. He said, "You're young, but that will become a problem as you get older". It was almost as if he willed it to happen, because shortly after that, I began to feel cramps in my right hand.

It got to the point where the cramping became almost constant when I played, no matter the volume or intensity, on a gig or at home, jazz or hard rock, or even on a practice pad. Of course, with my new awareness, I set out to reverse my bad habit quite consciously, but now the muscle between my thumb and index finger was "trained" to cramp, like a lingering injury that never gets the rest it needs. Over time, the cramps decreased in intensity, but lingered on for several years, until I decided I needed to make some significant changes in my grip. I decided not only to revert to my previous "good" habits, but to go even further and develop a more "effortless" grip.

I started looking into different grips, discussed this with some peers, and observed the technique of a few of my favorite players. I remember someone on RMMP talking about a "three-point" or "shared" fulcrum with the stick between the thumb and both the index and middle fingers. I began checking this out, and it felt good, relieving some of the tension and cramping I had been dealing with. Then I observed some of my favorite drummers who didn't seem to be "gripping" the stick with their index fingers at all, but rather gripping the sticks between the thumb and middle finger, with the index completely relaxed and acting mainly as a "rudder", to keep the stick from moving side to side. I figured, since the first step in the reinventing of my grip was successful, I'd try to take it a bit further.

This was the effortless grip I was looking for. I completely committed to it and, over time, it eliminated my cramping issues completely. Not only that, it just feels better than any grip I had previously used. My hands are open, loose, and in control. I refer to this evolution as "migrating" my fulcrum from thumb/index, to thumb/index/middle, and then fully to thumb/middle. It's not a "trick", but it made a huge difference and I wish I would have been aware of it years earlier.
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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I was gonna say relax.
If you have even decent technique you don't ne
If you'll bear with a long story, I'll share my experience with tension (and cramping) and the solutions that have worked for me. If it's too long for you, the upshot is, examine your grip and make necessary adjustments to relieve tension.

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's, I was working a lot in a very successful modern rock cover band (we're still together, though we play far less often). I would arrive an hour before the gig, load-in, set up, quickly soundcheck, grab a beer, and hit the ground running without warming up. We'd play 3 sets of over an hour each and, often, we'd start our sets with energetic and/or fast songs to launch into things. Basically, I routinely played our fastest, loudest songs while still cold. And I even got away with it for a while.

I was around 30 at the time (with 20 years behind the kit) and was employing (and teaching my students) a loose, "open" matched grip, with the fulcrum between the thumb and first joint of the index finger. One of the points I always stressed to my students was to keep some daylight between the thumb and index finger, and not close up that space. During this period of intense playing, I unknowingly began closing up that space in my right hand and, in turn, gripping more tightly, especially when playing fast 8th notes on the ride or hi-hat.

In 2000, I took about a dozen lessons with Mike Clark at Drummer's Collective in NYC, hoping to gain insight to his approach to combining jazz and funk. At my first lesson, he asked me to play a variety of things to assess my level. At one point, he asked me to play accented doubles on the hi hat, and after observing for a bit, he stopped me and said, "Your doubles sound good, but be careful, you're 'pinching' in your right hand", meaning I was closing up the daylight between my thumb and index finger. This was the first time I became truly aware of the issue. He said, "You're young, but that will become a problem as you get older". It was almost as if he willed it to happen, because shortly after that, I began to feel cramps in my right hand.

It got to the point where the cramping became almost constant when I played, no matter the volume or intensity, on a gig or at home, jazz or hard rock, or even on a practice pad. Of course, with my new awareness, I set out to reverse my bad habit quite consciously, but now the muscle between my thumb and index finger was "trained" to cramp, like a lingering injury that never gets the rest it needs. Over time, the cramps decreased in intensity, but lingered on for several years, until I decided I needed to make some significant changes in my grip. I decided not only to revert to my previous "good" habits, but to go even further and develop a more "effortless" grip.

I started looking into different grips, discussed this with some peers, and observed the technique of a few of my favorite players. I remember someone on RMMP talking about a "three-point" or "shared" fulcrum with the stick between the thumb and both the index and middle fingers. I began checking this out, and it felt good, relieving some of the tension and cramping I had been dealing with. Then I observed some of my favorite drummers who didn't seem to be "gripping" the stick with their index fingers at all, but rather gripping the sticks between the thumb and middle finger, with the index completely relaxed and acting mainly as a "rudder", to keep the stick from moving side to side. I figured, since the first step in the reinventing of my grip was successful, I'd try to take it a bit further.

This was the effortless grip I was looking for. I completely committed to it and, over time, it eliminated my cramping issues completely. Not only that, it just feels better than any grip I had previously used. My hands are open, loose, and in control. I refer to this evolution as "migrating" my fulcrum from thumb/index, to thumb/index/middle, and then fully to thumb/middle. It's not a "trick", but it made a huge difference and I wish I would have been aware of it years earlier.
Thanks for the detailed account. I'll look into that for sure...
 

Markkuliini

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I started looking into different grips, discussed this with some peers, and observed the technique of a few of my favorite players. I remember someone on RMMP talking about a "three-point" or "shared" fulcrum with the stick between the thumb and both the index and middle fingers. I began checking this out, and it felt good, relieving some of the tension and cramping I had been dealing with. Then I observed some of my favorite drummers who didn't seem to be "gripping" the stick with their index fingers at all, but rather gripping the sticks between the thumb and middle finger, with the index completely relaxed and acting mainly as a "rudder", to keep the stick from moving side to side. I figured, since the first step in the reinventing of my grip was successful, I'd try to take it a bit further.

This was the effortless grip I was looking for. I completely committed to it and, over time, it eliminated my cramping issues completely. Not only that, it just feels better than any grip I had previously used. My hands are open, loose, and in control. I refer to this evolution as "migrating" my fulcrum from thumb/index, to thumb/index/middle, and then fully to thumb/middle. It's not a "trick", but it made a huge difference and I wish I would have been aware of it years earlier.
This grip is great! I've been using this grip for the last few years: Zero hand problems.
 

ThomasL

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In particular when playing the hihats, I like to extend the index finger a bit and let the fulcrum be between the thumb and middle finger. MD has an article about grips some 15-20 years ago, and it was pointed out how Gadd plays like this.

Edit: same grip as discussed above...
 

Tornado

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I'm all for altering the grip as it suits the music and your style of playing, but it is still possible to stay loose with a front fulcrum. And it's possible to get tense with a middle to back fulcrum, although I do agree it's a lot looser and it's where I stay mostly. Some of this is just plain old conditioning. You get tense when your muscles get tired, tense muscles tire even quicker, and down the spiral you go.
 

multijd

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Even before playing drums I've always suffered from pretty stiff forearms. Be it in my guitar playing where frantic strumming often can make it a challenge to hold the pick right. Or more dangerously, when I did races on dirtbikes, where the need to hang on for dear life induced what is known in those circles as "The death grip" (too much blood constricted in the forearms preventing you from openning the hands so you can't reach your clutch or brakes...) NOT FUN...

When playing live, the adrenalin and overall spike in energy and enthusisam sometimes make me forget about technique and I find myself tensing up on faster/harder songs. Especially on hats (especially on 16ths). I can play a half decent Moeller stroke in the comfort of my own living room when stakes are low, but all that flow can go out the window if, for some reason, we play a bit faster or harder, or if I happen to have a special new cue I don't want to miss, or I drop a stick in an unfortunate passage etc etc. All of these things can induce a gradual locking up of the hands.

I try to be intentional about keeping things loose and take advantage of every small break in the beat to try and open my hands. Like for instance, if there is a crash-and-mute followed by a two quarter notes rest, I will let my stick dangle in my semi-opened right hand for a second. This helps somewhat, but it is quite the mental gymnastics to do that sort of split seconds accounting in parrallel of the actual playing and singing...

How do you guys and gals keep things loosey-goosey?
You might want to try gloves. They allow you to hold onto the stick without squeezing tightly especially for louder playing.
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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You might want to try gloves. They allow you to hold onto the stick without squeezing tightly especially for louder playing.
Even ifI could find some that aren't an eyesore, I alternate between guitarand drums, so that's not an option for this particular gig.
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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Well, tonight's gig was way better, I put some wax on my sticks to compensate the dryness of my hands. Washing them 40 times a day with some alcoholic gel has made them chapped and extremely slippery, no skin oil whatsoever. I took the time to realy heat the wax to get the coating super smooth and tacky. The tackyness of the wax allowed me to open my hands between almost at every hit without having the stick creep up till I only grip the butt end and having to do the "crawly fingers" thing up the sticks to get them back in the original position. I'd tried wax before but with mixed results. Mostly when I had extra sweaty hands, not to counter dry slippage, but hey, now I know it works for that too!

A good pad warm-up, stretching session and some visualisation exercises also allowed me to be comfortable and relax from the get go.

I've tried to be mindful of everything that was said here:
Looseness of the fingers, check!
Looseness of the mind, check!
Controled and natural breathing, check!
Focus on technique more than theatrics, check!
Stretching and warm-up, check!
Hydration, check!
Turning down the constant "self critique" script, check!

Good comfortable pockets with the rest of the band, particularly with the bass player. Plenty of head bobbing and butt wiggling from the crowd.

The venue's manager who is an amateur drummer in a cover band even complimented me on my playing and didn't believe me when I told him I'd only been at it for about 4 years (in fact, I've only been practising "for real", since the first lockdown in march 2020.)

I also took a minute after the show to take a mental "screenshot" of how it felt to be in that state of ease and flow. I'll try to channel this and repeat the steps I did at the beginning of every other gigs. We still have 12 more to go with plenty of travel in between before the end of the month so energy conservation and not struggling as much will be key to getting through in one piece.

Thanks again fellow forumites, you guys are always a big help. :thumbleft:
 
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DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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Since Markkulini 2nd the notion … I’ll ‘3rd’ it! It allows a very controlled, yet relaxed grip, almost effortless, like watch Emmanuel Caplette play.
Emmanuelle Caplette is from my neck of the woods, we have friends in common. I might just ask her if she'd be down for private lessons. She's a hell of a technician... And rather smooth on the eyes, I might add ;-)
 

halldorl

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Hold the stick with thumb and middle finger. Let the index finger just rest on the stick. It frees up and relaxes your grip.

EDIT: Saw this was mentioned before.

Just see Gadd playing. It’s very visible when looking at him.
 

Jay-Dee

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You sir, hit it right on the nail... Conquering fear has been the struggle of a lifetime. I have moments on stage where everything seems under control and I can reach a certain level of flow state.

But since drums aren't my primary instrument, I don't have the same ease recovering from small goofs. And those are bound to happen quite often because of my somewhat limited experience on the instrument.

I play in a sorta novelty band made up of 5 lead singers in a "let's switch instruments just for sheets n' giggles" type of deal. It's all very light hearted and fun oriented. People in my market have known me as a singer-songwriter for the best of 2 decades, and for the last 3 or 4 years, I've been playin mostly drums in this band. So it's not like people expect me to be Vinnie Collaiuta, all of a sudden. But I still have my pride, you know, I want my band to sound decent and my pockets to make people wana dance. And although we gather a lot of goodwill and people give us a looooot of leeway, ultimately, I want people to not think "Oh well, they're good, FOR SINGERS" but rather have them think "they're good. Period."

Slowly getting there, one gig at a time. And I'm try to be looser, overall, about the whole shebang.
You've posted some of your stuff on here and you're a damn good player, don't sell yourself short.
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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You've posted some of your stuff on here and you're a damn good player, don't sell yourself short.
Well thanks a lot sir !
There are some things I do half-decently, when I stay within my limits. But I still try to push them a bit further everyday. Sometimes it works and I look better than I really am. Sometimes I fall a bit short and look like a fool. That's all part of the learning process.
 

Matched Gripper

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Even before playing drums I've always suffered from pretty stiff forearms. Be it in my guitar playing where frantic strumming often can make it a challenge to hold the pick right. Or more dangerously, when I did races on dirtbikes, where the need to hang on for dear life induced what is known in those circles as "The death grip" (too much blood constricted in the forearms preventing you from openning the hands so you can't reach your clutch or brakes...) NOT FUN...

When playing live, the adrenalin and overall spike in energy and enthusisam sometimes make me forget about technique and I find myself tensing up on faster/harder songs. Especially on hats (especially on 16ths). I can play a half decent Moeller stroke in the comfort of my own living room when stakes are low, but all that flow can go out the window if, for some reason, we play a bit faster or harder, or if I happen to have a special new cue I don't want to miss, or I drop a stick in an unfortunate passage etc etc. All of these things can induce a gradual locking up of the hands.

I try to be intentional about keeping things loose and take advantage of every small break in the beat to try and open my hands. Like for instance, if there is a crash-and-mute followed by a two quarter notes rest, I will let my stick dangle in my semi-opened right hand for a second. This helps somewhat, but it is quite the mental gymnastics to do that sort of split seconds accounting in parrallel of the actual playing and singing...

How do you guys and gals keep things loosey-goosey?
There are several techniques you can employ to maintain a loose, tension free hand, wrist and arm. The Moeller, Gladstone and open/closed methods are three. In fact, you have to be loose and tension free to execute these methods optimally. When you practice these methods, you realize that they are all similar, accomplishing the same thing in slightly different ways - taking advantage of the natural rebound of the stick in order to generate multiple bounces of the stick with minimal effort.

Forming your fulcrum with your thumb and middle finger (which is longer than your forefinger), makes it easier to hold on to the stick when playing the Moeller whip stroke without squeezing. The Chapin video explains the Moeller method in minute detail.


The Gladstone method aka freestroke is like bouncing a ball. There is no upstroke, only downstrokes. You push the stick down with your hand and let it bounce up like a ball, you don’t pull it up with your wrist. It’s much easer to remain loose and tension free with this method than playing downstrokes and upstrokes with the wrist. There is some overlap between the Gladstone and ope/closed methods involving finger technique. I can’t find a single comprehensive lesson on YouTube. But, this one may help to get you started.


Everything you need to know about the open/closed method is taught by Gordy Knutdson. This video is a comprehensive overview. He has additional videos that go into more depth.

 


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