I will often tell students that I don't care how they hold the stick - All I care about is the sound they create.
Technique is not the goal - creating a good sound is the goal.
Creating a good sound includes being able to play to play quickly, slowly, evenly, loudly and softly. Pretty quickly when students try to do these things it is not long before the begin to realise that if we want to be able to control the stick to that degree, the way in which he hold the stick and make the stick move soon becomes an important factor
There are basically only two sticking patterns, single strokes, (RRRRR or LLLLL or RLRLR or alternate sticking) and double stokes, (RRLLRRLL) and combinations of the two which create our paradiddle patterns. And these are the first sticking patterns that I get students working on. Firstly on the practice pad if possible (because it is quieter) and then using all the different surfaces of the kit.
As students begin working on these patterns usually discussion of technique come to the fore.
Traditionally, German grip is taught as the exclusive technique. I find that a lot of students discover French grip and find this is an easier grip to achieve good rebound strokes. I demonstrate both grips and get students to try both. I don't mind where they settle as both grips have advantages and disadvantages. Many of the world great players use exclusively German grip, others exclusively French, other use both to exploit their unique advantages. Others use Traditional grip, but that is a discussion for later and best avoided at this time.
- German Grip - Palms down. Forearm remains still, Wrist flops up and down
- French Grip - Palms face each other. Is a more complicated motions as it involves an outwards twist of the forearm and well as the wrist moving up and down
- Fulcrum is created by gripping the stick between the thumb and forefinger
- Find the best balance point of the stick
Drop the stick in to the drum and allowing it to bounce until it stops. Start by having the fulcrum at the very back of the stick and then gradually move it forward towards the front of the stick until they discover that the stick no longer drops into the drum at all. Then go back and find that spot where the sticks produces the most amount of bounce. That is what we call the balance point of the stick and is where we want our fulcrum to be.
While playing single strokes with one hand, try moving between German grip and French prip by rotating the hand through 90 degrees.
ie start with the palm facing the floor and then rotate it until it is perpendicular to the floor or in a hand shake position.
I don't usually talk about traditional grip unless students bring it up. (or they see me using it and ask questions) I am happy for them to give it a go as it does ofter us a few extra little tricks. I think these include
- easier to play 16th notes on the Hi-Hat (RLRL grooves)
- Can manipulate the angle that the stick hits the drum allowing us to change to tone
- easier to play stick on stick sounds