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everyone seems to play French(ish) grip

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  • everyone seems to play French(ish) grip

    Hey. Relatively new (year and a halfish) and still very mediocre (less than mediocre really) drummer here. I have noticed when watching all the various instructional videos on Youtube, almost all those folks appear to play everything with a French, or French-ish (thumbs mostly up) grip, regardless of music style/genre. I dunno, maybe it's deceptive camera angles. I, on the other hand, started and still feel most comfortable with the German/American palms down grip. Motion feels more natural, started that way without thinking about it. I have tried the French thing but it just feels weird, except when doing stuff on the ride, in which case I can kinda do either position (although heavier hitting still feels more "right" with palm down). Advice is almost universally that the right way is "whatever works for you, gives you the results you want, and doesn't injure you", and yet I can't help wondering why all these other folks play this way.

    Perhaps some more experienced players can chime in?
    Last edited by TheBass; 09-06-20, 08:18 PM.

  • #2
    I never had formal drum lessons so I'm probably the wrong person to chime in, but I tend to play "thumbs up" at softer volumes, and somewhat more "palms down" when I go louder. It just seems to come naturally.
    Module: TD-9v2. Kick: KD-8, pedal: Iron Cobra with KAT Silent Strike beater. Hats: VH-10 with Tama Swivel hi-hat stand. Snare: PD-120. Toms: 3 x PD-80R. Crashes: CY-12RC, CY-14. Ride: CY-15R. Aux: BT-1.

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    • #3
      French is gerat for finger control, you get a lot more range of motion for the fingers. German is great for power but not so great for finger control. American is in between and has the advantages of both. Best thing is to learn both french and german and then you will be able to morph between them seamlessly resuting in an american grip with the option to go more towards french or more towards german depending on the situation.

      French is not very intuitive, it takes some practice but it's worth Learning it.

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      • #4
        I have been working on the finger stuff more recently, and can do a little with French grip but have more speed/control with palm down.
        Last edited by TheBass; 09-07-20, 03:01 AM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by TheBass View Post
          I have been working on the finger stuff more recently, and can do a little with French grip but have more speed/control with palm down.
          Yeah, same here. My right hand seems to love french grip. Left, not so much but it's getting there. I'm also practicing push/pull. Learning more french and the push pull technique has improved my left hand finger strokes a lot which I notice when I play doubles.

          There is also the option to place the fulcrum in the front of the hand or in the back of the hand. Back of the hand is when you the index finger is relaxed and a bit straight. This guy explains it well using a paper cone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV9FqZfZMk0&t=206s

          He seems to suggest the back in the hand fulcrum is better which is BS IMO, both are great for different things. For instance american grip with the thumb slightly on top is unbeatable for paradiddles or stuff where there is a mix of down/up strokes and ghost notes because you can more easily stop the stick.
          Last edited by frankzappa; 09-07-20, 10:10 AM.

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          • #6
            Ah, good ol' Gordy. Maybe I am a drummer 'cause I start to recognize these names when other people rattle them off in videos. I have tried his techniques (not the cone thing but the back-of-hand positioning). I see that a lot in videos. As I understand it, more power, less rebound which may be great for some folks/styles. My natural position is the traditional way taught (find highest bounce point on stick for fulcrum).

            I have messed around with push pull but no dedicated any real time to it.

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            • #7
              I consider myself as an intermediate, still a lot to learn in terms of foundations (and practicing). That said, here is what I think:

              It is more relative to the physical position/ergonomics and also what to achieve. For example, fast tempo, slower and more controlled, etc... I would say that it is a combination so it is good to learn them all and naturally use the one that makes you feel comfortable to play on the specific situations. Basically, creating options for you.
              When playing on the ride, for example, I use french grip more often. If I play the floor tom, it is mixed depending on what I want (french / american).
              My left hand is more on american grip, and german grip sometimes.

              Maybe I am not the right person to say as I am an intermediate drummer. anyway, using each technique, you can also do variations.

              For example, on german and american grip, when playing in low velocity I use the index fingers and the thumbs, but relaxed. With the same movement, if I just change from the index finger to the middle finger, I make the stick a bit looser, extending its motion, which increases the velocity still using almost the same effort as in the controlled way. It is some sort of bounce movement so just by changing the finger, I gain in dynamics. A crescendo is an example when I use it, starting from low velocity on the index finger and then moving to the middle finger.

              I have a lot to learn and to improve. Having fun hehe..


              Ronaldo B.

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              • #8
                I can't comment on much of that but I have concentrated on keeping loose and using middle finger as fulcrum rather than index, which sort of dangles and lightly guides the stick.

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                • #9
                  frankzappa,

                  Originally posted by frankzappa View Post
                  He (Ed: Gordy Knudtson) seems to suggest the back in the hand fulcrum is better, which is BS IMO; both are great for different things. For instance, American grip, with the thumb slightly on top, is unbeatable for paradiddles or stuff where there is a mix of down / up strokes and ghost notes, because you can more easily stop the stick.
                  My interpretation of Gordy Knudtson's video is somewhat different from your description above.

                  Knudtson is not advocating that holding the stick toward the back of the hand is an alternative and better grip than, say, French. And, nor is Knudtson advocating a "fulcrum at the back of the hand, near the pinky finger" approach, though some drummers do use this technique. Rather, Knudtson is helping drummers develop a full-hand finger control approach, which can be applied to all grips (traditional, French, American, German, other variations, and hybrid grips).

                  You can put the fulcrum wherever you want, as long as you understand why you're putting it where you are and what modifications you must make to maintain relaxation and finger control. Knudtson himself, in this demonstration, places the fulcrum higher up the index finger, still between index and thumb. That's what his demonstration using artificial fulcrums with felt markers is about. He's using the cylindrical tube of each marker as a stand-in for a fulcrum that is looser and higher up the index finger. Later on, when he removes the last felt marker entirely, Knudtson wraps the tip of his index finger gently around the stick, for even more full-hand contact. The fulcrum is still there, as before, higher up the index finger, and all fingers remain loose yet in contact with the stick.

                  Ultimately, both the cone and felt marker tools are used to demonstrate holding the stick from the back of the hand and forward, through all fingers, as opposed to a grip where the main hold on the stick is in the front of the hand, pinching at the fulcrum. The back of the hand / all fingers approach is useful in all grips. If the stick is pinched, it is not free to move and respond to rebound. Pinching also hampers endurance, because it causes muscle stress that can lead to injury. Lastly, spreading control of the stick over all fingers provides more powerful finger control while maintaining relaxation, because the load / work is spread over more muscle groups and contact points. It's straightforward math: two fingers are more powerful than one, three fingers are more powerful than two, and so on.
                  Last edited by TangTheHump; 09-08-20, 02:24 AM.

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                  • #10
                    TheBass,

                    I think you may find the following thread interesting. It's not about French grip per se, but there is plenty of discussion on French as the thread progresses.

                    Hand Technique
                    https://www.vdrums.com/forum/general...and-technique/
                    Last edited by TangTheHump; 09-08-20, 02:54 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TangTheHump View Post
                      frankzappa,



                      My interpretation of Gordy Knudtson's video is somewhat different from your description above.

                      Knudtson is not advocating that holding the stick toward the back of the hand is an alternative and better grip than, say, French. And, nor is Knudtson advocating a "fulcrum at the back of the hand, near the pinky finger" approach, though some drummers do use this technique. Rather, Knudtson is helping drummers develop a full-hand finger control approach, which can be applied to all grips (traditional, French, American, German, other variations, and hybrid grips).

                      You can put the fulcrum wherever you want, as long as you understand why you're putting it where you are and what modifications you must make to maintain relaxation and finger control. Knudtson himself, in this demonstration, places the fulcrum higher up the index finger, still between index and thumb. That's what his demonstration using artificial fulcrums with felt markers is about. He's using the cylindrical tube of each marker as a stand-in for a fulcrum that is looser and higher up the index finger. Later on, when he removes the last felt marker entirely, Knudtson wraps the tip of his index finger gently around the stick, for even more full-hand contact. The fulcrum is still there, as before, higher up the index finger, and all fingers remain loose yet in contact with the stick.

                      Ultimately, both the cone and felt marker tools are used to demonstrate holding the stick from the back of the hand and forward, through all fingers, as opposed to a grip where the main hold on the stick is in the front of the hand, pinching at the fulcrum. The back of the hand / all fingers approach is useful in all grips. If the stick is pinched, it is not free to move and respond to rebound. Pinching also hampers endurance, because it causes muscle stress that can lead to injury. Lastly, spreading control of the stick over all fingers provides more powerful finger control while maintaining relaxation, because the load / work is spread over more muscle groups and contact points. It's straightforward math: two fingers are more powerful than one, three fingers are more powerful than two, and so on.
                      I may very well have have misunderstood. I did write "it seems" he is advocating it which I thought would be enough to explain that my interpretation could be wrong because I haven't seen the whole video. I only showed the video because of the cone demonstration as I thought it was an excellent way of showing how the different grips feel.

                      IMO "pinching" the stick is bad on all grips but to me (at least the way I play), first finger fulcrum is using all four fingers while when I play back of the hand I'm not using them that much at all, it's mostly wrists. However I'm a first finger fulcrum player and haven't actually spent any time on the back of hand techinque. It's more something that just happens when I play easy stuff because it feels more convenient. Same with french really, it's something that has just evolved naturally because it feels more lazy.
                      Last edited by frankzappa; 09-08-20, 07:20 AM.

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                      • #12
                        frankzappa,

                        Just want to underline something, first, before I reply to the rest of your post. In no way am I criticizing your interpretation, and I do not mean to be argumentative. It's just that it seemed I got different things from the video than you did. And in fact, I like that we each came away with different interpretations, because it's quite possible I misunderstood elements you caught! :-)

                        So, on to your post. There is a fulcrum idea you put forth that I also discussed briefly. It's the notion of placing the fulcrum in the back of the hand, somewhere around the last two fingers. I've seen lots of drummers use this approach. The remaining fingers are in front of the fulcrum rather than behind it, as is the case when the fulcrum is placed between thumb and index finger. When the fulcrum is placed in those last two fingers, the tradeoff is considerably less rebound and finger control in return for a very powerful whipping action. It works this same in traditional grip, if you place the fulcrum at the very butt end of the stick, cradled all the way back in the crease of the hand, between the thumb and index finger. You get incredible whipping power and inertia, but the stick is actually off balance (the fulcrum really is not working) and so rebound is impacted greatly. Some expert players deal with this in any event (Keith Carlock comes to mind) and it's a fundamental part of their approach.

                        Essentially, I agree with you. In any of the matched grips, when the fulcrum is placed in the back fingers near the pinky, a lot of finger control is given up and one needs to understand this impact, and the situations where such an approach is useful and not useful.

                        Gary Knudtson discusses pinching and so did I in my reply in this thread. Not all pinching is bad. Or, perhaps I should use the phrase "momentary squeeze". To avoid retyping, I"m going to borrow something I wrote in the thread I provided for TheBass, as follows:

                        "The impact (kinetic energy that produces rebound) does not travel into the hands, because just before the point of attack, one relaxes the fulcrum. There is a relax-then-slight-pinch approach that becomes automatic. You relax the fulcrum and fingers to avoid the impact traveling into the body and to allow the stick to travel back on its own. This is what I call *getting out of the way of the stick*. Then you make a slight pinch at the end of the return, applying just enough pressure to avoid dropping the stick, but no more. This same relax-then-slight-pinch approach applies to all grips, not just French. It's one of the key ways to avoid impact traveling into the body."

                        I'll add to the quote. The approach is better described as relax, slight pinch or squeeze at end of return, then relax again. In other words, the pinch / squeeze is never held. The start and end of the stroke (resting position) are relaxed, with no tension in the grip / hands.
                        Last edited by TangTheHump; 09-08-20, 10:05 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TangTheHump View Post
                          frankzappa,

                          Just want to underline something, first, before I reply to the rest of your post. In no way am I criticizing your interpretation, and I do not mean to be argumentative. It's just that it seemed I got different things from the video than I did. And in fact, I like that we each came away with different interpretations, because it's quite possible I misunderstood elements you caught! :-)

                          So, on to your post. There is a fulcrum idea you put forth that I also discussed briefly. It's the notion of placing the fulcrum in the back of the hand, somewhere around the last two fingers. I've seen lots of drummers use this approach. The remaining fingers are in front of the fulcrum rather than behind it, as is the case when the fulcrum is placed between thumb and index finger. When the fulcrum is placed in those last two fingers, the tradeoff is considerably less rebound and finger control in return for a very powerful whipping action. It works this same in traditional grip, if you place the fulcrum at the very butt end of the stick, cradled all the way back in the crease of the hand, between the thumb and index finger. You get incredible whipping power and inertia, but the stick is actually off balance (the fulcrum really is not working) and so rebound is impacted greatly. Some expert players deal with this in any event (Keith Carlock comes to mind) and it's a fundamental part of their approach.

                          Essentially, I agree with you. In any of the matched grips, when the fulcrum is placed in the back fingers near the pinky, a lot of finger control is given up and one needs to understand this impact, and the situations where such an approach is useful and not useful.

                          Gary Knudtson discusses pinching and so did I in my reply in this thread. Not all pinching is bad. Or, perhaps I should use the phrase "momentary squeeze". To avoid retyping, I"m going to borrow something I wrote in the thread I provided for TheBass, as follows:

                          "The impact (kinetic energy that produces rebound) does not travel into the hands, because just before the point of attack, one relaxes the fulcrum. There is a relax-then-slight-pinch approach that becomes automatic. You relax the fulcrum and fingers to avoid the impact traveling into the body and to allow the stick to travel back on its own. This is what I call *getting out of the way of the stick*. Then you make a slight pinch at the end of the return, applying just enough pressure to avoid dropping the stick, but no more. This same relax-then-slight-pinch approach applies to all grips, not just French. It's one of the key ways to avoid impact traveling into the body."

                          I'll add to the quote. The approach is better described as relax, slight pinch or squeeze at end of return, then relax again. In other words, the pinch / squeeze is never held. The start and end of the stroke (resting position) are relaxed, with no tension in the grip / hands.
                          I agree with everything you said. I’ve had the same experience with the grips. I’m not sure I’m pinching at all though. The only time I may pinch is when I need to play a downstroke. In that case I stop the stick with my palm and thumb slightly on top. Almost all other strokes I play are free strokes.

                          Of course if by pinching we are talking about just keeping the stick from flying off of your hands then of course.

                          I think the way I play it feels like bouncing 4 basketballs at the same time. My hands and feet are barely there, the stick is almost doing it by it self if you know what I mean. I was tought by Bill Bachmann, he’s all about free strokes and learning to play all grips so your body can pick and choose unconciously what feels best in a given situation.
                          Last edited by frankzappa; 09-08-20, 04:15 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by frankzappa View Post
                            Of course if by pinching we are talking about just keeping the stick from flying off of your hands, then of course.
                            Yes, this is exactly what I mean. :-)


                            Originally posted by frankzappa View Post
                            I think the way I play it feels like bouncing 4 basketballs at the same time. My hands and feet are barely there, the stick is almost doing it by itself, if you know what I mean.
                            This is similar to my own approach. Whenever possible, I try to stay out of the way of the sticks and let them do the work for me. I only intercede when needing to impart something the sticks are not doing already on their own. And indeed, apart from the named Free Stroke Technique (a la Jojo Mayer, Johnny Rabb, etc.), whenever possible I try to gain free (albeit controlled) strokes through rebound, finger control, wrist control, etc. There is also the Gladstone method, wherein there are no up-strokes, only down-strokes, because up-strokes are accomplished through rebound - you just get out of the way of the sticks on the up-stroke. I find this mostly true, but there are times when one must hit while pulling away from the drum, pull-up / pull-out strokes and such, and this somewhat breaks from the Gladstone method as I understand it.
                            Last edited by TangTheHump; 09-09-20, 11:16 AM.

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                            • #15
                              TheBass,

                              Originally posted by TheBass View Post
                              I have noticed when watching all the various instructional videos on Youtube, almost all those folks appear to play everything with a French or French-ish (thumbs mostly up) grip, regardless of music style / genre. (snip) Advice is almost universally that the right way is "whatever works for you, gives you the results you want, and doesn't injure you", and yet I can't help wondering why all these other folks play this way. (snip)
                              Re my earlier reply. Perhaps I should have answered your question directly (right here, in this thread) instead of linking to another thread. There is some good discussion in that other thread, though. Still, here is a more direct reply.

                              In general, I agree with the notion: "Do whatever works for you, gives you the results you want, and doesn't injure you." However, the mechanics of the human body and of the drums we play, and structural dynamics in general, dictate certain foundational techniques - the building blocks of drumming, if you will. Yes, there is variation between individual drummers, but the building blocks of drumming hold reasonably constant and true, none-the-less. You can play drums without using these building blocks, but your drumming may be more difficult and/or limited by a lack of foundational techniques.

                              Let's zoom in on your question and on an important, foundational technique, French grip. This is the first grip I teach new students and I do so for two reasons, one good reason and one possibly not so good reason.

                              Let's take the not so good reason first. French is the grip my first drum teacher taught me. Honestly, that's one of my reasons, for better or worse!

                              My second reason is more sound and perhaps why my first drum teacher chose French grip as a starting place. Earlier in this thread, we talked about keeping all fingers on the stick. (i.e. More fingers on the stick equals greater power and control.) This is all fine and good, but until one understands a fulcrum and how the fulcrum of a grip affects the grip in totality, then wrapping your fingers around the stick simply hides the main attraction.

                              In many ways, the fulcrum is one of the most important ingredients of a grip. French grip, perhaps more than any other, makes the fulcrum obvious and it's one of the few grips where the grip works without any other fingers on the stick other than those forming the fulcrum. In this sense, it's an excellent place to start learning about fulcrums in general, grips, and foundational techniques.

                              To play quickly and/or quietly, small muscle groups and lightweight body mass are needed. Conversely, to play powerfully and louder, albeit more slowly, large muscle groups and heavier body mass are needed. Neither approach is better than the other. It's just a case of choosing the right approach for the right job.

                              Why learn about French grip and why use it?

                              French is perhaps the ultimate finger control grip. It uses muscle groups and body mass that are small and lightweight (finger tips, fingers, hands, and wrists) and provides rapid, even, unaccented strokes. The strengths of French are minimal movement for maximum travel around the kit, maximum speed, maximum endurance (when the grip is executed correctly), and quiet to medium loud strokes. The weaknesses of French are power (it is not a powerful grip) and accenting (it's not as good for executing accents as something like German grip).

                              Why care about speed and endurance?

                              Neither speed nor endurance are goals in themselves; there is no drumming scripture that says a faster drummer is a better drummer. However, sometimes speed and/or endurance are needed in order to express certain musical ideas.

                              As drummers, we are often required to play subdivisions that connect and glue the music together. Let's take a fairly slow tempo of 60 BPM (beats per minute) in the time signature 4/4. If the drummer is required to play continuous sixteenth notes, that's actually 240 BPM! Not so slow anymore! So even at fairly slow tempos, drummers may be required to play rather quickly and for extended periods. Thus, we need techniques and tools that allow us to play that way. French grip is one such tool. French grip works well for fast, light strokes precisely because it maximizes a drummer's ability to use fingers, the lightest, smallest muscles and body mass we have.

                              Try this. Hold out your hand as though you are about to shake someone's hand. Notice your palm is perpendicular to the floor, which means the palm faces sideways to the floor. Now, tip your hand slightly downward at the wrist, as though you are aiming at a drum in playing position. Imagine pivoting a stick between your thumb and index finger. As you open and close the remaining fingers of your hand, these fingers propel the pivoted stick up and down, downward toward the head of the drum. Thus, in French grip, the fingers are ideally positioned to maximize their power and control over the stick.

                              Let's contrast this with German grip.

                              Hold out your hand, somewhat flat this time, as though you are about to bounce a ball on the floor. Notice your palm is parallel to the floor, which means the palm faces the floor. The floor is, once again, a metaphor for a drum in playing position. Imagine pivoting a stick between your thumb and index finger. Curl your remaining fingers around the imaginary stick. Due to the position of your hand, the stick comes out sideways and not directly in front of the fingers. As you open and close the remaining fingers of your hand, these fingers propel the stick sideways, left to right, not downward toward the head of the drum. Thus, in German grip, the fingers are not well positioned to control the stick. With variations to the grip, one can gain some downward motion from finger control, but German grip does not have the same speed and dexterity from finger control as French.

                              Why use German grip, then?

                              German grip is a very powerful grip, much more so than French. This is because unlike French where the wrist moves from side-to-side (with limited motion up and down), in German the wrist is positioned precisely for up and down movement. This allows integrating the wrists more powerfully into the stroke and also lower and upper arms. German grip is great for accents and strong backbeats!

                              Ultimately, it's useful to have multiple grips in your toolbox of techniques. Each grip doesn't solve all problems, but may be great for certain situations. And indeed, within a given piece of music, a drummer may change grips numerous times to handle different requirements of the music. The more grips and techniques you have, the more options you have for handling different musical situations. Were someone to ask what grip I use, I'd answer "French, German, American, Traditional, and many others, and I switch subconsciously and automatically, as the music requires."

                              A few years back, I created a video specifically to teach French grip and to address the problem of calluses. I no longer have a YouTube channel, but if you'd like to view my video, PM me with a Dropbox, Google Drive, or One Drive link I can upload to and I'll upload the video for you.
                              Last edited by TangTheHump; 09-11-20, 01:53 PM.

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