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Matched grip (also known as parallel grip) is a method of holding drum sticks and mallets to play percussion instruments. In the matched grip each hand holds its stick in the same way, whereas in the traditional grip, each hand holds the stick differently. Almost all commonly used matched grips are overhand grips. Specific forms of the grip are French grip, German grip, and American grip.
The matched grip is performed by gripping the drum sticks with one's index finger and middle finger curling around the bottom of the stick and the thumb on the top. This allows the stick to move freely and bounce after striking a percussion instrument. Any of the major grips below can be played with an index finger fulcrum, a middle finger fulcrum, or a combination of both. The fulcrum can also be placed on the first or second knuckles of the primary fulcrum finger. These options lead to many technical variations in playing position. All of the grips, with all of the fulcrum variations, apply to the right hand of traditional grip as well.
In French grip, the palms of the hands face directly toward each other and the stick is moved primarily with the fingers rather than the wrist as in German grip. This allows a greater degree of finesse and the addition of forearm rotation to the stroke, which is why many timpanists prefer French grip. This grip uses the smaller and faster finger muscles. It also comes in handy for playing fast tempos, including for swing or jazz on the ride cymbal. For louder strokes, the wrist rotates much in the same way as when hammering a nail.
In German grip, the palms of the hands are parallel to the drumhead or other playing surface, and the stick is moved primarily with the wrist. German grip provides a large amount of power, but sacrifices the speed provided by the use of the fingers as in French grip. It is used when power is the primary concern, such as when playing a bass drum. This is also the primary grip for the Moeller method. German grip provides the widest dynamic range, achieving the control necessary for pianissimo passages without the need for much rebound from the drum and also allowing for very loud fortissimo strokes from the arm.
American grip is a hybrid of the French grip and German grip. The palms of the hands typically are at about a 45-degree angle, and both the fingers and wrist are used to propel the stick, which is positioned parallel to the forearm. This grip is considered a general-purpose grip by percussionists because it combines the power and larger wrist motion of the German grip with the quick finger strokes of the French grip. Each element of the stroke, finger or wrist motion, can be isolated as needed. Instruments it is used to play include snare drums and xylophones.
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