496 – [Daniel Glass Show]: In Defense of the Traditional Grip

In this podcast, Daniel takes a closer look at the much misunderstood and oft-maligned grip known as “traditional.” You’ll learn how it rose to prominence, why it was replaced by the matched grip, and why it’s absolutely still worth learning today

What’s covered in this session:

  • A discussion of how military drummers developed the “traditional” grip several hundred years ago in order to more effectively march with their drums.
  • The key elements of traditional grip: the “grip” component, and the rotational motion.
  • Why traditional was the logical grip of choice when drum sets came into the picture after the American Civil War.
  • Why traditional remained the default grip for all drummers through the 1950s.
  • How hardware improvements and the increased volume of rock’n’roll laid the groundwork for a big change when it came to grip.
  • How Ringo’s appearance with the Beatles on Ed Sullivan show in 1964 caused the matched grip to take over almost overnight.
  • Why generations of drummers have become disconnected from the Traditional grip (and many other classic techniques) as a result of rock’s rise.
  • Addressing the question: is the traditional grip relevant in today’s world, and should we even bother learning it?
  • Daniel’s passionate case for why that answer is a resounding YES.

Resources/Links/People Mentioned:

2 replies
  1. Leo Comerford
    Leo Comerford says:

    I remember reading a comment somewhere claiming that matched grip was already common among drummers around Liverpool, or in the north of England generally, when the Beatles—and, of course, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes—were on the Liverpool and Hamburg scenes. But it didn’t come with any citations, so I did some quick Web searches to try to find something to support or refute it. The results were interesting, and seem to confirm it. First, here’s a page on Rory Storm and the Hurricanes: https://sixtiescity.net/Mbeat/mbfilms98.htm . Ringo seems to be using a matched grip in the photographs.

    Moving on to other drummers, the photos on this page about the Big Three https://www.bidolito.co.uk/preview-doc-n-roll-some-other-guys/ show the drummer (surely Johnny Hutchinson) playing matched. Here’s Hutchinson playing matched with the Silver Beatles: http://beatlesmagazineuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/johnny-hutchinson-BEATLES.jpeg (the image comes from http://beatlesmagazineuk.com/r-i-p-johnny-hutchinson/ , which is pop-up-infested). Video of Gerry and the Pacemakers from 1965, with Freddie Marsden playing matched: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08083BNaYcA . However he seems to be using a traditional grip in the photo at https://rockandrollparadise.com/freddie-marsden-122006/ , evidently from a while earlier. Meanwhile, here’s a photo showing a young Pete Best playing matched http://www.hembeck.com/Images/FredSez/BeatlesPeteBest.jpg , though http://www.hembeck.com/FredSez/FredSezFebruary2004.htm doesn’t give a context. (Is it from inside the Cavern?)

    Now two south of England groups: Manfred Mann in 1964 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc0x7xOap4I , with Mike Hugg playing matched on drums. The Dave Clark Five in 1964, with Clark himself on drums: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoRLIJJSG4o .

    So there was definitely a lot of matched playing in England before the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan appearance, and even before the Beatles becoming nationally very famous in the UK in early 1963. (However, on the evidence here it is at least possible that some of these drummers switched to matched in response to the Beatles’ early-’63 (or even later) success.)

    It’s certainly likely that some or all of these early, UK-based matched players were influenced by Phil Seamen. (Might as well share this footage from an apparently-1958 film of Seamen playing matched, for those who haven’t seen him before, as I hadn’t: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L3ACAoPA8o ) In fact here’s John Marshall of the Soft Machine http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/you-didnt-look-like-a-drummer-part-1-an-interview-with-john-marshall/ :

    “The other two things that separated us from the Americans, and again I didn’t appreciate this until much later, were how they were trained and how they held the sticks. They came up through the school of rudiments and used the ‘orthodox grip’ – with the right-hand above the stick and the left-hand below it, whereas the ‘rudiments’ were less a part of my training and I was taught to use the ‘matched grip’ – you held the sticks in exactly the same way in each hand. I’ve always assumed that Phil Seaman was responsible for us using ‘matched grip’.”

    However, Seamen wasn’t even the only older big-band UK drummer with a high profile to play matched at least some of the time. Here’s Eric Delaney https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Delaney , apparently a big influence on the young Keith Moon ( https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/keith-moon-bites-back-the-who-drummers-rolling-stone-interview-174268/ http://www.drumlessons.com/drummers/keith-moon/ ), on TV in (apparently) 1957: https://youtu.be/IbFw6qVVl38?t=100 .

    I suppose that in turn raises the question of how and why both Delaney and Seamen ended up playing the drum kit with a matched grip. One may have taught or influenced the other I suppose. But beyond that: was concert snare generally or sometimes played with a matched grip in the 1950s? Delaney was certainly a classically-trained percussionist (see also https://youtu.be/IbFw6qVVl38?t=42 …): maybe he took his concert snare technique and moved it to the drum kit?

    (But back in the USA: did the drummer for Sam the Sham play matched? Between https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/619M8J1ZR0L._SX355_.jpg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE_MpQhgtQ8 it looks as if he might have, but it’s possible that those don’t reflect how he really played. If he *did* play matched, were there any other surf or garage acts with a matched-grip drummer?)

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