Back when I played the snare drum for the marching band in high school, I found that not a lot of people know about the origins of the traditional snare drum grip. If you’ve ever seen a marching band, you might’ve noticed that the snare drummers play with their left hands turned upward like this:
The reason for this awkward-looking grip is that drummers from previous eras played with snare drums that were angled off to the right due to the fact that the drums had a single sling. This can be seen in the painting Spirit of ’76 by Archibald MacNeal Willard, 1875.
People continue to use the traditional style grip either because they prefer the technique over the more common matched-style grip or because it’s a tradition to use it. According to Steve Fidyk from the Modern Drummer Education Team, “traditional grip is useful to learn because it produces a certain sound that works great when playing drumming patterns in the rudimental/traditional style.” Another member of the Education Team, Bill Bachman, doesn’t feel the same way. “I’ve yet to find anything traditional grip can do—from a technical perspective—that matched grip can’t do better,” he stated.
Whatever style you use, enjoy what you do! Don’t let people tell you that you’re doing something right or wrong. It’s all about preference and comfort. If you agree or disagree, or simply have thoughts on the matter, please comment below.