Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Choices Choices.....So many choices but it's all in the grip

I am a drum geek. I freely admit it. Whenever I catch a glimpse of a drum rim or glance at a tuning lug I MUST investigate. Is that an old Slingerland or just a new DW? Likewise, drumsticks peak my interest. Is that a 7A or a 8D? How the heck do you get THAT sound out of THAT stick?

It came as a big surprise to me to learn that two drummers with really different sounds, Elvin Jones and Bill Stewart, play very similar sticks. Both play Hickory sticks. Elvin's stick of choice changed over the years, but all had the same extra length, medium taper and tear drop tip; similar to a 7A. Bill's sticks have extra length and tear drop tip as well. The biggest difference is that his sticks have a longer taper than Elvin's. This gives the stick more flex and a "faster feel".

So, if they both use similar sticks, why such different sounds? It's alllll about the grip my friends. Look at Elvin's right hand "golf grip". His adaptation of the French grip often puts the thumb to the side of the stick rather than the top. This allows the stick to pivot within the closed fist. It is this looseness that gives that open and round resonance to his tone.

Now look at Bill's right hand text book French grip. The thumb on top position moves the pivot point, or fulcrum, out of the fist and onto the thumb and fingers. This can still give a beautiful round and resonant tone. However, Bill occasionally gets this super dry almost dead-stick sound. Take another look the photo above and you will notice he has his thumb tip driving straight down into the stick rather than lying on top. This is what gives him that really "woody" sound on the cymbal. 

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