Dissertation Hallock strikes again! ...and this time with insight regarding the lovely debate of traditional vs. matched grip. Below is an excerpt from a conversation with one of my students that I thought would be fun to share. This is from the online percussion course I created for the College of Southern Idaho.
"Yes if a person doesn't set up the snare drum in a way that accommodates traditional grip when playing the drum set, then the grip feels completely useless. Same thing with the toms. In fact, if a drummer is using the bigger toms that are found on rock kits, it is almost impossible to set up the toms in a way that allows a player to play anything but matched grip.
Are you a Buddy Rich fan? Check out this video (https://youtu.be/9esWG6A6g-k) and notice how the snare is titled to accommodate his grip. Also, notice how the tom is positioned so closely to the snare that his left hand can naturally and fluently move between the tom and the snare. More importantly notice how his left hand rarely touches any other drum besides the snare and 1st tom, which are both set up in a way to be played by his left hand easily. So traditional grip, and the limitations of it, cause players to create creative solutions for their fills and their playing. That is why jazz drummers have such strong left hands and do all that chatter on the snare drum. It also offers opportunities for some creative sticking that creates some badass rhythms and fills that you wouldn't even think about if you just played matched grip. So in a weird sort of way, the limitations of traditional grip actually open up the doors to exciting and creative perspectives.
Are you familiar with Buddy Rich's one-handed roll? Check out this video (https://youtu.be/wc62KMqQGio) and what he does with his left hand. This video also gives stronger insight into how he sets up his drums to accommodate his grip. This one-handed roll was invented because of what traditional grip offers.
You are correct to suggest there is a certain level of delicacy and intricacy that is achieved with traditional grip, and you are also correct to say that the same level could be achieved with matched grip. In fact, if you are doing both grips correctly and have your playing surfaces adjusted accordingly, you should be able to achieve the exact same things and neither grip is a hindrance. The question then becomes, why take the time to learn them both, and I would have to agree with that perspective to a certain extent. Especially when teaching. There is a lot of damage that can be caused to a student's hands if they play trad. grip incorrectly, so why risk it?
However, as a person grows in their craft you do start to notice certain nuances that are musically expressed differently when swapping between grips. Playing with brushes is a perfect example. Have you spent much time playing with brushes? Brushes are actually easier to play with traditional grip. In fact I often times use traditional grip in both hands when playing the brushes because it allows for some crazy sick patterns that simply can't happen with matched grip. You should give it a shot! In fact, I should create a video about this....maybe we will work on brushes down the road!
Historically speaking, if you are going to study drumset, then you do have a certain obligation to learn trad. grip at its most fundamental level. It is a part of the history of the drum set. If you are going to continue your studies of the instrument, it will be difficult for people to think you are a serious student of the craft if you can't use the grip to some extent. However, I am not suggesting that you need to be 100% fluent, but rather just enough to get by."