How to Learn the French Grip on the Drums

Play a silky smooth Jazz ride cymbal pattern, crisp 16 notes in Rock, Funk or Samba or fast single strokes.  Learning the French grip on drums is one of the most important techniques to learn because it gives you a quick understanding of fulcrum and finger control. This article will show you how to hold your sticks in the French grip, how to position your body for optimal results, and provides exercises that will allow you to start using the French grip on drums right away.

How to hold your sticks in the French grip:

French grip on Drums: How to hold your stick in the french grip
The french grip is the “thumb on top” approach.
  • Create a fulcrum by placing your index and thumb on the balance point of the stick. This is the flag on Vic Firth’s sticks.
  • The stick should line up with the first joint of your index finger and the flat part of your thumb.
  • Rest the back 3 fingers (middle, ring and pinky) on the stick. Align the stick with the first joint of these fingers as well.
  • Make sure the nail of your thumb is facing the ceiling.

How to position your body to play the French grip on drums

How to position your body when playing the french grip on drums
Ideal body position when practising the French grip on the snare drum.
  • Bring your elbows out, away from your ribs. This position will help you to rotate your radius ulna as you play in the French grip. To understand how the radius ulna should rotate. Picture yourself turning a key into a lock.
  • The thumb, all the way to the elbow, and shoulder should create a triangle shape.
  • Align the stick with the buttons on your shirt (when working hands separately).

Applying the French grip on drums

  • Playing a silky smooth jazz ride cymbal

Many famous jazz drummers used the French grip while playing the ride cymbal. There are a few reasons why it is so effective for playing Jazz: firstly when moving to the ride cymbal from the hi-hat, it’s very natural to simply rotate your forearm (or radius ulna) rather than moving your entire arm.  The other reason is that the French grip allows you to easily take advantage of rebound by using your index finger as a fulcrum (or pivot).  This allows you to play the ride cymbal in an effortless and flowing way, which also generates a beautiful tone from the cymbal.

  • Playing the french grip on the hi-hat

The french grip is also great to play on the hi-hat.  With the right training and development of this technique, you can play a very smooth “open bounce” on the hi-hat.  You can also take advantage of finger control to play quick 16th note figures on the hi-hat.  These figres are great for rock, funk or latin grooves on the drums.

  • Fast singles 

After developing good finger control with your hands separate, you can eventually bring your hands together and play fast single stroke rolls around the drum set. One of the advantages of using the French grip is that it allows you to really make use of your fingers.  The fingers are made up of the smallest (and fastest) muscles in your drum technique.  Therefore, the French grip is the easiest way to develop speed on the drums.

  • Playing a Samba Pattern or a flattened out jazz ride cymbal pattern

A great way to play a fast samba, is to play a flattened out jazz ride cymbal pattern or two sixteenth notes followed by an eighth note. The French grip is a great way to develop the fluidity and speed that is needed to play Samba.

Step by Step Explained: How to develop the french grip on drums

In order to develop the french grip well, it’s best to learn the fundamentals and follow a step-by-step approach. I’ve included a few samples from my online course (see details below). Practise along at home with a practise pad.

Exercise A: Stick Grip, Body Position and Developing a Flowing Motion.

Developing the Open Bounce

The open bounce exercise is really great for taking advantage of the full range of motion of your forearm.  You can use this to play flowing eighth notes on the hi-hat and ride cymbal (drummer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd often played this way).

Online Course: Learn the French Grip on the Drums

The previous exercises are only a few of the exercise that I teach to develop the french grip. If you are interested in taking your study of the french grip to the next level, I recommend registering to my online course, and/or take some private online lessons with me.

The online course includes:

  • 40 detailed video lessons that will allow you to master the french grip.
  • How to master your fundamentals so that you learn the technique effectively.
  • 10 advanced paradiddle variations that allow you to develop flow in the French grip.
  • The trampoline bounce to effortlessly flow through all the subdivisions.
  • Develop finger-control so you can develop speed with only your fingers.
  • Use movement and gravity to strike the drum rather than muscular tension, which prevents injuries.
  • How to play an effortless jazz ride cymbal or Samba pattern.
  • Detailed practise plan to make sure you spend the right amount of time on each exercise.


Elijah is a university-educated drummer with extensive experience for both teaching and musical performance.  Since completing his Bachelor of Music degree at Concordia University in 2010, he has played music across each province in Canada and in more than 20 countries around the world. He is also the founder of, an online resource that allows students to find great teachers in Montreal.

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