For some instruments, such as triangles and large gongs, only one mallet or beater is normally used, held either in one hand, or in both hands for larger beaters; For others such as snare drums often two beaters are used, one in each hand. More rarely, more than one beater may be held in one hand, for example when four mallets are used on a vibraphone, or when a kit drummer performs a cymbal roll by holding two soft sticks in one hand while keeping a rhythm with the other.
Matched or unmatched
When two identical beaters are used, one in each hand, there are two main varieties of grip:
- Unmatched grips, known as traditional grips because of their association with traditional snare drum and drum kit playing, in which the right and left hands grip the beaters in different ways, often one underhand and one overhand.
- Matched grips in which the hands hold the beaters in similar but mirror image fashion.
Traditional grip was developed to conveniently play a snare drum while marching, and was documented and popularised by Sanford A. Moeller in The Art of Snare Drumming (1925). It was the standard grip for kit drummers in the first half of the twentieth century and remains popular, and the standard grip for most snare drummers.
Matched grip is used for most percussion instruments when two beaters are used.
There are three main varieties, distinguished by the means of moving the beaters and the angle of the palms to facilitate this action:
- French grip, in which the beaters are moved mainly by the fingers.
- German grip, in which the beaters are moved mainly by the wrists.
- American grip, partway between French and German, using both wrists and fingers.
Single-beater grips are common for:
Unmatched grips are common for:
Matched grips are common for: