Making your own mallets

7 Feb

I would like to encourage all percussionists to make their own mallets. It is a great way to learn more about the manufacture of keyboard percussion mallets and how the construction of mallets affects playing technique and sound.

The American percussionist Bill Sallak is an expert in mallet design and he has created a very interesting series of YouTube videos called Open Source Mallets. Visit Bill’s site at and become inspired by his take on mallet design and manufacture. If you wonder how a mallet head wrapping machine works used by commercial brands and how fast it can do circa 140 wraps, here is a short video:


The Kearsey-Lawson Grip

22 Sep

British percussionist Roan Kearsey-Lawson claims to have developed the Kearsey-Lawson Grip. The grip is very much like the Musser grip, so much so that it is questionable whether it is a separate grip or just a variation on the Musser grip. Please have a look at and share your thoughts in a comment here below. How much different from one grip must another grip be in order to have a name of its own?

Doublemalletgrips statistics

18 Jul

For those who wonder where the readers of this website dwell, below is an excerpt from the statistics pages of Doublemalletgrips. Not surprisingly the USA is by far the most common country. It not only has a strong musical tradition in general but also a very strong tradition regarding percussion, with Orff-Schulwerk tuition in schools and a lot of percussion and marching bands. Many of the percussion playing technique innovators also come from the USA; among the ten double-mallet grips seven are of American origin.

Doublemalletgrips statistics_1

The Johansson Grip

31 Oct

In 2010 I started experimenting with alternative grips based on the Burton and Fulcrum grips that used only the thumb as the front separating finger between inner and outer mallets. I wanted to hold both mallets between thumb and index finger in order to utilize the fulcrum principle with the greatest level of control. To this concept I added a variant of the Extended cross-grip’s support finger under the palm to avoid any clicking of the mallet shafts and to control the spread.  The Johansson grip requires quite thin shafts so that the separation of the shafts in the hand can be maintained. Below are two images of the grip at the interval of a second.


The Fulcrum Grip

9 Oct

The American percussionist Ed Saindon (1953 -) developed The Fulcrum grip some time during the previuos decade. It is based on the Burton grip but is characterized by giving the mallets, controlled by the fingers, freedom to move in the hand. Ed wanted to create a grip that gave the mallets the possibility to be controlled by the fingers in the same way as when playing with only one mallet in each hand where one can use the fulcrum principle from e.g. snare drum playing.

The loose grip of the Fulcrum grip makes it difficult to apply to standard rattan or wooden shaft mallets. Therefore the shafts are wrapped with racket tape to increase friction, both between shafts, and fingers and shafts, and increase shaft diameter, and also to dampen the clicking that occurs when the moving shafts hit each other in the hand. In the December 2008 issue of Percussive Notes there is an article called The Fulcrum Grip by Ed Saindon that gives a detailed introduction to the grip. At the following adress there is a video with Ed playing and demonstrating his grip:

Below are two images of the grip at the interval of a fourth. However, the mallets here do not have tape wrapped shafts.

The Extended Cross-grip

4 Oct

Brazilian percussionist and composer Ney Rosauro (1952 -) developed the extended cross-grip after encountering problems with tendons in his hands and arms using the Stevens grip for several years. Earlier he had used the Burton grip and the new grip he developed was based on the Burton grip. One of the specific features of the extended cross-grip is the use of an anchoring finger for the outer mallet: It is the ring finger that with its tip presses the outer mallet against the palm creating space between the mallet shafts in the hand. Through this technique the direct contact between the mallet shafts, and the not unusual clicking sound of the Burton grip, are avoided. At larger intervals the grip also uses a technique similar to that of the traditional grip’s method of increasing the spread with thumb and index finger. Ney Rosauro has made very nice and detailed instruction videos that teach his grip at

This is what the extended cross-grip looks like at the interval of a fourth.

The Stevens Grip

30 Sep

During his studies in the 1970’s at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, American marimbist Leigh Howard Stevens (1953 -) developed the Stevens grip which is also called the Musser-Stevens grip or the Stevens technique.  It was the first double-mallet grip to get a thoroughly documented description when Stevens published his book Method of Movement for Marimba in 1979.  As Stevens describes it in his book, the grip is a child of the Musser grip. What separates it from the Musser grip is most notably the vertical hand position and the manipulation of the inner mallet where the mallet does not go under the thumb when playing larger intervals but instead is held between the outer phalanxes of thumb and index finger and the shaft end is moved from the base of the thumb towards the base of the middle finger.

The Stevens grip is together with the Burton grip the most used double-mallet grip today; it seems more common on terraced bar layouts like that of the marimba than on the flat bar layout of the vibraphone. Below are two images of the grip.

The Gordy Grip

20 Sep

The Gordy grip is named after the American marimbist and composer Gordon Stout (1952 -). The grip is a cross-grip with the outer mallet above the inner mallet, just like in the Burton grip, but the outer mallet is held between the middle finger and the ring finger like in the Musser grip. Gordon told us the following in a comment here on Doublemalletgrips under the article The ten double-mallet grips:

I was taught this technique by my first teacher, James Salmon at the University of Michigan. He was a Musser grip player, and played in the Marimba Symphony International under Musser’s direction. He taught me the “Gordy grip” as a trainer for the Musser grip, because my hands were too small when I started for Musser grip. He decided at some point to leave me with the technique and not switch me to Musser grip. I started four mallets with the Gordy grip in the early 1960′s. I don’t remember the exact year.

The Gordy grip is the same grip as the Miceli stoned grip of American vibraphonist Tony Miceli (1960 -) that Miceli came up with in the early 1980’s not knowing that Gordon Stout and also American percussionist and pianist Victor Feldman (1934 – 1987) already used the grip. Tony Miceli wrote in a comment to the article The ten double-mallet grips:

i play the same grip as gordon. i learned it because i went to a gary burton concert and i was stoned and drinking. really awful now, but i was young and just moved to the city and went wild.

anyway, i saw gary play and for some weird reason i swore he was using that grip. i realized when i saw him play later that year that it was my bad. he was using one finger in the middle, i was just too high to notice. consider that an anti drug message!


Below are two images of the Gordy grip.

The Burton Grip

18 Sep

After learning to play four mallets with the traditional grip, the American vibraphonist Gary Burton (1943 -), started as a teenager experimenting with ways of holding the mallets and came up with what is now known as the Burton grip. It is a cross-grip with the outer mallet above the inner mallet, i.e. just the opposite of the traditional grip. The inner mallet is held between the index finger and the thumb, and the outer mallet between index finger and middle finger.  At larger intervals the inner mallet goes under the thumb so that both index finger and thumb separate the mallets. It is today one of the most used grips and the basis for other grips such as the Extended cross-grip (Rosauro grip) and the Fulcrum grip (Saindon grip). The grip is described in several books and in the video The 4 Mallet (Burton) Grip at where Gary Burton himself tells the story about his grip.

Below are two images of the Burton grip. Just like the other images they show the grip at the interval of a fourth on an instrument with 48 mm center to center between the naturals and with mallets that are 435 mm long and mallet shafts of 8 mm in diameter.

The Mainieri Grip

7 Sep

After his studies with Lem Leach in the late 1940’s, the American vibraphonist Mike Mainieri (1938 -) started to make modifications to the Leach grip. These included holding the mallets nearer to the heads and gripping the inner mallet with the outer joint or the usual middle phalanx of the index finger instead of the outer phalanx. Holding the mallets nearer to the heads meant that the mallet shafts crossed each other under the wrist at many an interval larger than a second. With the new grip position and features he could start to manipulate the inner mallet lengtwise with thumb and index finger in order to reach the accidentals of the instrument without twisting his hand or arm. This is, according to Mainieri, a great advantage when it comes to playing chromatic passages.

Mainieri has plans on releasing an instructional video about his grip and its playing technique but they seem not to have materialized yet. There are very few percussionists using this grip and the inventor himself is the only famous example as far as I know. At the following address is a video with Mainieri in concert using his grip: In the images below the “diatonic position” of the Mainieri grip is demonstrated by my right hand.