Archive | September, 2012

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.

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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 http://www.vicfirth.com/education/keyboard/burton.php 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apk_yQ_-2WI. In the images below the “diatonic position” of the Mainieri grip is demonstrated by my right hand.