Grip, Stroke, and Sound Production

Just like the basics of basketball are dribbling, the chest pass, and free throws, the basics of performance on a keyboard percussion instrument are the grip, the stroke, and proper sound production. Without these basics, every other aspect will suffer. With proper technique, all aspects of your playing will benefit tremendously!

THE GRIP: Begin by lightly gripping the mallet approximately 2/3 of the way down the shaft from the head of the mallet. Position your thumb directly opposite the first knuckle of your first finger. Gently wrap the remaining three fingers around the shaft. The back of your hand should face the ceiling (German style grip) and the back end of the shaft should exit the hand between the base of the pinky and the wrist (on the fleshy part of your palm). Your wrist should be straight and relaxed.

THE STROKE: The stroke should be a motion primarily made from the wrist. Use of the fingers and arm should be limited, but may be required in certain circumstances. The stroking motion should be similar to that of dribbling a basketball or an up and down waving motion Рlead by the grip between the thumb and first finger. Use a full or legato stroke, where the mallet will return to its original position several inches above the keyboard. Try to avoid down strokes where the mallet does not rebound fully after striking the bar. The motion of the mallet should be almost perpendicular to the bars, not approaching from an angle off to the side. The wrists will always remain just slightly above the bars and all motions should be as smooth and relaxed as possible.

SOUND PRODUCTION: The bars will produce the best sound when struck as far as possible from the nodes (strings). The best playing spot is in the center of the bars. For rapid passages, the very edges of the upper manual (flats & sharps) can be used. To produce a full sound without additional contact noise, only allow 70-80% of the weight of the mallet to strike the bar – always think LIFT! For the best sound, use a mallet appropriate for the instrument and the range of the instrument used. For example, medium yarn mallets will produce a more pleasing sound than a hard rubber mallet.