Most ergonomic grip?

Hello. I'm a newbie with a grip question.

I'm planning to purchase my first set of vibes in a few days and begin learning to play.

I've got pretty small hands and, after decades working at a computer keyboard, I have developed a tendency towards tendonitis in the fingers.

Plus, I have some weakness and lack of flexibility in my right thumb and right ring finger.

I'd like to try learning with 4 mallets first. That seems to offer greater musical possibilities. If that doesn't work out, I figure I can always fall back to using 2 mallets.

Any recommendations on the most ergonomic of the popular 4 mallet grips?

Any mallets--or mallet modifications--that make things easier on the hands?

Thanks in advance.

- Walt


Welcome!!! What vibes are you getting? And congratulations on your start of an incredibly beautiful instrument.

If you want to play 4-mallets, learning 4-mallets out of the gate is the way to go. I heard Gary compare learning with 2 at first to a piano player first learning how to play with just his pointer fingers as opposed to all 10 digits.

I've always been of the mindset that you can play anything with any grip. Joe Locke uses Stevens... which is what I also use. Tony made up his own grip because he "messed up" Burton's grip after seeing him play. Burton invented his grip, as well (obviously). I also know a few guys and gals hat play traditional grip (which is like a backwards Burton grip). Mike Mainieri has a funky pinky grip that he makes work beautifully. The point being, every grip is going to have it's up's and downs.

On a personal level...

I have small hands, as well. I've heard Burton grip is easy to learn, but I always really struggled with it. Stevens is hard to master at first, but gives you a lot of flexibility... I love it. Tony has several tutorials on his grip on the site. My advice would be to try a few out but very soon pick one and stick with it, otherwise you are going to be a slave to technique when it is important to be developing a lot of different things in these early stages.

hope that helps,

Thanks for the warm welcome.

Based on reading the forum postings here, it looks like I'll be ordering a Musser M55 in A440 tuning. Seems like a good choice for me.

It sounds like you've had good luck with the Stevens grip. What do you like about it from an ergonomic perspective?

To provide a bit more background on my original question:

My current instrument is the hammer dulcimer. I've been playing it for about a year. It's fun, but a bit limited musically. Great for playing simple folk tunes, but not much good for more complex stuff.

After the first few months of playing, I discovered a couple of things: 1) When I became able to play fast tunes, my limited right thumb grip/feel was causing a loss of control of the right hammer. 2) The traditional grip and hammers were exacerbating a bit of tendonitis in my thumbs.

It took me a few months of research, but I finally found both a more ergonomic grip and a set of ergonomic hammers that give me good control and that don't contribute to any physical problems with my hands or wrists.

I'd like to avoid these problems, as much as possible, now that I'm starting a new musical adventure with the vibes.

Thanks again.


Yea, I think it's just important to keep your hands relaxed... as long as you are not squeezing anything excessively, you'll be okay. No matter what grip you choose, there is probably going to be a while where it's uncomfortable... and it may be quite a while before you feel completely "loose" and free with the grip, but that is just natural. Just constantly remind yourself to try to stay as loose and relaxed as possible while playing.

I love hammer dulcimer. I grew up in the foothills of East Tennessee, where bluegrass reigned supreme. Ever heard of the Jeremy Kittel Band? They have a smokin' hammer dulcimer player that plays jazz pretty well.

you might want to also check out Ed Saindon's grip. He's active on this site, and he has developed a fulcrum grip that might be just what you are looking for.


Hi Walt,

Given your right thumb issues, you might find the Burton grip stresses you less. With the Burton grip, the dominant right hand mallet is the outside one -- the one between your index and middle fingers. The inside mallet, the one controlled by your thumb, just flops around a lot of the time.

Tom P.

Thanks for the tip. I'll check out Burton grip.

Saw an interesting video this morning on something called the extended cross grip by Ney Rosauro. Looks easy on the hands, provided that I can manage to wrap my small ring and pinky fingers around the mallet handles.

Anybody making mallets with skinny handles these days?

Thanks again.

- Walt