Stevens Grip

I'm new and Know nothing but don't wish to repeat the mistakes of the past, I taught myself piano...all wrong.
With four mallets it seems the evolution is Traditional grip to Burton Grip To Musser to Stevens? So why should the vibraphone be different?
What is it that the Stevens grip lack? What about that technique doesn't fit the vibe mastery thing.
I hope my instrument arrives soon, I'm tied of banging my table and afraid the old Kurzweil won't live much longer if I keep playing it with mallets.

It doesn't seems to me there's an evolution between the grips, as far I understand it. Each one has some advantages and disavantages. Nothing like "start with X, then follow with Y, and finally end up with Z" thing. If you get a grip who suits you well, that's fine, you can stick with it. If you're curious, try others to see if they are more OK FOR YOU, but how to say "this one is better" ? If you see Gary Burton play, his grip is clearly perfect for him, and if you see Mike Mainieri it's the same with another grip... It's all about how YOU feel with a grip, IMHO.
Good luck ! :o)

Like I said I'm new, thanks for the response.

I don't know if Gavin McGraw is a member here - I think he is, but Gavin switched from Burton grip to Stevens grip for vibes and has stuck with Stevens. So I'd recommend asking for his opinion on it and see what his updated experience has been.

I like to think of the Burton grip as a power grip; however, in a day and age where using pickups on the bars is becoming more frequent, I've seen a shift towards other grips since projection of the instrument is a different thing than what it used to be.

Hi Pax,
I made the switch from Burton to Stevens for vibes. The Burton grip has more power than Stevens, but, for me, less flexibility. Also with Burton, I found that my hand tended to lock into a fist at times--I had trouble maintaining a relaxed position with it. I used Burton from about 1974 to 2000, and then gradually made the transition. The breakthrough for my switch to Stevens came with the following changes:
1. I added a small diameter bead (5/8") to the end of each mallet. This bead gives you extra leverage on the mallet--esp. important for the outer mallets, which are held by the weakest fingers in the hand. In a normal Stevens grip one might see a fair amount of stick extending beyond the pinky. The addition of a small bead makes an enormous difference in the power you have open to you. I tried various sizes and found that the smaller bead gives better control and just as much power without interfering with the hand
2. I shortened the mallet lengths so they would not interfere with each other on rapid passages. Also, the inner mallets need to be shorter than the outer mallets--you can't adjust them to the same length by sliding the outside mallet back as you would using the stevens grip without the bead. (I mark the inner mallets so I can see which inside and which is outside.)

I make my own mallets, so this is all relatively easy to do.

The Stevens grip takes more time to develop, but for me it works better with the shape of my hands and the shape of my arm. I have better rotation. Its advantages (again, from my perspective and for my body) are
-complete independence of the mallets,
-less tendency to "bear down" on the mallets (it is difficult to use the Stevens grip and squeeze too hard--the shape of it makes you relax some),
-the rotational movement used in the Stevens grip(like opening a door) is more natural than the "knocking on the door" movement with the Burton grip (and both hands are evenly matched--you don't favor one motion with one hand and another motion with the other, which one tends to do with Burton)
-I now can execute more kinds of 4-mallet rolls--they are easier with Stevens

Disadvantages of adapted Stevens
-without that bead for leverage, it is hard to develop power
-the grip is more sensitive to warped mallets, so you need to use wood (which sends shocks up your hands) or a fiberglass substitute, or be sure you are always finding the straightest rattan possible.
-it takes longer to develop accuracy with Stevens
-with my adapted version (the beads and different mallet lengths you have to make your own stuff (at least be able to shorten mallets and add a bead, which latter is not as easy as it sounds).
-with my adapted version, quick shifts from one instrument--say conga to vibes--mean you have to be sure you pick the mallets up in the right order (short ones inside, long ones outside). Burton grip is easier when switching from one kind of instrument to another quickly.

For me, the Stevens grip ultimately has allowed me to play more fluidly, be more relaxed, play bop type lines with greater ease, and avoid some muscle problems I was developing with Burton. BUT EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! My Burton problems occurred gradually over time and may have been due to bad habit or to my particular biomechanical gifts and limitation.

Been gigging solidly with this grip for much of the last decade, including a regular Fr-Sat gig for the past 30 months. No problems, no joint pain (besides that which is normal for my age), and I also work at the computer all day--no carpal tunnel.

I could NOT make the Stevens grip work on the vibes until I added the small bead for leverage. Even after I got good control of the grip, I found that by the 3rd or 4th tune into the night, I just could not get the power needed to deliver the volume for a quartet or quintet gig. Once I added the bead, the power was every bit as good as Burton, with the added flexibility of being able to play fluidly with any combination of inside and outside mallets. I love it now. I am almost always relaxed with it.

Pardon the long post and sorry I didn't post sooner about this but I've been busy and haven't been hanging around this site much! I hope this helps.

Thanks Vince for the details, could you post a picture of the beads on the mallets...I envision end beads, I like the stevens grip, it's comfortable but I'm also working on Tony's grip, heck, I"m still waiting for my vibe to get here!

that's how i think about grips. each one was for a purpose and with certain goals in mind. that's important to remember. because that would mean each grip has some strengths and weaknesses.

of course i love the grip i use, otherwise why would i use it!!!

the most common is the burton grip. no one can say that that wasn't designed with the vibes in mind. remember the stevens grip was designed with the marimba in mind and for a different style of playing! IMVHO

you should come up to workshop in delaware for the week. i bet we could get you going with your grip and technique!!!
otherwise, you have a good teacher down there? over there? up there?

each grip has its day. I totally agree with Tony on this. I also agree that you should go to the workshop and check out what Tony offers as a teacher. Getting to see, hear and feel the different grips is a great way to decide where you are going to focus your playing.

My reason for deciding early on to not use either a Musser grip or a Stevens grip (even though that is what I was taught in college for playing marimba) was rather simple, but may not be true for you. I like the sound of heavy mallets. I found that I could not get the leverage and control I wanted from heavy mallets with two of four being held by only my feeble pinky and fourth finger. Maybe, if I had stuck with it longer, I would have become stronger. Maybe I am just a wimp. :) Whatever the case, it wasn't working, so I went with Burton grip and stayed there for vibes.

There is one grip you are not considering that I also think everyone should learn...

Two mallets.


Good luck. Check out the workshop this summer.

Tony said
you should come up to workshop in delaware for the week. i bet we could get you going with your grip and technique!!!
otherwise, you have a good teacher down there? over there? up there?

OK, For us big dumb beginners;-) please point out the painfully obvious...I guess you got to spell it out for me but seriously, I can go to a worship and learn from y'all. Ye haa, I'm ready for a road trip!
I do have a young gentleman from FSU in orlando that showed me the stevens grip but said he uses burton on vibes so ther's somrthing about vibes that favor Burton, I have much to learn and the time I have.

Tried to post this as a new topic under workshops in the forum post?;-(

IN MY HUMBLE OPINION. don't use the stephens grip on the vibes. the short answer is use the burton grip. i think it's more powerful and better. of course i like my grip best. i like the second finger in between the sticks. but the short answer is BURTON.

i know people get upset with me. but gary developed his grip with one purpose and that was to play the vibes and leigh stevens developed his to play the marimba. i just think for each of them those are their strengths. and with all strengths there are weaknesses to go along with the strengths.

i would highly recommend, that you at least use the buron grip! and personally would hope you would like the grip i use and use that in the end. but that's not that important. so, the short answer is use the burton grip!

I'm working on the burton or STONED grip on a chunk of cardboard with bars drawn on it. C U @ Delaware!

that is what I love about Tony. He is a humble guy but way smart. Hey when Tony first came on the scene and showed everybody all the great things he was playing and told his funny story about how he came up with his grip, it seemed natural to try it and man has it got a lot going for it. You should check it out seriously. Also there is a guy (Ney Resario see below) who has what he calls an evolution to the Burton grip but in my humble opinion is really the way Gary plays if you watch him (not what others describe as the Burton grip, which always looks stiffer) the Ney Resario clips are an excellent resource for getting any grip together though, in terms of things to think about and goals to try and achieve.
Looking at Tony play in those from above videos is way cool too because you can see how his grip allows for really intuitive phrasing and comping.

ahhh man that was nice! thanks piro!!!!

Oh Tony
Stevens is comfortable but I don't have enough time invested in it to have formed an opinion. The Burton grip or your grip seem less comfortable but I'll be at the Delaware workshop. I'll bring a crash helmet!
Playing on a cardboard vibraphone in Florida,