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The Burton grip is a method of holding two mallets in each hand in order to play a mallet percussion instrument, such as a marimba or a vibraphone, using four mallets at once. It was developed by jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton around the 1960s.
The grip was designed to make up for Burton's perceived shortcomings of the traditional grip, which he thought could be difficult to control while changing intervals. Burton grip was also designed so that a player could play two-mallet lines and melodies without having to put down two mallets. Gary Burton had observed that jazz vibraphonists would tend to play harmony using four mallets, but switch to a two mallet grip to solo, so he made the Burton grip so that one could solo without having to switch grips, allowing for chords to be used during these solos.
It is formed as a variant of the cross grip, with the mallets held as follows:
Seen with the palm facing upwards, the inside mallet is placed and crossed over the outside mallet. The end of the inside mallet is held with the little finger, and outside mallet is held between the index and middle fingers. The thumb is generally placed inside the inside mallet, but it sometimes is placed between the mallets to widen the interval. The inner mallet (generally used for melodies) can be separately articulated by gripping with the index finger and the thumb and pivoting over the outer mallet. When necessary, the outer mallet can be separately articulated by widening the interval so the mallets come as close to a right angle as possible and giving a swift downward flick with the wrist and middle and index fingers.
Although results may vary from player to player, the advantage to the Burton grip is stability, where holding a specific interval steady is typically more comfortable than in other grips. Playing two-mallet lines is another strength of the grip, as one can play the lines using any combination of mallets (although melodies are typically played with the 2 and 4 mallets) with relative comfort and control.
- Wan Hwa Low. "Overview of four mallet grip". Some student projects from the graduate course Music Technology Seminar taught by Dr. Tim Koozin. Moores School of Music, University of Houston. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
- Johansson, Magnus (18 September 2012). "The Burton Grip". DOUBLEMALLETGRIPS. Retrieved 8 February 2019.