It’s an age-old question: How do I become a better drummer? The drum industry might have you believe the answer to that question can be found in their products. “Buy a new drum kit and become a better drummer!” “Get a new cymbal and play like a pro!” Or, “the key to better drumming can be found with an amazing new double bass drum pedal!”
While buying shiny, new drum hardware can certainly make you look like a better drummer. New drums, cymbals, and drum racks won’t necessarily make you a better drummer.
So, we ask again, how can I become a better drummer? There is perhaps no more effective drum method or technique available today to make you a better drummer than the Moeller method. By simply practicing and mastering some key Moeller technique exercises, you’ll be on your way to mastering the drums. Once you understand the Moeller stroke, you’ll be playing faster and more efficiently before you know it.
Ready to learn how? Let’s go!
Moeller Technique History
The best place to start is always at the beginning. The Moeller technique was named after Sanford Moeller. Both a drummer and a teacher, Moeller became interested in drummers and drum techniques that harken back all the way to the American Civil War. Watching military parades, Moeller was intrigued that their drum lines could play with such efficiency and speed over long periods of time, seemingly without getting tired at all.
How was this possible?
Upon analyzing these players’ techniques, he noticed some peculiarities in not only how these drummers held their sticks, but also how they struck the drum. He was able to extrapolate both of these processes and distill them into what we now know as the Moeller method. This method became popular in part after Moeller met Jim Chapin (a very influential 20th century jazz drummer) who continue to proliferate Moeller’s technique amongst the larger drum community.
In concert with Chapin’s broad influence and popular appeal, the Moeller method became a key fundamental technique in progression of modern drumming.
Moeller Stroke Technique
How to Hold Your Drumstick
The Moeller method starts from the ground up or, in this case, with how you hold your drumstick. Make no mistake, the proper stick grip is vital in ensuring your success with the Moeller method. Essentially, you are looking for the sweet spot of your drumstick. This is called the fulcrum point. Once you identify this part of your drumstick, you’ll be able to get an incredible amount of bounce out of each stroke, which is vital in the Moeller technique.
It’s akin to a golf stroke, as the golf swing begins with how you hold your golf club. Or, how the way you grip a baseball bat determines how you intend to hit the ball. Grip in this case is very important.
The Full Stroke
The Moeller method can be broken down into three separate movements. The full stroke, the up stroke, and the tap stroke. The full stroke involves a coordinated effort between your shoulder elbow and wrist to produce a powerful, whip-like strike to your drum. You want to feel like you’re almost cracking a whip with this initial strike.
Starting from a vertical position, initialize this drum strike from your shoulder, through your elbow, into the hinge of your wrist. Think coordinated effort as you deliver the stick to the drum. This initial hit, coupled with the natural bounce you get from your drumstick, will set you up for the next two parts of this technique.
Practice this movement with a metronome, and focus on engaging your entire arm, not just your hands, throughout. Remember, this stoke will set up the next two strokes, make sure you practice to get it right.
The Up Stroke
The next stroke in this three-part technique is the upstroke. This is essentially the same type of stroke as the full stroke however the starting position is much closer to the drum head. Not quite as powerful as the full stroke (think tap, not hit here), you’ll still want to utilize the whip-like strike of the full stroke. Think of this stroke as the bounce of the full stroke… a kind of spent energy left over from your initial hit.
Like the full stroke, practice this movement with a metronome to help with timing. And just like practicing techniques as a beginning drummer, make sure you use both hands!
The Tap Stroke
The final piece of this three-part effort is the tap stroke. This last stroke starts just a few inches from the drum head. Think of it as a gentle tap, or ghost note, that you hit on your way up to the vertical position to start another full stroke. This last hit won’t have quite the same volume as the full stroke as it’s essentially the last remnants of bounce from your first strike.
As this is the last “stroke” in the Moeller method, practice lightly tapping the drum as you bring your drum stick back to the vertical position to begin another full stroke. You can also think of it as a tiny “tap” of the drum before you bring you unleash the full stroke. A kind of primer for the more powerful hit, if you will.
The Sum of All Parts
When you put these three together, the full stroke, up stroke, and tap stroke, you kind of get a drum hit that feels almost like a triplet. When done correctly, you’ll feel like you’ll be able to get three hits out of one fluid motion. Incredible, right?! Three hits for one? You’ll feel like you’ve won the drum lottery!
Don’t get hung up on the elevation of your stick in each stroke, as this method is all about feel, and once you get a sense of the feel of the method it will become easier. Like Happy Gilmore, you want to “be the ball.”
Also, don’t forget to work out both hands, left and right, when practicing this technique. You wouldn’t go to the gym and do bicep curls with only one arm would you?! Take your time. Though it sounds easy, the Moeller method is a technique that drummers take considerable time to master. Focus on the fundamentals and you’ll be on your way.
Benefits of The Moeller Technique
The benefits of learning and utilizing the Moeller method are far-reaching indeed. Not only will you have more control over your drum stick, the energy produced from each strike of the drum head, and the velocity at which the drum is struck, but you also start to realize that you can play “faster” than you ever thought possible. Think about it, you’re essentially getting a minimum of three hits out of each motion. Master the Moeller technique and become three times the drummer you already are!
Beyond becoming faster or more proficient at drumming, the Moeller method also emphasizes a coordinated effort between the major muscles in your arms starting from the shoulders down to your wrist. This takes an emphasis off of the hands (which many drummers believe to be the ultimate arbiter of each drum strike) and spreads it out over the larger area of your arm.
What does this mean? A couple of things.
First, you realize you’re less fatigued when you utilize the Moeller method. Ever get off stage and feel like you’re going to die from exhaustion? Not so with the Moeller method. You’ll be able to play for longer periods of time, and it will feel like you expend less effort over each drum session.
Second, you’ll be less prone to hand and wrist injury over time, ensuring a long and enjoyable drumming career. We don’t need to tell you that drumming, perhaps more so than any other instrument, can be hard on your body. Want to rock out when you’re 80 years old? We do! This Moeller technique can help you do the same!
The Moeller Technique – Further Study
If you are interested in learning more about the Moeller method, there are plenty of videos and articles available online to help you further understand this technique. There are also some influential books (yes, books) that you might want to check out. Perhaps the earliest is “The Moeller Book: The Art of Snare Drumming,” published by the Ludwig Drumming Company. This book is a close as you can come to “getting it from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak.
Jim Chapin, Moeller’s most famous understudy, released a highly acclaimed and very informative video titled “Jim Chapin: Speed, Power, Control, Endurance” which, for the first time, allowed drummers to visually see the Moeller method in practice, other than taking formal lessons from a teacher who was well versed in the Moeller method.
While both are a tad antiquated, these two resources are an excellent place to start if you want to learn more about the Moeller technique. Remember, the best place to start is always at the beginning!
At the outset we asked, how do I become a better drummer? After understanding the Moeller method, the physics of the movements, and the benefits of learning to use it correctly, it’s clear that this is an incredible tool for you to do just that… become a better drummer. Generally considered one of the most important drum techniques ever devised, the Moeller method is widely taught and certainly accepted as one of the most efficient ways to play your chosen instrument.
Millions of drummers can’t be wrong!
You too can learn an invaluable amount from studying the Moeller method. From learning how to properly hold your drum stick to making sure you’re taking care of your body to be able to drum forever (well, maybe not forever), the fundamentals and movements you can glean from the Moeller method will be well worth your time. Spend the effort, learn the techniques, practice the movements, understand how to channel all of that raw drum fury you have coursing through your rock ‘n’ roll veins and become a better drummer today! Good luck and happy drumming!