Revisiting the 'Ancients'

An Online Review of the "Moeller Book

Tommy William Hanson           


A Traditional Vintage Style Drum

    Revisiting the 'Ancients'    

*... The second video in this article (below) shows a great exercise to get the feeling of the standard & authentic, centuries-old approach that Moeller presents to us in his book.  That approach is 'open style', how early American drummers played a vintage deep drum along side early American fifers, well over a century before the 1900's.

In other words, Moeller believed, that one should develop (early on) the necessary abilities needed to play a vintage drum, 'properly'.  He writes in his book, that if a drummer masters that ... he/she should be able to go anywhere with those skills as a foundation, and succeed.  Gene Krupa studied with Moeller and he certainly succeeded in the jazz world!  

Click Here for Beginning of the Article          ~ VIDEO EXAMPLES BELOW~   

The clip (below) shows a variation of practicing the Flam ... (one up stroke - combined with one down stroke).  The strokes in the clip are spaced apart, however, and superimposed over the 'shuffle beat' rhythm (RIGHT_ right  LEFT_left), and so on (i.e., 'double stroking the shuffle').

When viewing any of the video clips (following), look for the little finger to be the fulcrum point on the right stick.  This 'vintage' grip is clearly shown in the pictures in Moeller's book.  

The article's second video (next) will continue to show the 'open style' manner of playing a drum (utilizing the proper vintage grips)



Watch in repeat format ... or (loop)

Keep in mind that the video (above) depicts what a drummer often looks like when practicing, and not necessarily when performing.  Moeller believed in exaggerated motion, because it definitely helps to use the technique of exaggeration to strengthen the underlying basics.  Moeller insisted on exaggerated, large movements to train muscles properly (in the early stages when learning a new technique).  Refer to the many photographs in his book.


Note: ... a comment as to how underlying movement and motion can be common or related to other rudiments

As stated earlier, only a slight adjustment would have to be made to a rudiment in order to turn that rudiment into another rudiment.  The example (above) can be turned into an exercise of alternating flams!  Notice the quick up stroke on the sixteenth note (which would be the grace note of a flam (if the strokes in the above clip were to be moved closer together).  A better known example of the above statement, is the scary similarity between the six stroke roll and the single ratamaque.  Although the sticking is different, they can sound almost identical with the right tweaking


Our 'modern age' (filled with computer chips and digital music & images) must remember that back in the 1920's, the inclusion of sequenced pictures, in a newly printed book or manual, was very 'high tech'.

This author purchased and studied Moeller's book for the first time in 1956.  I found that the book's photos had to be carefully studied, however, in order to fully grasp the unique drumming style being demonstrated.  The remarkable aspect of the 'Moeller book' is that the pictures are ... just clear enough ... clear enough to take the place of a teacher, if a teacher is not available nearby.

Armed with the techniques found in Moeller's book, the aspirant (Moeller assures us) will be able, with confidence, to travel to other places, knowing that their knowledge and abilities will very likely stand up to any criticism that may come.


The 'Moeller book' is referred to as an 'adequate and positively correct school' to present to a young drummer.  All of his successful students are testimonials to this fact.  Moeller calls his book a 'self-teaching instruction manual'.

Note, also, that in the introductory pages of his book, Moeller states that he is passing on to future drummers, a method or system that 'has been used in every country where drummers have become proficient'.  He does not take credit for the method he describes in his book and even states that he did not invent anything new.  His personal contribution is probably the fact that, he introduced the following concept to us ... the concept that eurhythmics is the basis behind accomplished snare drumming  ... the art of snare drumming ...  (refer to page 69 in the Moeller Book).

Few understand or know much about this part of the book!  "The scholarly drummer is a student of eurhythmics" (Sanford Moeller).  To Moeller, playing a drum well, is one part of it.  Playing a drum in an 'artistic manner' is the other part of it!  His unique approach depends on concentrating on a drummer's movement and motion.  Moeller's suggestion is that, one should think about one's body movements as the cause behind all the taps, strokes and up strokes in the first place!  If one concentrates on that (in the beginning stages of learning something new), the sticks will 'automatically follow' !

As an example ... From the stick tip pointing up position ... throw the elbow out, and the forearm and stick will  follow to strike the drum.  Bring the elbow back in ... the forearm, wrist and stick (as if hinged), will move up to the stick tip pointing up position, again!  All the while, the player REMAINS RELAXED.  Moeller is saying that one should not visualize what the drumsticks are doing, but rather concentrate on what the hands/wrists/arms are doing (the drumsticks will follow).

These two things:  (1.) The body's movement and (2.) The ability to control the 'energy in the stick' (the properties of the stick's natural rebound) ... do all the work.  This takes the idea of virtuoso drumming to a different level!  It recognizes the beauty and art when observing the motions of a drummer, when performing.  

Moeller is a respected opinion, in percussion literature, for snare drum development.  This is probably due to his views that resulted from researching the knowledge that came from the literature and drumming manuals from several European countries (and especially the Bruce and Strube school from the US Military tradition). Thinking eurhythmics means that the player understands that the movement or motion made by the shoulders, arms, wrists, etc. precedes animating the drumsticks to make physical contact with the drum head.   


Chapin (a Moeller student ... and an important Moeller student), said in a 1981 Modern Drummer article ... "The motion was the message.  You made the motion and the stick played it" ..."After a while, it almost played itself."  Chapin is speaking, but it is definitely Moeller behind the words ... thinking about a drummer's movements ... movements that precede the strokes ( eurhythmics).


The first tenant of the so called 'Moeller method' is this ... practice rudiments ... any rudiments!  In Moeller's case, it seems that he really only had the US Army Camp Duty routines to use ('Three Camps', 'The Quick Scotch', 'Dinner Call', the classic 'Downfall of Paris' - to name a few).

But no matter the selection of rudiments that one might practice, the important benefit of developing a decent technique, is that performance skills WILL definitely be stronger and more refined than those who can only think of a single stroke roll to play !


To read the introduction to this article ... go HERE   or choose   NEXT



Copyright 2004-2017  All Rights Reserved, Tommy William Hanson