Revisiting the 'Ancients'

An Online Review of the"Moeller Book

Tommy William Hanson           

A Vintage 'deep' Drum

    Revisiting the 'Ancients'    

*... In the past, snare drumming required that drummers had to face weather problems, and playing outdoors for long periods of time.  When not fighting with calf skin heads, fighting fatigued, strained muscles was also a problem.

These 'old timers' were drummers in the military to be sure.  If one goes back far enough, drummers were also contracted by a town or city, back in the 1500s for instance, to look after certain public affairs

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

and basic communication duties. The playing difficulties were overcome by evolving a 'natural' approach.   The approach was to play the drum using as little effort as necessary to render the task. 

In this article, the playing approach is only concerned with 'open style' ... utilizing the authentic traditional grips and double stroke rolls.  When rendering this approach (drumming open style),  one can bounce the sticks ... but one should never buzz the sticks.

I believe that anyone reading this article, who is (or wishes) to be a practitioner of vintage snare drumming, should consult Moeller.  In spite of his detractors, Moeller has published an historical document that has the power to authorize and verify.  Certainly, one should not pass up exploring Moeller's book ... just because a qualified instructor may not be nearby to help.


What is the 'Moeller grip'?  That is, what does the standard and authentic traditional right hand grip (open style) look like?

Moeller describes to us that the right stick is gripped using the '4th finger fulcrum' approach.  From today's point of view ... 'ancient drummers' moved the fulcrum to the back on the right hand, creating more leverage when rendering a down stroke.  Striking a drum in this manner is more ergonomically correct ... more 'natural'.

The 'little finger grip' allows much of the hand to remain relaxed.  When mastered, this grip uses fewer muscles.  Unfortunately, it takes weeks or even months to develop the strength in the little finger, before one can use this grip with ease.  See photo below.

The right hand grip as illustrated in Moeller's Book  (This photo may be subject to copyright)

* Purchasing the 'Moeller book' is the best way to learn more about the author's concepts

Moeller explains that the 'ancients' gripped the right stick (or lower hand) almost exclusively with the little finger.  In this way, the fulcrum moves closer to the butt end of the stick.  Striking a drum in this manner makes it easier to play loud accented down strokes.

Although it may look unusual to most, with a little practice it becomes less tiring to strike the drum in this manner.  This grip IS more powerful, than the matched grip that we see nearly everywhere today (using a thumb fulcrum).  It all has to do with physics ... where does one place the fulcrum on the stick?


Notice the right hand grip in the above photo (Basel Switzerland)


In "The MOELLER  BOOK...The Art of  Snare Drumming"... Moeller describes a down stroke with the right stick as being similar to gripping the handle of a whip and making a downward, snapping movement.


As to the whipping movement referred to above ...

Consider the method used by an experienced carpenter regarding how he/she drives a nail.  The following may help...

The hammer is guided to the nail using the little finger as the fulcrum point when gripping the hammer's handle (loosely)

The weight of the hammer head is what drives the nail into the wood




It should NOT be the arm - forcing the nail into the wood by gripping tightly with the fingers (especially the index finger with opposing thumb).  [i.e., thumb fulcrum]



'Whip' A Hammer! ... 

Use the weight of a hammer's head to drive the nail.  That is, one must mentally 'pitch' the hammer head at the nail (like a dart) and let the hammer head do the work (while holding the whip's handle [the stick] in a loose fashion with the little finger).

Obviously, one does not let go of the hammer's handle (or drumstick) when doing this!  

The stick remains controlled using a 'loose', back of the hand grip (little finger only).  The tip of the stick (hammer head) strikes the drum (nail) with a 'whip' like motion.  The little finger is the fulcrum.


Ergonomically speaking, small injuries will occur more often with the 'closed style' then with the 'open style' stick grip ... especially if one is holding the sticks close to the body (thumb fulcrum) while turning the wrists, in order to form a certain 'V' shape appearance. 


The reader should be aware that the terms, above, refer to:


Therefore, to imitate the so called 'Moeller grip' or traditional drummer's right hand grip (what it looks like, and so forth) ... COPY THE PICTURES IN HIS BOOK!  (initial picture ... page 4, in Moeller's book).


Moeller sites seven publications, in his writings, to cross reference his views concerning the right hand grip ('little finger grip') ... H E R E 


However, over the years, manufacturers have devised drums and equipment, which allows the player to address the drum directly in front of the body.  Other specialized methods of strapping on a drum allows the instrument to be situated in a more or less flat orientation.

Moeller would NOT have quickly agreed to this, because this scenario does not suit the traditional style (playing a drum, which is situated at an angle)!  Conclusion ... when drumming on a 'level' drum, give up the ' traditional' grip ... the 'matched' grip (ergonomically speaking) would be more appropriate.


To continue ... in the next AVI, note that the right wrist movement is closer to a swivel or rotating approach, when rendering a right hand stroke.  It is definitely not a straight up and down movement ... be it either  French or German (the orientation of the grip).  The only reason a right hand stroke should never be an up and down movement, is because the drum is not level ... therefore the stroke must be 'up and out' (more or less), to accommodate the angle of the drum.



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