Revisiting the 'Ancients'

An Online Review of the"Moeller Book"

  Tommy William Hanson               

    Revisiting the 'Ancients'    

*...Almost all drummers have to 'learn' how to make use of the up stroke technique.  But it's probably correct to say that the advanced drummer is able to 'stumble' upon this approach without really knowing how to tell others what to practice.

Say, for instance, that a drummer is required to play repeated taps in rapid succession with one hand.  In the player's mind, he/she can organize the notes in twos, threes, sixes, or any other

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

convenient number.  This determines the basic body motion behind the cycle ... one two three; one two three; (or four) ... or whatever number.  A proper body movement begins the action ... the sticks are then allowed by the player to follow the motion.

The cyclical action, demonstrated in the following video examples, is only possible because of the use of the up stroke technique.


UP STROKE   (Moeller's Definition)

A down stroke is preceded, usually, by first lifting the drumstick upwards ... but a down stroke can also be possible ...  IF IT IS PRECEDED BY AN UP STROKE (lifting the hand/wrist/arm upwards, while the stick continues to tap the drum).  

In other words, if the wrist & arm rise in elevation, it is possible to play a down stroke!  Even if the stick tip is pointing downward or is lower than the hand, a down stroke is still possible!

If the stick is lifted, it is done so by making an 'extra' movement.  Time is wasted and speed will definitely suffer.  The up stroke is far more efficient.  The stick tip remains pointing down and continues to tap the drum while the hand rises.

When one masters the up stroke, one is able to make one motion (down - up) and as a result, create two or more taps in the process.


The up stroke does not depend on any particular style of grip.  Also, utilizing the up stroke does not depend on the 'extra' natural rebound of a drum head, either.  Up strokes can also be done on a hard cymbal surface.

Take a moment to review the up stroke.  Set your AVI viewer to loop back (repeat).  Although the first clip, below, may seem repetitive to some ... it's worth covering the up stroke once again (even though you may have heard about it many many times).  

There are too many 'Moeller experts' who do not emphasize or highlight the following very important concept from Moeller's book...


After a few moments of viewing the next movie clip below, it should become intuitively clear as to why the up stroke works the way it does.  As far as the exaggerated motion is concerned ... Moeller's own words are: 

        'When the beats are being closed the big swing will have to be greatly diminished retaining, however, the exact style of motion.'


To remind the reader of the concept that Moeller refers to as the up stroke ... Several down strokes are shown in the example to the right.  Note the up stroke 'taps' that are created in between the down strokes.  

First one up stroke 'tap', then two and finally three up stroke 'taps' are inserted in between the down strokes.  Note the hand positions.  Note also the 'big swing' (exaggerated movement).


Watch in repeat format ... or (loop)




To paraphrase, again, this important point from Moeller's writings ... The exaggerated motion is greatly reduced when utilizing the up stroke during performances, but must be practiced slowly and in an exaggerated style in the beginning stages.

That is, the weaving up and down motion, needed to create continuous taps with one hand in the first place, is no more than a few inches ... and not 2 or  3 feet above the drum head as would be the case when practicing the movement slowly (in an exaggerated style).  


To help the viewer to further 'see' this concept ... (continuous taps using one hand) ... the videos below, show two more aspects of the up stroke technique...

The movement (in the first example to the right) is misunderstood by most who have not investigated Moeller's book.  Now-a-days, 'whipping' the stick is usually associated with the up stroke, almost exclusively ... this is because of a recent interest in "one-handed sustained taps."  

Notice the stick positions.  Each whip motion (see right) BEGINS with bringing the stick tip down and raising the hand.  This beginning position is actually the end position when creating an up stroke.  The drum is struck by whipping the stick from the up stroke position (hand/wrist/arm being raised somewhat  in elevation).

The stick is NOT lifted, but rather 'whipped' downward to strike the drum head from the pointing down position (this is the motion needed to begin each group of the continuous taps).

Another comment before viewing the AVI to the right ...  watch the top of the screen to see a blurred image of the tip of the stick moving first upward and then downward.  Note that the hand ONLY made one down stroke to achieve this phenomenon.  


Watch in repeat format ... or (loop)



The next clip (right) shows the up stroke and the whipping down stroke (at a faster tempo) in groups of threes.  It is a recent clip recorded just a few months ago regarding an e-mail question.

Many refer to this as practicing a 'one handed roll'.



Watch in repeat format ... or (loop)



When one thinks 'whip'... imagine the tip of the whip lying on the ground before the snap ... i.e., the tip of the stick lying on (almost touching) the drum head ... that is, pointing down before the snap.

Back to the whip analogy ... if one snaps a whip when the hand is, say, waist level, one has to 'lift' the tip of the whip (popper) before snapping the whip (fly fishing is along these lines as well) ... HOWEVER, now imagine raising your hand to shoulder level or higher.  From this position it is possible to snap (whip) the hand downward ... the tip of the whip 'follows'!  (no need to think the two movements back and forward).


It is impossible to demonstrate the natural rebound slowly (for those who have the ability to do this with software, watch the movement in 'slow motion').  When viewing the faster tempo triplets (above) just keep in mind that the stick is allowed, by the player, to almost move independently within the hand while up strokes are being created.

Control must be learned & maintained no matter how the 'energy in the stick' is reacting.  Chapin has dubbed this phenomenon, controlling the 'fly-backs'.  Drummers have to learn to 'control' the stick, while not inhibit the stick's 'natural' movements.


Many miss noticing the following when studying the photos in Moeller's book, so it bears repeating ... 'up strokes,' when finished, leave the hand higher than the stick and not the other way around !   

Moeller is referring to the movement of the body and not describing the stick's movement.  Remember, Moeller ALWAYS thought in terms of eurhythmics.  Eurhythmics is the concept that led to naming this technique in the first place ... an 'up stroke' is:  striking the drum (tapping the drum) while the hand moves up.  See Moeller's definition earlier. 


When practicing, concentrate on not 'lifting' the stick.  Since the hand is high (as a direct result of making one or more preparatory up strokes), a down stroke is physically possible from that point.  

No need to think 'lift'.  As the hand moves back toward the drum head, the stick is allowed (by the player) to follow the body's movement.   

The result of practicing this technique is that a continuous series of strokes can be generated.  All the while, the hand looks like it's pumping up and down.  Just consider this ... if you actually SEE the down-up movement of the hand, then an 'up stroke' MUST be involved!  Playing four strokes in a row will not speed up very much if the player is lifting the stick up before taking it back down again for each of the strokes. 



To further aid drummers to learn their lessons, Moeller used a notation system made up of symbols.  He did this in order to help his pupils to see how a particular note was meant to be executed.

The symbols are made up of triangles and circles.  Some are open and clear and the others are filled in.  The book shows this nearly all the way through.  By 'fingering' the written notes, the player is able to find out whether a particular note is to be a stroke, a down stroke or an up stroke.

Jim Chapin mentions this notation method (Moeller's symbols) in his 'on-line' lessons.  The following will be included within the information about Moeller's specialized notation method (if you have downloaded the lesson from Chapin's site).  Think of this 'fingering chart' as similar to a 'fingering chart' for trumpet, etc.  It is showing notes to be played and 'what to do' to play them.


This author suggests that you revisit the 'moving pictures' series found in Moeller's history-rich book.  Go over the examples above, again, and you'll probably find something that will improve your playing.

It is hoped that many will develop the 'Moeller method' far enough along to actually enjoy having a good workout ... by both playing hard and playing light ... using intricate, delicate stickings and such.  Great fun.




Copyright 2004-2010  All Rights Reserved, Tommy William Hanson