Revisiting the 'Ancients'

An Online Review of the"Moeller Book"

  Tommy William Hanson               

    Revisiting the 'Ancients'    

*... The long roll, using double strokes ('open style') must be cultivated.  Playing evenly spaced taps are only possible by increasing one's strength (and of course regular practice) ... but more importantly, rolls stroked with even taps are developed by practicing the following as often as possible:

Accent the second note slightly louder than the first note when practicing double stroking a roll

One should never give up practicing this rudiment in this manner, because we can all spend a lifetime trying to keep the second note slightly louder than the first note (of a double stroke) for a  

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

longer period of time.  In other words, how long can you hold the accent on the 2nd note, as you continue increasing the speed, before dropping the accent and accepting 'even' taps?  This, of course, would be a great way to settle contests!  To run off a tie ... determine what speed each contestant is able to attain, before dropping the accent on the second note of the double strokes making up the long roll!  The thirteen essential rudiments from NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) have the accent of the second note printed very clearly on the 'official' sheet from Ludwig.

The Long Roll rudiment (NARD Thirteen Essential Rudiments)



The following video is a rendering of the Long Roll drum rudiment.  The movie clip shows a moderately slow acceleration/deceleration speed, and lasts approximately 30 seconds.  Top notch rudimental drummers, who still compete in contests, must practice this rudiment (the long roll) regularly.

Performance or equipment are not the important issue when viewing this video.  Pay attention to the STYLE i.e., how the hands grip the sticks ... and how the second note of the double stroke is slightly louder than the first (during the slower speeds).



Watch in repeat format ... or (loop)


Final thoughts and quick review

Sanford Moeller researched the drumming traditions and styles of previous times from various countries.  But most influential of all, were the US civil war drummers (led by George B. Bruce and Gardiner A. Strube).  Moeller's genius was to synthesize and add his own innovations to what went before.

It is hoped that you found 'Revisiting the Ancients' time well spent.  Since the advent of the digital world, future generations of drummers will have video examples to view ... Now-a-days one is able to play along to a 'Moeller drum video', as there are several for sale (or to view) on the Internet.

My generation only had pictures to study in Moeller's book !  There should be no excuse as to why this unique school of drumming cannot continue on for future generations of drummers to consider.  Welcome to those who have read what has been said and can demonstrate some or all of the 'Moeller ideas and materials' in Moeller's book.  It is hoped that the concepts in his book will continue to be carried forth ... the test is up to you!

The article you have just read has attempted to show the traditional 'open style'  approach of the 'ancients', up close.  If you want to know some of the history of traditional 'open style' drumming, Moeller can get you started on your way.  At any rate ... having a fuller sense of history is always a good thing to have.

One last mention about rudimental drumming.  Here are a couple of comments.  If one searches the Internet for the following words: Fife and Drum (fife 'n drum) ... one finds that many of those organizations, who claim to keep the spirit of earlier American times alive, do not use the appropriate traditional right and left hand 'open style' grips.  Grips that were used in previous centuries by many countries ... including early America.  

By saying appropriate, I'm referring to the photos and manuals that can be studied from the US civil war, as well as material from other countries (going back hundreds of years).  Moeller's book can be consulted to find some of this information.  His book no doubt includes knowledge that was passed forward from one drummer to another dating back to the 1860s and before.

Modern rudimental drumming has avoided Moeller's concepts, it seems.  Most drummers, who sling a drum at a 45 angle, are using the same grips for both marching situations and drum kit opportunities.  To re-enact the past in a more authentic manner, drummers should be using grips similar to the photos shown in Moeller's writings when playing rudiments.

If one has gone to the trouble to learn 'open style' why not include the GRIPS THAT WERE ACTUALLY USED IN THE PAST?  This comment refers, specifically, to those organizations that want to recreate an authentic-looking time period from history (when making appearances).

DCI corps (making up the Drum Corps International organization), march to open style drumming, as most rudimental drummers know.  But they too, are doing so WITHOUT using the traditional (rudimental) grips.  This leads me to say that it is one of the few times where this author disagrees with Ken Mazur (read his "Who Took The Drum Out of Drum Corps?").  In defense of these organizations ... they are hybrid groups that also produce a high standard of entertainment.  They do not have to follow any particular style of drumming.

Visually, corps basically prefer the look of a strict, symmetric, uniform style.  This style does not always consider ergonomic aspects, however.  For example, slinging drums ... all at the same height ... is not very 'Moeller-like'.  Neither is opting to use the traditional left hand grip approach on a flat drum.

Over the last several decades, without question, drum corps style drumming (using the popular matched grip with thumb fulcrum) is by far the preferred choice these days.  Many high school bands use this playing style, even though they may never have heard of DCI.  Some are choosing to play traditional on a level drum.

But one must recall that the left hand traditional grip evolved specifically because the drum was tilted, not level!  Also, some leverage is lost when using the traditional grip on a flat surface!!  This is because the arc creating a down stroke is cut short due to having the drum slung parallel to the waist or ground.  Comment: on a tilted drum the arc of the left hand can move a greater distance (that is, the drumstick can achieve nearly a pointing down position before it strikes a drum situation at an angle).


If we keep repeating that something is out-dated and maintain that the material is 'that old stuff, who cares anyway'? ... we end up loosing parts of our history.

Fair sailing to all who choose to take on the 'Moeller method' as an area of study (beginning, perhaps, with the  lessons from his book).  Hopefully, you will become yet another one who succeeds in reaching Moeller's high standards.  As Sanford 'GUS' Moeller stated, 'the belief that anyone can beat a drum is discouragingly popular' ...


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