The 'Moeller Method'...

How can the 'Moeller book' help to play my drum kit better ?

 Tommy William Hanson     

* ... Most would agree that if one wishes to play 'tasty' rhythms on a cymbal, for example ... it is more comfortable to do so while gripping the stick in a French-type style.  This gives the resulting sound that delicate texture.  The same would be true for producing a closed, tight sounding roll.  

Does Moeller discuss playing a drum using delicate shadings?  Consult Moeller's book for a picture of Moeller, himself, seated at a snare drum ... la symphonic or jazz (see photo on page 11 where he is seated).  He states, "This shift of position is most noticeable in the right hand and permits a more delicate shading"

  Looking back at SANFORD A. MOELLER from the 21st Century


 Moeller definitely calls attention to the fact that a variation of the 'little finger grip' is made when performing in a setting where a player is not beating a vintage deep drum or field drum.  By  

recognizing this 'shift of position, Moeller is recognizing the potential for anyone to use the popular matched grip!  Gene Krupa certainly used the matched grip.  Krupa's tom-tom solos worked out swell using the matched grip!  And also, remember that Krupa used a matched grip when he filmed his famous match box drum solo.


  • To play a drum situated at an angle, make use of the 'Moeller grips' any time you have the opportunity to do so...

  • To play a drum that is oriented more or less flat, make use of the popular matched grip...

  • When playing hard, use the 'Moeller techniques' (a 'Moeller matched grip' is to change the fulcrum to the back of the hand or little finger)...



How did this approach affect Moeller's students who were leaning toward the jazz/commercial world?  What he no doubt told Krupa, was that he would find the 'little finger grip' extremely useful at times (as Chapin is still doing)!

Of course, Moeller never would have said ... 'OK there Krupa, here's a grip you can use occasionally ... I call it the 'Moeller grip'... make sure this grip gets named after me!'  And as many of you know, the grip referred to is the standard and authentic 'traditional right hand grip' (open style) that has been passed along (drummer to drummer) for hundreds of years.


There should be no misunderstanding about the above or the following statement ... in order to be 'Moeller', a drummer has to grip the right stick with the little finger.  This is far from being the proper interpretation of what is presented in Moeller's book.

Again, in the Moeller picture where he is seated ... observe, for all intents and purposes, that Moeller himself used a '2-Grip' formula.  The picture clearly shows this to be the case ... (page 11).


About the photo discussed above...

One only needs to imagine the following ... a player could very well adjust the drum (in the picture found on page 11, in the 'Moeller book') to a more level position, and then, mirroring the left hand to the right ... Voila ... one ends up with the matched grip!  

Technically, the popular matched grip of today cannot be thought of as the authentic traditional grip ('Moeller grip'), because the fulcrum is not correct!  But again, be reminded that the grip is immaterial when addressing all the rest of the so called 'Moeller method' concepts.

Moeller thought of the matched grip (using the thumb), no doubt, as being useful only for playing 'closed rolls', delicate cymbal taps, timpani, xylophone or some other mallet instrument.  In 1925, when his book was published, Moeller could not have known how the modern drum kit would eventually evolve!

Click here to see the 'Moeller matched grip' :  The link is a Chapin photo.  The grip shown is not the popular matched grip, but the 'Moeller matched grip'.  Observe that both sticks are being controlled by the 'little finger'. 

Mastering the 'little finger grip' gives you strength! 


Notwithstanding, in the end, the information in the 'Moeller book' continues to demonstrate that it is a broad flexible system that can be used as a foundation for all types of drumming ... arguments concerning grip and whether rudiments are really important, will always be with us.

Matt Sorum showing little finger grip (right hand)

A great drummer's photo ( Matt Sorum ) ( 'Velvet Revolver' ) utilizing the little finger grip (right hand)  ... AND ... the thumb pinch (thumb fulcrum for left hand) - at the same time



 If you can't feel comfortable imitating Sorum's grips (shown in the photo above), then Moeller is not completely a part of your over-all technique yet


The scholarly drummer is a student of eurhythmics ... Sanford A. Moeller


In an article in Modern Drummer (1981) ... Chapin said, "The motion was the message."..."YOU MADE THE MOTION AND THE STICK PLAYED IT."... "After a while, it almost played itself."

Chapin is speaking to us, but it is definitely Moeller (Chapin's former teacher) who is behind the words.  "The scholarly drummer is a student of eurhythmics."  Sanford A. Moeller thought a lot about movement and motion, no question...

The above Chapin comment is very telling of Moeller's concepts ... or 'unique' view, that a drummer's movements should be analyzed in terms of the little known approach used to teach musical understanding (eurhythmics).  

When one wishes to talk about Moeller, the word 'eurhythmics' will no doubt be mentioned every once in a while!




For want of a better phrase, the 'heavy hitting' shown in the video example (just below), is done to demonstrate how one could use the 'little finger grip'.  The extremely useful aspect of this grip, is that both today's hard playing jazz and rock drummers can benefit from imitating it. 

The next clip is purposely exaggerated to demonstrate '2-Grips' a drummer might use 

       Click to PlayRight Click to Save


One should use the 'little finger grip' whenever it's needed.  Most of the time, drummers will want to use the popular matched grip of today.  But sometimes, drummers may wish to utilize the 'little finger-matched grip' for heavy backbeats and heavy cymbal crashes.  Recall that a pad (in the clip just played) was in its usual place on the drum.  Without the practice pad, the sound would have been considerably louder.  

The Moeller standard is to do both comfortably (following Jim Chapin's advice).  That is, use either grip, comfortably.  This allows you to belong to a broader school than what the Moeller book detractors have settled for.  The little finger grip takes time ... be patient.  Remember, mastering the 'little finger' or right hand 'traditional grip' (open style), will give you strength!   It is worth the investment to learn this time-honored grip! 




The 'Moeller method', for today's drummer,  is a '2-Grips' approach ... and that makes it a system with a broader technique advantage over other schools.  Many have heard something like the following, no doubt ... Moeller can't help anyone now-a-days ... except, perhaps, those wishing to join an out-of-date marching unit !   


To respond to the above hypothetical comment (about the value of studying the 'Moeller book') ... if one's drumming knowledge is truly influenced by Moeller's advice ... the material contained in his book allows one to be comfortable using a '2-Grips' formula, (OPEN) and (CLOSED).  The reader should be aware that the terms, above, refer to ...         


  • [OPEN]       .Gripping the stick with the 'little finger' ... OR                                                            

  • [CLOSED]   Gripping the stick with the thumb pinching against the index and middle fingers

        Refer again to the Matt Sorum photo above concerning the use of 2-grips.


       In the first instance, above [OPEN]


. . .  the style of drumming is based on an 'open' - double stroke roll


       In the second instance, above [CLOSED]

. . .  the style of drumming is based on a closed roll ('rubbing' or 'buzzing' the drum head with with the drumstick is part of the playing approach).


The term 'closed' is used, because it is nearly impossible to play a good sounding 'closed roll' without gripping the stick with a thumb fulcrum (using the thumb to pinch against the index and middle fingers).  Recall, one never tries to make the stick buzz when utilizing the standard and authentic 'traditional grips' (open style).

Let's just agree, that if one produces a good sounding 'closed roll', then a 'closed' grip is obviously being used ... and NOT the 'open' style grip (the 4th finger fulcrum approach), (the 'little finger grip'), (the so-called 'Moeller grip').


There is one sure way to understand what these grips are all about ... imitate the pictures!  (beginning on page 4 of Moeller's book).  Train the rest of your right right hand to relax while holding the drumstick with the 'little finger'.  Be warned ... this takes time!

Train the left hand, for those who prefer to stay with the 'traditional' look (not matched), to be more open and relaxed.  When playing a 'closed' roll, of course, the grip must move more toward a 'closed grip style'.

Regarding the right hand 'traditional grip'  (open style) ... many have not been able to build a strong little finger as fast as they'd like to.  Realize that it is not unlike building a huge bicep muscle.  The finger will NOT be able to support the stick at first ... and must be exercised (strengthened) to do so!  You know that you have 'found it' when you are able to grip the stick with the little finger while the rest of the hand REMAINS relaxed.


The 'Moeller book' can help anyone to play a drum at a more advanced technical level.

The 'Moeller book' can help anyone strike a drum harder without discomfort and to play faster while remaining relaxed.

The 'Moeller book' is a good place to begin, no matter where one goes from there!  It is a 'foundation' on which to superimpose your own approach and style.  The only problem is that, some of the contents of Moeller's writings cannot be learned quickly, and may take weeks or even months to learn.

Consider this ... if one observes professional golf ...  DO ALL THE PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS AGREE ON HOW TO HIT A GOLF BALL?  Isn't it true that they all begin with a solid foundation (i.e., Moeller) and then change the grip, angle, posture, rhythm and speed, etc. etc. to adjust the 'basics' to suit their 'own' needs?

When one thinks, 'foundation', think of Moeller ... then, think of someone, such as Jim Chapin, and realize what can be done with a strong beginning ... beginning with the basics ... beginning with the time-honored fundamentals that Moeller was dedicated to.


Continuing on ... as to with how the 'Moeller book' can help anyone play their drum kit better...  A detailed explanation about the up stroke is next...



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Copyright 2004-2010  All Rights Reserved, Tommy William Hanson