Traditional Drummer's Right Hand Grip



The 'Moeller Stroke' ... What is it?    

Tommy William Hanson       


Here ... for the article's introduction      

A salute to Jim Chapin

Repeatedly, in the next two pages, the slant of the text will focus on Jim Chapin, 'Moeller pupil extraordinaire'.  Although the main theme will revolve around the so-called 'Moeller stroke', I've decided to subtitle the article a salute to Jim Chapin (obvious reasons will follow).


Is the 'Moeller stroke' a whip stroke? ... this is perhaps the most asked question by young drummers as they try to find answers to subjects that seem to be clouded in mist, as it were!          

The following should be helpful to those studying the techniques used to produce the Chapin-style 'one handed roll' (a fast, one handed triplet, more accurately).

At the outset ... One has to distinguish between a 'single down blow', rendered with the mental image of cracking a whip' (as described in Moeller's book) ... and the 'other' whip image (movement), which is used for generating continuous taps (the techniques seen in Chapin's videos)!


Two different ways to think 'whip'?   Yes !

*Think Whip            - (Beginning with Stick Tip Up) 

                                           *Think Whip Motion - (Beginning with Stick Tip Down) - The Moeller Book        


The one handed 'pumping' motion, that one can see when watching Chapin, is maintained with the up stroke and a downward 'snapping movement' at the very instant of the completion of the up stroke.

That's the key, when viewing the Chapin video examples available @, (or if you purchase an instructional drum video @

It's only just a matter of physics (if one attends carefully).  It can be observed that at the very end of the up stroke, the hand is 'directed or whipped' back toward the drum.  The stick follows ... by moving quickly up and down (tapping the drum as a result). 

The drumstick merely 'follows the 'whip-like' movement ' and completes the 'whipping' motion (this quick downward motion can be seen in a movie clip on the next page).  Remember Chapin's interview in Modern Drummer ... when he said, "The motion was the message"... "you made the motion and the stick played it" ... "it almost played itself"


Think Moeller (eurhythmics) - Make the motion (Chapin) - The stick follows

Moeller Stroke ... a misnomer?

When talking about fast, continuous one handed taps, why not refer to the special snapping movement as the 'Chapin whip'  or  'Chapin stroke' ?  (and not the 'Moeller whip' - or 'Moeller stroke' )

Consider the following ... Chapin learned a technique based on his original instruction from Moeller ...  Jim then went on from there and developed something to show us that is just a little 'different' and 'innovative', because it addresses a set drumming style and not a vintage, snare drumming style.  His teacher (Moeller) was about as 'vintage' as one can get!  Speaking of vintage, recall Moeller's famous march from Madison Square Garden to Boston in 1930 where he played a vintage 'deep drum' (larger than today's 'marching snare').  One player-one drum was Moeller's specialty.

Teaching students about the differences between Chapin and Moeller would make things clearer and easier to understand.  There are Chapin videos and Chapin clinics where one can check things out.  In reality, Chapin is visible to new students, while Moeller is not.  

When new students ask for direction ... the method of explaining things (as per above), would show that Moeller provided the foundation ... but Chapin (and a whole list of others) applied it to a set of drums.

Sanford A Moeller taught one drum .  .  .  . Jim Chapin is drum kit

Learn one drum well . . before moving on to a set-up of multiple drums

One can be a 'Moeller-like' drummer . . without ever having heard of Chapin!

One can never be a 'Chapin-like' drummer . . without having a 'Moeller-like' technique!


When reading over the FORUM COMMENTS HERE ... think about how it makes little sense to give a young student the impression that Moeller's book will teach a drummer how to play 'one handed rolls' (utilizing a mysterious 'Moeller stroke').  Looking for that particular information in Moeller's writings will result in not finding an answer.

Moreover, the article you are reading, is trying to suggest that a separation should be made between Moeller (the 'Moeller book'), and his many famous students (such as Jim Chapin) who have made a name for themselves by becoming an expert at playing a set of drums.

In the end, the respectful thing to do ... is to look to Moeller's pupils (Chapin, for example).  If that leads one to pursue the one handed roll ... then, Moeller should probably remain one step removed!  It seems reasonable, that if innovations and variations have been added to Moeller's legacy by way of his lessons (whose objective was to instruct future drummers about basic, fundamental snare drum techniques) then they should carry up-dated names and unique descriptive terms.  Moeller, remember, did not pursue the same interests of many of his students! 

Therefore ... Why not use the term, 'the Chapin whip', for instance ... instead of 'learn the Moeller whip'.  Moeller did not invent anything new, recall, as stated clearly at the beginning of his classic publication... the 'Moeller book'.  He did not teach drum set per se.  Moeller techniques (his snare drum book) applied to drum set were done successfully by Chapin throughout his career ... and that's the difference. 


Note the following fact - Moeller used the term 'whip' only twice in his book!

[The next paragraph looks at the 'whip' concept as per Moeller's book]





To repeat ... defining Moeller MUST begin and end with his writings.  Further defining of Moeller MUST come from analyzing Moeller's students!   His influence can definitely be seen behind the scenes in Chapin's approach, to be sure.  And today, Chapin is the best representative of a drummer who has been influenced by the 'traditional' method of instruction, or a 'Moeller system' or 'Moeller style' or 'Moeller method', as (it seems) many prefer to say.

Important note:  Also, it must never be forgotten that the stick grip is not important when it comes to analyzing the up strokes, and all the rest of it.  Matched grip works just as well, when rendering the one handed pumping motion that produces the continuous taps technique.  The 'Buddy' Rich push-pull approach, is an excellent example of this ... moreover, those players who can perform this 'trick' are using mostly fingers!  One does not have to use the so-called 'Moeller grip'.  


But for most drummers, believe it or not, Moeller isn't what they're looking for!  Or to put it another way, if Chapin and other drummers demonstrate applications (not directly covered in Moeller's book), it is very misleading to connect these techniques as being part of a 'Moeller original style' of some kind.

Recall again, if you will, that the 'Moeller book' states emphatically that the author had not invented anything new!  The book is merely a compilation of what Sanford Moeller had learned about the past and the 'ancient drummers' of old.  Drum set professionals, who stood out in the 1920s & 30s, were usually the ones (the successful ones) who developed themselves competently on the snare, i.e. following Moeller's lead.  




Copyright 2004-2017   All Rights Reserved, Tommy William Hanson