Jim Chapin showing the Moeller Matched Grip (little finger grip)

The 'Moeller Stroke'...Or Chapin Stroke?  

Tommy William Hanson   

A Salute to Jim Chapin, con't

T O   R E V I E W . . . recall Jim Chapin's famous online video (compliments of Vic Firth).  Remember, also, that the stick tip reaches a modest height during the 'weaving movement' ... (as he demonstrates his fast, left handed triplets).

Analysis:  The tip of stick is not high, because he is 'lifting' the tip of the stick (whipping it up), following the stick upwards, or anything of the sort!  The stick tip appears to go up for an instant (and actually does), because it is following the downward snapping movement of the hand/wrist/arm.  It is NOT the fly-fishing image !  There is no back swing !  An up stroke positions the hand/wrist/arm in a raised orientation (hand up - stick tip NOT pointing up).


To help master the technique, Chapin recommends that the stick be allowed to move in a somewhat independent manner within one's hand, while the hand rises.  Controlling this fly-back feeling  (a term 'coined' by Chapin), will take some practice. 


... the Moeller whip, Moeller stroke, Moeller grip etc. are concepts not invented by Sanford A. Moeller !

[Read the text carefully in Moeller's book]          


Nearly a century ago, Moeller researched (and learned) from the American civil war veterans, who had followed the Bruce and Strube School of field drumming (from the US civil war years).  And when one thinks about it, who taught this traditional (open style) approach to George B. Bruce and Gardiner A. Strube?  

The answer is:  The approach had 'been around' for hundreds of years.  This vintage drumming style came from Europe to America, and was successfully used during the  US Revolutionary War.



FINAL COMMENTS ... The concept of using a 'whipping image' to render a crisp percussive down blow has been with us for centuries (Moeller did not invent the idea to use this mental image as a technique).  Therefore, referring to any Chapin movements as a 'Moeller-type' whipping motion is definitely misleading and inappropriate.  Moeller did not 'originate' the concepts that are seen in Chapin's videos.  Moeller could only have taught the basics to Chapin, as he himself had learned.  Chapin merely took it from there (the way it should be).


Why do most say ... 'Moeller method' or 'Moeller technique' ?

Sanford A Moeller 'rescued' a unique school of drumming from the nineteenth century.  Therefore, his name is associated with nearly all the 'old school' stuff ... that is, all the ancient traditional concepts (the old photographs of the 'traditional grips', etc.).  Remember, there IS such a thing as a 'traditional grip', that has been handed down from the 'ancients' ... but there is no such thing as a 'Moeller grip' (because they are one and the same)!  

The grips that are shown on pages 4 and 5, in the 'Moeller book', came from those who were familiar with how drums were played back in the nineteenth century ... (and how they were played for many centuries before that)!

Moeller merely took this knowledge and expertise and (with his writings & sequenced pictures) literally kept a whole unique style of drumming from drifting off further into the past.  He was also able to pass this information on to the jazz drummers of his time ... which is a feat in itself, since he loved marching percussion.  He was not about to explore what some of his young students were doing!

In the end, we have to realize that the traditional drummer's right hand grip (open style) and the so-called 'Moeller grip' are the same  Refer to photos in Moeller's book, and the photo at the beginning of this article.  To say again, one can recognize this school of drumming (as Moeller describes), by the utilization of a traditional left hand grip (loose & relaxed), and a right hand grip that few drummers are familiar with ... the 'little finger' grip (the so-called 'Moeller grip').


Moeller will be remembered in history as the greatest proponent (during the entire 20th century), for furthering the style of the 'ancient' traditional drummer .  Numerous drum set drummers learned ... and became famous (Chapin, for instance) ... because of Moeller's passion for wanting drummers to learn advanced concepts.  Concepts, such as the up stroke, and to be able to expertly play on just one drum.

To Sanford Moeller, that meant mastering the snare drum through the use of rudiments ... and mastering a couple of different grips, so as to be prepared for any occasion.  Moeller, himself, used and recognized the '2-Grips' approach.  And if one visits a Chapin clinic, these skills are visible for all to see.

To further review, recall that Moeller mentions in his book that a variation, regarding the traditional right hand grip, is made when not playing a field drum or parade drum (vintage deep drum).  This variation, for instance, is made when learning to master the pipe drumming style.  The tight rolls (used in Pipe-Style Drumming) are produced by adjusting the grip slightly (as Moeller suggests - page 11 in the 'Moeller book').  It can be thought of as moving from Traditional grip (open style), to Traditional grip ('standard' or closed style).  This is accomplished by moving from the 'little finger fulcrum', to the thumb fulcrum (i.e., closed).

Symphonic snare percussionists ... who use the Traditional grip (closed style) ... and Pipe Band Drummers, are excellent examples to show how basic movements from the past (while still involved), are rendered with the closed approach.  It is merely moving from the 'open' approach to the 'closed' approach.  Pipe Style Drumming is advanced drumming, no question.  It is the style that uses more 'rub' or buzz stickings, and not so much of the 'diddle rudiments' (double stroke rudiments) as in the 'open style' of the 'ancients' (described in Moeller's book).   

ALL drumming skills came from the past, where only one drum was used.  Moeller's book tells us that the method or school of drumming, described in his writings, is the one and only standard and authentic method that anyone knew about, prior to our modern times.  Modern instrument manufacturing and the advent of the drum set has changed all that.

It's interesting to ask, why it is that until only recently (a few decades ago), the symphonic snare was ALWAYS tilted?  It was tilted because ... that's the way it was done for centuries ... right up to the 1960s.  Everyone learned this way!  The symphonic snare drum and drum kit snare drums, were always set up at an angle (prior to the 1960s), because players were making use of the Traditional Grip - Closed Style, for the purpose of rendering a smooth, 'closed' roll.  They weren't playing on field drums, so why keep the 'open' grips?  But what most do not think about, is ... using both grips comfortably is the goal.  Ask Mr. Chapin ... one should be comfortable using both in order to meet the 'Moeller standard'.



Should we abandon parts of our history as being irrelevant and old fashioned?  Should this be allowed to happen because certain ideas no longer represent the majority?  Isn't it better to keep a record of the methods and techniques of days gone by, so as to not loose track of them?  Learning these skills (what Chapin talks about) will expand one's horizons, not narrow them

Chapin talks about the grip changes, that he learned from Moeller, all the time!  Unfortunately few really listen, because it would be something new to learn and 'Moeller techniques' are not easy techniques to learn.  Many give up thinking that Moeller's backward ideas will affect their development in a negative way.


Mastering the little finger grip will give anyone's down stroke (rim-shot) tremendous strength and power, when needed...

Mastering the up stroke / down stroke combination (a.k.a. the 'Moeller stroke' ) will yield better SPEED...  


Review the second major point concerning Chapin, once again...

The second 'whip image' (described earlier) could very well be called the 'Chapin whip', as it is the needed key to maintaining moderately fast continuous taps with one hand.  It is an up stroke/down stroke technique with a whipping down stroke beginning from the up stroke position.  These descriptive terms are taken from Moeller's writings.


Note:  For developing fast, one handed taps ... whipping the drumstick is part of it, but it is not the most important part (as some would have you believe).  Pitching the stick down or snapping or whipping the drumstick is not the problem.

Learning the UP STROKE, takes up all the time.  Remember, the descriptive term, up stroke, means that the stick tip remains pointing down (in order to continue tapping the drum)!  It also means that, there is no connection with the "end at the top" exercise, where the stick tip is pointing up (to be sure, let be said that this is an extremely important technique to learn in order to be considered a 'pro' drummer).

Needlessly to say, this 'pick up stroke' (just mentioned above), allows the hand to follow the stick's rebound ... and although useful, it is not the key to increase speed.  Recall Moeller's definition of what an up stroke is:   up stroke


Learn to propel the stick continuously - without lifting it!

  Learn the up stroke (this term is used in Moeller's book)

  The hand/wrist/arm rise somewhat in elevation, while the stick continues to play the taps ... a quick wrist snap begins each of the cycles (which appear as a weaving or up and down movement)

(The 'ancients' evolved these techniques - not Moeller)

Review, again, the quotes from the first page of this article.  Chapin's words could certainly be considered proof  that his lessons with Moeller, and the information he learned, was not an original new style, a.k.a. the 'Moeller method'.  We should not further this view, because it is not quite an accurate view of history.

Notice that Chapin's quote is basically stating that what he is able to do ... did not entirely originate with him (Chapin).  He even passes up mentioning Moeller, and takes us right back to the mid 19th century.  They (those kids) were the ones who had these techniques down! ... (to paraphrase Chapin's own words).  During those times (the US Civil War) ... the best of them (some sixteen years and younger), were able to show these abilities, no problem ... amazing! 


More to understanding Chapin

Practice whipping the drumstick from the up stroke position.  Realize that, it works because a down stroke is physically possible - originating from the end position of the up stroke (where the hand is high, but the stick tip is still pointing down).  Learn to 'whip it down' from there, and half the battle is done! 

This important key to understanding Chapin is shown in the AVI clip, below.

The following is a demonstration of a down stroke beginning from the up stroke position (utilizing a whip-like motion).  Note also the exaggerated (stick pointing down) position.  Few drummers practice making large full strokes with the exaggerated (pointing down) position as part of the exercise.  The photos, in Moeller's book, clearly show that this was his preferred advice in order to 'understand' the movements involved.


Watch in repeat format ... or (loop)


In the above video, what is being demonstrated is one part of the Chapin 'pumping motion' (1/2 of the so-called 'Moeller stroke').

Note that the tip of the stick moves quickly up and down as it follows the downward snapping movement.  The same technique, in the clip (above), can also be seen when watching Chapin, as these concepts are rooted in (stem from) the basics in Moeller's book, which, are following the basics that have been passed forward from earlier times.

Look at the top of the screen carefully during the last whipped down stroke in the example above.  The stick is not lifted, yet the blurred image of the stick tip can be seen reaching the top of the screen before descending,  following the 'whipping action' (the tip of a whip, as it were).

Video examples from all articles...HERE


The next movie clip will show the previous example combined with the up stroke.  It shows the 'closed' grip this time, as well (instead of the 'little finger grip' as in the previous clip).  The example begins slowly, at first, and then increases in speed.


Watch video in repeat format ... or (loop)

To insist on calling the example, above, a technique that utilizes the 'Moeller whip' (and the Chapin examples as well), shows that, for that person, the Moeller book was not consulted carefully.  It is Chapin that we are seeing when we watch Chapin.  His influence came from Moeller, to be sure (Moeller is in the background), but it is still Chapin.

And guess what ...  it is also the 'ancients' we are seeing as well.  No one should really take credit for the school of drumming and the drumming techniques talked about, here.  Chapin is applying ancient skills to the drum set ... and that's what's new.  In the past, these skills were always applied to just one drum!  Contrast this with 'Chapin's generation' ... when the idea of independence became important (three with one hand and two with the other, etc).

Independence ... meaning that one hand is made to play fast triplets or eights, while the other hand does 'something else'.  The reader should be able to see why the independence part  AND and the fast one handed taps part are of Chapin's generation, and not Moeller's.  Moeller remains the source of the basics, while his students (and others) applied the knowledge to the drum kit.  Hence, why not further the idea to call the above ... learning Chapin's whip or learning the Chapin whip, (and not the Moeller whip).

Much of modern drumming started, recall, with Gene Krupa.  Krupa was probably the drummer (most agree) to put the rudiments to the drum set first (Krupa is another Moeller student).  He is also remembered by many as the soloist behind the pounding drums in the arrangement Sing, Sing, Sing,  popularized by Benny Goodman.



In the end, the ability to render continuous one handed taps merely demonstrates excellent stick control on the part of the player, that's all.  

But, learning an 'attention-getting technique', such as this, is only the beginning.  The challenge is to work these abilities into your routines and solos, while making the effect look completely effortless and 'natural' (not appearing too contrived)!  It's harder than one thinks!


Common sense suggests (remember the forum comments referred to earlier), that it is probably better to guard against over-using the phrase 'Moeller stroke' until there is more of a consensus as to what students should be told what exactly it is ... there's something wrong when three different educational videos reveal three different so-called 'Moeller methods'...

Why not be done with it ... and credit Chapin, and certainly others for mastering & demonstrating the 'continuous taps technique' (one- handed roll), for all of us to appreciate.  Only those who know their history, know from where these techniques originate!  Refraining from using Moeller's name (incorrectly) too much, would definitely help.  Moeller is rather recent in the scheme of things in terms of recognizing and furthering this fine old school of drumming.  He did not invent anything new ... the line goes back a long ways.  Sanford A Moeller fits the definition of the 'the colonial drummer' quite well, and he probably should remain, as such.


Finally ... again, it makes little sense to attempt to introduce drummers to a mysterious 'Moeller whip' motion, or 'Moeller stroke' that few can agree as to what the proper motion is (or what the proper series of motions are!).  If there exists different 'takes' on the same technique, than only some must have it right and all of the other's ... don't!!

Because Moeller did not invent anything new (read the book's text carefully), one can only conclude that there is no such thing as a 'Moeller stroke', as such.  A so-called 'Moeller stroke is not defined or talked about in his writings.  So, as stated earlier, show some reserve when a drummer reveals that he/she is not yet aware of what's being said here.

To further add to the confusion, it is not unusual to hear the following ..."This video interprets Moeller better than that guy's video" ... OR ... "Well, the 'Moeller stroke' is really this stroke (renaming it)"... and so on.


The so-called Moeller approach turned out to be a considerable influence on Chapin, no question.  Few drummers have that clear understanding about the whole 'Moeller' subject, and in this regard, Chapin can help many to 'see the light' or make a break through and begin to master what's being demonstrated in his clips.

So, when aspiring to learn to play the drums, with visible expertise ... checking out Chapin is definitely not going to hurt one's progress.  And if you feel that some or all of the information in the Moeller book is what you want to explore ... consult Moeller's writings directly, for sure, especially if one drum is your specialty too!

In the meantime, have fun learning the 'Chapin whip' !



Finger bouncing the stick

The clip below is from a previous article Revisiting the 'Ancients'... and features the traditional grip (open style).  It uses the 'little finger fulcrum'.  Although this approach is not covered in Moeller's book, it's a technique that I like to practice, because the finger bouncing (in the AVI below) is rendered using the traditional grip  (open style).  The sticks are propelled by pushing down from above with both index fingers!  


Watch video in repeat format ... or (loop)


Note that the right hand cannot pinch the stick using the thumb fulcrum Traditional grip ('standard' or closed) ... and push down on the stick with the index finger at the same time!  The above approach requires holding the stick almost entirely with the little finger.

Two other articles by this author are listed below

* Vintage Snare Drumming*       (with video examples)
* Moeller and the Drum Set*     (with video examples)
* For a bit of humor ... a video of a o~,
* Free Music Staff Paper
* Custom designed Blank Music Manuscript ... 99˘
* Drum-Write™ Notation Lines for teaching Drums & Percussion Instruments $4.95

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