The "Stop At The Top Exercise"

Go HERE for an article on Finger Bouncing the drumstick

 by  Tommy William Hanson           

5-piece Drum Set

 Looking back at  SANFORD A MOELLER  from the 21st Century

     There is a natural rebound that can be cultivated and utilized, when striking a drum.  Drummer Gordy Knudtson ( 'open-close' technique) and Dom Famularo ( 'free stroke' concept) are very big on this issue and have their unique ways to address this.  They both talk about allowing the drumstick to rebound straight up after a down stroke.  They just use different names for essentially the same thing.  They are excellent techniques to help increase the speed of rendering the single stroke roll.  

In contrast, however, Chapin was a Moeller pupil and therefore learned and used the 'up stroke'.  The Chapin term, 'fly backs', just to clarify, made sense because there are three of them that will occur when playing 4-strokes with each hand using the up stroke method ... See Chapin's Graphic

     But the point of this article is:  A drummer should not assume that he/she will be able to play everything faster by following the 'stop at the top' advice exclusively.  To say again, allowing the drumstick to rebound up when practicing slowly is good advice when it comes to speeding up the rudiment that is usually learned first ... the single stroke roll.  And to check this out ... there is an online video of a Knudtson student, Jeff Peterson, showing the 'open-close' technique.  The technique renders the single stroke by alternating 2 down strokes with 2 'finger squeeze' taps (close strokes).  All strokes in the video begin from the 'stop of the top' position.  Therefore, it should be noted that all of the strokes or taps can be described as down strokes.

~

However, the double stroke roll works differently when the option to use the up stroke is chosen.  To render double strokes with power and with the choice of accenting either the first or second note, a drummer can consult Moeller's lessons to learn to do this.  Yes ... an up stroke is not needed for rendering a single stroke roll.  However, it is definitely needed when an accent is to be thrown in from time to time while rendering the single stroke rudiment.

Those familiar with Moeller's lessons know that the best way to play two strokes with each hand (or three or four with each hand) is to allow the stick to continue to tap the drum while the hand rises in elevation.  'Raise the grip and not the tip' is a good way to remember how the up stroke technique works.

The first note should rebound only a small amount (not to a straight up position) so that the next note can bounce and strike the drum a second time while the hand moves up.  The 'energy in the stick' allows for this ... i.e., the natural rebound.

When there is a need for the second note to be loud, then an accented up stroke can be utilized.  Uniquely, the up stoke technique (Moeller/Chapin) allows for a possible accent on the second note of a double stroke.  This, obviously, would bring the arm and shoulder into play in order to gain the extra power to produce the accent (more volume) on the second note of a double stroke.  It's usually done by throwing out the elbow when striking the drum.  This technique allows for the elbow to move up and out while the stick tip strikes the head with an accent (hard tap).

Speed is never a problem because the drumstick is propelled using a 'hand pumping' movement.  This motion makes it unnecessary to lift the drumstick when playing successive taps (which would cause time to be wasted).  A closely related technique is the push/pull 'up stroke' technique using mostly fingers.  This, of course, refers to multiple taps with the hand only (made famous by Buddy Rich and often demonstrated by Jojo Mayer).  Analysis shows that the technique is definitely Moeller based.  When analyzed ... it can be seen that the fingers provide both the down stroke and the up stroke ... with a small up and down wrist movement.  

THE DIFFICULTY FOR 'MOELLER/CHAPIN ADVOCATES' ... IS TO CONVINCE OTHER DRUMMERS THAT THE UP STROKE  HAS ITS PLACE AND IS A TECHNIQUE THAT A DRUMMER CAN DEFINITELY FIND USEFUL.

VERY FEW HAVE CAUGHT ON TO THE FACT THAT THE HAND ENDING UP ABOVE THE STICK TIP IS ACTUALLY THE KEY TO KNOWING HOW TO UTILIZE THE UP STROKE!

Moeller's definition of the 'up stroke'

"The descriptive name, UP STROKE, comes to it naturally.  It consists of tapping the drum while the hand is rising"

The 'whipping motion' then proceeds from that position ... (the hand above the stick tip)

~

     Teachers agree that lifting the stick is a motion that loses time.  To help understand that the Moeller/Chapin approach is a technique that does not 'lift the stick' ... view the snapping (whipping) motion that is shown below in the sample video and consider how it fits within the up stroke stroke/down stroke technique.  The whipping motion is used to begin each group ... that is ... an up stroke/down stroke couplet.  It also goes for a triplet group or a quadruplet group, and so forth.

Whipping the stick when the hand is high and the stick tip is down ... does not waste time!  The motion is part of the 'pumping' movement needed to propel the stick.  To say again, a drumstick can be continuously propelled without lifting the stick ... using the Moeller up stroke/down stroke technique from Moeller's Book.

The (Moeller) secret is:  -  the hand rises in elevation while still tapping the drum ... it is the key

See the sample below - only one whipping down stroke motion is shown ... it is the first part of the technique

The sample starts in the hand high position  -  the whipping down stroke begins the first  of each group of taps

 Sample

After a whipping down stroke is made (see video below), the stick can then be allowed to rebound in order to continue tapping the drum again and again 

This process can repeat ... two taps, three (or more) - Visually, there is a pumping motion when playing continuous taps using this method

 Sample

__________________________________________________________________________

     To review once more, those who extol the benefits of allowing the stick to rebound up is good advice ... and it works extremely well for single stroking.  Leaving the stick tip high means that the next stroke can be a down blow ... whether 'closing' the stroke (squeezing with the fingers) or not.  And, since the stick tip is high already, there is no need to lift the stick.  Most drummers today associate the stick tip ending up high with the Famularo term, 'Free Stroke'.

But this article wishes to remind drummers that if the hand ends up higher than the stick tip, it is not a bad thing (consult Moeller's lessons)!

IF THE HAND IS HIGHER THAN THE TIP OF THE STICK, THE HAND MERELY NEEDS TO "WHIP" A DOWN STROKE AND THE STICK TIP WILL FOLLOW BY GOING BOTH UP AND DOWN.  A WHIP'S POPPER (SNAPPING A WHIP) WOULD DO THE SAME THING.  WHEN USING AN UP STROKE (A STROKE PRECEDING A DOWN STROKE), THERE WILL BE TWO MOTIONS TO THAT DOWN STROKE WHEN IT IS RENDERED ... THE TIP OF THE STICK WILL MOVE BOTH UP AND DOWN.

To say once more ... the above is the key to the Moeller  "UP STROKE" / "WHIPPING DOWN STROKE"  phenomenon

THERE IS NO NEED TO TAKE A BACK SWING OR TO LIFT THE STICK IN ORDER TO PLAY CONTINUOUS TAPS.  JUST 'RAISE THE GRIP AND NOT THE TIP'.  THE RESULTS OCCUR AUTOMATICALLY WHEN WHIPPING THE STICK DOWN FROM THE HAND HIGH POSITION.

__________________________________________________

More food for thought

Say that an accent is needed on a note using Gordy's technique ... the last note of a paradiddle, for instance...

i

The third note of the paradiddle would be a 'free stroke'  ("fly back" as Chapin thought of it).  The stick tip would move to the 'stop at the top position'Then, the fourth note would be rendered by squeezing (closing) the fingers ... utilizing the open/close technique.

But, it should be intuitively clear that if a note is to be accented ... squeezing the fingers to create the down stroke would not be that powerful.  Accenting the last note of a paradiddle using the open/close technique would not be that powerful compared to what Moeller talks about.  How can a loud note be produced if the technique is to squeeze the fingers and then allow the stick to elevate to the straight up position again?

In contrast, the forth note of a paradiddle ... using Moeller's lessons (the up stroke) ... can be either a 'whipping down stroke' or an 'accented' up stroke (throwing the elbow out).  An 'accented' up stroke gets power from throwing out one's elbow while making the up stroke movement ('raising the grip above the tip').

~

As a final thought ... the Knudtson technique does not lend itself well when playing outdoors on a 'deep field drum'.  That is, if a drummer utilizes the 'open-close' approach ... how is it possible to play powerful strokes (suitable for playing out doors) if the arm and shoulder are not involved the way they are with the Moeller approach ?  

______________________________________________________________

   To sum up, the 'Stop At The Top Exercise', helps to work with the 'energy in the stick' (i.e., the rebound) resulting from a rendered down stroke.  True, practicing this routine does help to get the 'feel' of making use of a drumstick's rebound.  But it is not an end in itself for playing everything fast as some believe!   Practicing this technique slowly will show that leaving the stick tip high is not going to help speed up a double or triple stroke.

The important part is to realize that:  keeping the stick tip down is imperative in order to render the double stroke at a fast tempo.  Few realize that a drummer can always whip the stick after the hand has been raised.  AND THAT'S HOW THE SO-CALLED 'MOELLER WHIP' IS DONE!

 

Moreover, in the past (pre 1930s), if one wanted to add accents to a single stroke roll, the tried and true approach was to use the 'up stroke / down stroke' technique (what Moeller learned).  A drummer only needs to play an up stroke just before the need to create an accented down stroke.

If practiced enough, a drummer can create an up stroke accent as well!  Moeller's lessons teach us that we can throw in an accent whenever we want.  The option is always there when power is needed to utilize the wrist/arm/shoulder in order to gather more leverage for a louder stroke.  Amazingly, few even know that the term, up stroke, described in Moeller's book, refers to the body (hand/arm moving up), and not the drumstick (consult Moeller's book).

Therefore, the suggestions (extolled by Gordy and Dom) certainly will help to cultivate the feeling of a drumstick's natural rebound, yes.  Speeding up a single stroke roll will benefit from their advice and technique, yes.  But learning the Moeller lessons will create a more well rounded drummer in the end.  

As an image, just imagine holding the handle of a whip at shoulder height.  From there ... and without a back swing (as one usually takes when fly- fishing), it is easy to simply snap a powerful down stroke.  The result is that the whip's popper moves quickly up and down ... making a snapping noise.

In other words, no need to think... 'lift the stick' (back swing) ... or to think 'follow the stick tip up'.  THIS IS WHAT WASTES TIME!  

~

     The 'Moeller book' is a self-teaching manual (Moeller's own words), that can only improve a drummer's technique when carefully read.  But most have not paid attention to Moeller's words.  And trying to depend on the book's pictures alone (without reading what Moeller says about them) is a sure recipe for missing all the important stuff.  The images were from the 1920s and the technology was not developed enough to be clear.

Finally ... Moeller states that anyone consulting his book will be better off then those who are being taught by the 'general run' of teachers out there in the drumming world.  There are many who may be considered the 'general run' now-a-days on YouTube, when one thinks about it.

Moeller also states that no one drummer knows it all !  So consult more than one source (someone who's qualified) when developing yourself into a proficient player.  And ... make sure to include Moeller, along the way.

 

Review the Chapin chart again above.

More Articles...   

end