The BEST drumming technique is the Moeller Technique! With so many techniques out there, that’s quite a bold statement, ya? The Moeller Technique is the safest and most effective drumming technique in my opinion. Its power and ease of playing is unmatched among drumming techniques. The Moeller technique also saved my drumming career!
It was 1993 and I was at Berklee College of Music performing with a Count Basie tribute band. We were playing the epic Wind Machine chart. About halfway through, I went to play a fast fill around the toms and suddenly my arms froze up.
I was terrified and didn’t know what was going on. Suddenly I couldn’t play! Then a few measures later, my arms just completely stopped working. I basically limped my way through the rest of that show.
I soon went to the top orthopedic doctor in Boston. He took some images, did some testing and determined that I had acute tendonitis. Basically, it meant that I had severely torn my tendons in my forearms from playing drums. This is what caused my arms to freeze up and stop working.
The doctor sat across from his desk and said, “Look, you need to take a long break from drumming and it may even be the end of your career. I just want to be honest with you.”
Well, it was a super dark time in my life, as you can imagine. Since the age of 15, I had a dream to become a professional drummer. This was a super big hammer blow to that dream.
What I learned
Only two years into my schooling at Berklee and a year prior at another university, and suddenly I had to quit. I moved to Seattle where some of my family were living. I went back to school and I eventually graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. Even though I didn’t study music, I was able to retool my drumming. I learned three things that really helped me get back into drumming.
- I had to rest. So that meant no playing for awhile too.
- I found a great massage therapist. She was able to help me identify and understand the parts of my arm that were in trouble. She helped me to help me to fix them too. I learned some really great pressure points around the shoulder blade area that helped heal my arms quickly.
- I started using the best drumming technique, the Moeller Technique.
Physics is also why Moeller is the best drumming technique
So during this time, I researched various drumming techniques. I found a book on the Moeller Technique that had a lot of pictures in it. I’m sorry, I forgot the name of the book, but it was very helpful. Suddenly, I could play with increased power, precision dynamics, tone and speed with so much less effort than I was using before.
In essence, I just let the stick and the drum or the stick in the cymbal do the work for me. Before that, I was always trying to muscle it out. The essence of the Moeller Technique is to harness the power and momentum of the bounce. Moeller works with Physics to help you play drums. This is why I teach and use it to this day.
So before Moeller, I would kind of pound the sticks and the sound into the drums and the cymbals. I didn’t really know I was doing that. With Moeller, I pull the sound out of the drums and the cymbals. It’s a much bigger, warmer and richer tone than the drumming techniques I was using.
It really helped me develop my sound and touch which have become my signature trademarks. They’re the thing that musicians, recording engineers and audience members comment on the most. They say my sound is very pleasing and unique!
More than most drum techniques Moeller focuses on the wave
I really attribute my sound almost entirely to the Moeller Technique. It not only changed my drumming, but also changed my thinking about drumming. I’m always looking for and getting bounce, even from the most non-bouncy, surfaces like floor toms.
When I play on a floor tom there are waves to the vibration of the drum head. The vibrational waves on a floor tom head are further apart than a snare drum head. If you try though, you can start to feel when the waves happen. You can then time it so that your downstroke is at the same time as the wave is going up.
This gives you incredible rebound and makes it easy to play fast figures on the floor tom. Moeller helped me to feel even the slightest amount of bounce from any drum or cymbal. Now, I relax more when I play. I can achieve speeds and execute exciting and effective patterns with a lot less effort than before.
I really can’t say enough about this wonderful technique. It was refined and first shared by Sanford Moeller over a hundred years ago but it saved my career! Thank you Mr. Moeller!
Learn the Moeller motion and the best drumming technique!
If you’d like to learn a little bit about the Moeller, the best drumming technique, I have an easy-to-follow intro video at DRUMMING4LIFE.COM. Jim Chapin, who was a Sanford Moeller’s disciple, shared the technique with many, many drummers, after learning it from Moeller. I want to share next, a little bit about the history of the Moeller Technique so that you also understand where it came from.
Moeller history and the Moeller Motion
In the late 1800’s Sanford Moeller, as it’s been said, was observing snare drummers who fought in the American Civil War. He was inspired to see that they were able to play loudly for long periods of time without tiring. Moeller observed and documented the mechanics of their playing. He then started to share this method with his drum students. It developed into one of the most respected drum techniques that we use today.
Moeller is Break Dancing on the drums
You can use it to play fast or slow, loud or soft. When you’re playing Moeller in a slower speed, you’re going to have a bigger motion than when you’re playing it faster. I use it when I play ride cymbal, around the drums, on the hi-hat, and hitting crash cymbals. I use it for playing anything on the drumset.
The motion is often described as a whipping motion. Kind of like if you were to crack a whip. That’s the motion that you’re trying to achieve as you hit the drum. I always tell new students to start off with their hands on their laps, palms face down. Next, lift your elbows first, then your forearms, your wrist and finally your fingers. Then bring everything back down and have it land on your lap.
It’s almost like Break Dancing! I used to be a break dancer when I was younger. Moeller motion is a lot like do a waving motion with your arm. This motion is a really effective to help you use the big muscles in your arms to play big notes on the drums.
You don’t want to use little muscles and little tendons for big notes. That’s what was happening to me and why I injured myself. My technique was using almost everything from my wrist. When I would play loud notes, I would use my wrist to pop out those big notes. That is a BIG TIME no-no!
If you’re playing loud, use the big muscles in your arms. When you use your elbow, you also use your shoulder muscles, upper arm muscles and forearm muscles. You really get everything moving. The beautiful thing about it, is once you let that stick come down and bounce, you can do so much after that with the power and the momentum of that bounce.
Paradiddles and Moeller
So one thing you can try doing is playing basic paradiddles with the Moeller motion. A paradiddle is right left, right, right, left, right left, left. Play your accent with Moeller motion on the first note of a Paradiddle. That Moeller stroke accent is going to pull you through the rest of the notes of that paradiddle. It’s really incredible because what you’re doing is allowing physics to help you play drums. Learn the best way to practice your Moeller Paradiddles in my post LEARN DRUMS FAST.
Before Moeller, I wasn’t working with physics. I knew about bounce, but I wasn’t really capturing the fullness of the bounce. When I started to capture the bounce and used the bounce to my advantage, then my drumming became so much better. That’s what the Moeller Technique has done for me.
Other drum techniques and Moeller
I know that there are a lot of other drum techniques out there. I sometimes use other techniques like the push-pull technique for playing fast on the ride cymbal. In general, what I tend to do is play mostly Moeller. I feel it’s the best drumming technique for most of what I want to play.
If I’m going to play smaller motions or quieter strokes on the drums or cymbals, I will use what I call “Mini Moeller”. This is where I’m still moving from my elbow, but it’s a much smaller motion. When I ask students to play a Jazz ride cymbal pattern for the first time, they typically hit that sound into the cymbal. It sounds pretty awful. They know it too!
Then I say, “Now let’s pull the sound out of the cymbal.” and I teach them about Moeller. They immediately hear the difference in tone. If you’re playing in a club or in a concert hall, pull that sound out of your instrument. That sound is going to project out.
If you think about it, why would you want to hit the sound into the cymbal or drum? If you do that, it’s just going down to the floor. Nobody’s going to hear it. What you want to do is pull that sound out of your instrument so that everyone can enjoy it.
The sound is bigger and fuller. There’s more tone. It’s beautiful. When you use Moeller, people will make comments about your tone. “Wow. you know, your tone is really great! How do you do that?” Then you can just tell them, “Hey, it’s the Moeller Technique.”
There are other techniques out there like I was saying, and I encourage you to try them. Please remember that with any drumming technique, the goal is not to get injured. I don’t want you to get hurt like me and the Moeller Technique will never hurt you.
Put your trust in Moeller
The Moeller Technique is the only drum technique that I trust to teach my students so that they won’t get injured like I did. The old saying, “No pain, no gain.” doesn’t apply here. Stop playing if you have a shooting or stabbing pain or tingling of any kind in your hands, wrists or arms. This means you’re not playing correctly. If you feel a little bit of muscle fatigue, like you’ve been exercising, that’s okay.
Don’t overdo it too. Make sure you take breaks, especially if you’re trying something new. Like for instance, if you’re new to brushes. Brushes have very little bounce to them. You’ll find the bounce using Moeller but it may be awhile before you can capture and harness that bounce.
Try the Moeller Technique. Go check out my video so you get a basic idea of the Moeller motion. Some people have never used it and some people swear by it. I think it’s really up to the individual. For me, the Moeller Technique has saved my career. I’ve shared it with you because I don’t want injury to delay your successful professional drumming career! Many thanks again for reading. KEEP ON DRUMMIN’!
Also check out GOAL SETTING FOR DRUMMERS to learn the most in every minute of your drum practice.
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