The Moeller Method

Posted in Learn | Last Updated on October 4, 2018

The “Moeller Method” is one of the most famous, most asked about, most sought-after technique by all kinds of drummers.

While some might think it was invented by Sanford Moeller, this is not entirely true. He was simply one who documented the techniques drummers in the military and other marching bands were using to play their drums efficiently. They were getting power from this simple whipping motion involving their entire arms, not just the wrist or fingers. Using this particular method, these drummers were able to play with great power and dynamic range, without getting tired or hurting themselves.

These days, drummers have many reasons to want to use this great, effective method. Rock and other hard-hitting musical styles are as popular as ever, and these drummers need to know how to avoid injury (to themselves AND their equipment), and to maximize their kinetic output.

This moeller technique is also great for jazz and/or classical drummers, as it can be used quietly and provides great ways of getting more strokes for less energy!

3 Step Motion

The Moeller Method is all about learning how to whip the drumstick at the drum using your entire arm, not just the fingers or wrists.

It’s a 3 step movement.

  • First, starting with your right hand in the matched grip position at 4-5 o’clock on the drum head (stick pointing to the middle), your going to extend your elbow and shoulder, so that your hand is now at 3 o clock, and the stick is pointing to the middle of the drum. You’re hand and stick should create a right angle (90 degrees).
  • Second, you’re going to lift your entire arm up, so that the hand is over the center of the drum, and the stick is dangling loosely just above the surface of the drum head. Your palm should still be facing more or less downward, so avoid turning out outwards or upwards.
  • The third part of the stroke is the execution. Up to this point, you’ve set your arm up so that it is in a perfect position to whip the stick downwards. In quick succession, rotate your shoulder so that your elbow drops towards your body, then extend forearm , then the wrist, then close the fingers, using all your joints one after the other to transfer energy from your upper body straight through to your fingers and the drumstick.

Note: the same applies to the left hand but in a mirror-image.

Multiple Strokes

One of the best parts of using the Moeller Method is the ability to get several strokes from one whip. This is similar to the push pull technique, but uses different muscles and movements, and can achieve more than a 2-to-1 stroke to throw ratio.

By stroke to whip ratio, I mean the number of strokes you can get on the drum for each whip of your arm.

To start, we can get 2 strokes for every whip by playing a ghost note on the way up, as you set up for your moeller whip. (somewhere between step 1 and 2 in the 3 step process). These extra strokes come from a controlled rebound, as the stick bounces off of the drumhead after the initial throwing down of the stick.

The important thing is to let the stick bounce to achieve extra strokes, and not to force them to happen. That is not what the moeller method is about

Another common ratio is the 3-for-1, where you get 3 strokes for every moeller whip you execute. You’re going to let the stick bounce 2 more times after you execute the main whip-stroke. Try to control the sticks bounce so it happens at even intervals throughout the entire moeller motion. Work on this as continuous triplets to really get a feel for this moeller-stroke flow that you can achieve with practice.

More “strokes-per-whip” are possible, but 2 and 3 are the most practical.

Having Trouble?

The best way to think about the moeller method is as a whip. I can’t stress that enough, because it’s a motion that almost everyone can understand. You’re just using all the joints in your arm, from the shoulder to the fingers, to transfer energy in the same way that you would when you’re throwing a baseball.

You can also think of your arm as the towel that you use to whip your friend at the pool. You throw energy into one end of the towel, and the energy transfers through the towel as a wave, until it snaps out of the end of the towel into your friend’s skin!