To Moeller or Not to Moeller?

December 10, 2009 10:03 am in Marching by mark wessels

This article is more of a question than it is a point of view.  I do have my opinion, but I’d like to get as much feedback from the rudimental community as possible.  The topic concerns whether you teach the Moeller motion to beginning “band” students.

I’m filming some instructional video for the basic rudiments – for use in my snare drum book and new drumset book.  The videos will come from both perspectives: the beginning ‘band’ student (who, one would suppose would eventually play in a typical “corps style” drumline) and the beginning drumset player (who may – but most likely WILL NOT be a part of a school band situation).

At the point where I discuss the “upstroke” in an accented Paradiddle, I described both methods:

Moeller Motion:

Starting with the stick close to the drum, the wrist breaks up while the tap is being played. The upward motion leads with the wrist – and the stick follows. The arm moves to the vertical position before the hand/stick “catches up”. (This is for a full stroke. Obviously, for faster tempi, the motion is not as exaggerated.)

“Stick Led Motion”

(Not sure what else to call it, so I’ll just name it unless someone has a better term for it)

Starting with the stick close to the drum, play a soft tap with the wrist in a slight downward motion. The upward motion is led by the tip of the stick. The wrist follows the stick to the vertical position, with only a small amount of forearm movement (at most 45º from horizontal).

Without getting too technical or confusing (because the video is aimed at beginners), I stated, “If you are primarily a drumset player, do this…(Moeller motion)” – and “If you’re eventually going to play in a drumline, do this… (Stick Led Motion)”.

Is that too anal?

I’ve always believed strongly that all the motions should be exaggerated in the beginning. And I always taught the “stick led” motion to my beginners in the school band – because that’s the technique we used in high school (and what I have seen from almost every drum corps, college, wgi, & high school around the country, except for maybe SCV). If an exaggerated Moeller motion were taught from the beginning, I would guess that you’d have to spend some time getting the students to limit their arm motion later.

For the drumset player, it would make no sense to learn the “stick led” upstroke motion.

Of course, there will be two schools of thought on how best to play a marching drum. Moeller is a very efficient motion for playing drums – but almost has no direct application to keyboard (which I’ve always taught as a “piston stroke”). So, for the sake of argument, I think I’m right to draw a line between “drumset players” and “school band students”.

But I’d love to be proven wrong.  :0)

What are your opinions?  Which motion do you use to start your students?