DRUM!: I meant it more generally, but
you’re right. Technically, the Moeller stroke is that old-school
marching technique that involves a lot of arm motion. Lift the elbow,
flip the wrist back, etc. What you do is probably more of a reduced
Moeller, or a velocity stroke. How do you think of it?
T.S.: Well, I think it’s a bastardized Moeller, in a way. I first became aware of that when I got to hang out with Steve Smith in ’91 or ’92. We sat with a snare drum in between us for a good half hour. That was where I became familiar with the down-tap-up repeated triplet figure and that hand motion, and then maybe a year or two later I took a lesson with Jim Chapin and he had a slightly different slant on that. So I think it was an amalgamation between my two experiences with Steve and Jim that formed what I do.
I wouldn’t say that it’s the classic Moeller but it’s just something that works for me to play what I want to play. That’s the idea. You want to get your technique to the point where you can play what you hear and ultimately the technique is a means to an end. It’s kind of like speaking. You think of what you want to say; you’re thinking of words not diagramming sentences in your head. You get the technique to a point that you don’t have to think about it you just call upon it and some things end up feeling very, very natural and seep into your playing and become part of who you are.
DRUM!: You use a couple of hand-pattern ostinatos in your playing and throughout the Methods And Mechanics DVD with various bass drum patterns that work for backbeat-type grooves. The song “Together” uses one of them. (Fig. 1) They really seem to propel your grooves a lot. How’d you develop that?
T.S.: Any system that you can work with ostinatos or bass drum patterns in Western backbeat music is useful because you’re just familiarizing yourself with all the possibilities in common time and common note rates, and that can only be a good thing. You can call upon ideas and sort of paint as you go along if you have developed the ability to do that, and have gone through different permutations until these things sound and feel normal. But that only comes with sitting there and doing it.
The Gary Chaffee Fatback exercises* – going through all those different ostinatos with the 200 possible bass drum combinations that you can play in 4/4 music. There it is. There’s everything in 4/4 time with a backbeat on 2 and 4. There are all your possibilities, at least within a quarter- to sixteenth-note rate. So any kind of consistent work through a system like that can only yield beneficial results.
*For more in-depth information check out Gary Chaffee’s Patterns: Time Functioning, Volume 3.