The Fundamental Single Stroke

Alex Luce

Pro Drummer
oh yeah...like I said, I am not refuting your line here...I just would teach it as a second or third level technique variation and also would define it - for my situation - to be used in certain percussion situations

You could not use that technique on/in modern marching snare, tenors or bass drum. It is too much extra movement to execute patterns at the high tempos they go, especially cleanly across 5 to 9 players playing the same thing

I would encourage your technique use on drum set and probably tympani in a way.

I would not use that technique on keyboard percussion full on, but would extol the value of the arm motion and use of all of the fulcrums and levers, as part of getting the fullest sound out of the bars.
Yes, thanks. Something to keep in mind is that this exaggerated movement of the upper arm lever/elbow swinging out is really only seen when holding the sticks firmly or using very large strokes. So in regular playing when there is motion in the grip (as I tried to demonstrate in my video) it won't be near as prevalent. For example, as I recall, even when playing mallets there should be a certain amount of motion in the grip.
 

Alex Luce

Pro Drummer
Tommy says it at 4:34 for what a wrist movement on match grip that sits naturally to which I agree with. The ulnar twisting motion, which we see more in traditional and the op video on match
Hello z: So I can tell you with certainty there is no ulnar twisting motion in this fundamental stroke I demonstrated. It is true with traditional grip there is a rotating of the forearm towards the body, and with french grip there is a rotation of the forearm away from the body, but in my demonstration it is a simple up and down pivoting of the forearm at the elbow.

and generally have to lift your shoulder for anything in drumming has not been a habit I want
So, I am not "having" to lift my shoulder. The stroke is actually starting in the shoulder. Now it is certainly a valid question to ask, why you would want to do that? The reason is because I am trying to use all the levers of my arm to maximize the velocity at the tip of my drumstick. The motion I generate with my shoulder creates a ripple of momentum down my arm, which in turn allows me to produce a precise drum stroke that delivers exceptional force
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Hello z: So I can tell you with certainty there is no ulnar twisting motion in this fundamental stroke I demonstrated. It is true with traditional grip there is a rotating of the forearm towards the body, and with french grip there is a rotation of the forearm away from the body, but in my demonstration it is a simple up and down pivoting of the forearm at the elbow.


So, I am not "having" to lift my shoulder. The stroke is actually starting in the shoulder. Now it is certainly a valid question to ask, why you would want to do that? The reason is because I am trying to use all the levers of my arm to maximize the velocity at the tip of my drumstick. The motion I generate with my shoulder creates a ripple of momentum down my arm, which in turn allows me to produce a precise drum stroke that delivers exceptional force

No, the stroke starts in the core muscles around the spine, etc., There’s a constant slight “dance to the groove” going on in those muscles that we take advantage of to drum or do anything else that involves the limbs moving while the core stays still.
 

s1212z

Silver Member
So I can tell you with certainty there is no ulnar twisting motion in this fundamental stroke I demonstrated.
Thank you for your thoughtful response

I can say with certainty that you have forearm protonation/supination in this fundamental stroke from all the visuals share. It's in your pictures and definitely in your video, it's impossible the palm of hand to turn 90 degrees in that radial motion without doing so (e.g. from a 'handshake' to 'palm' down).

This is entirely different than say, a german grip approach, where the palm is down the majority while have the wrist to hinge or rest of arm whip like Moeller and have the fulcrum in the hand itself

So, I am not "having" to lift my shoulder. The stroke is actually starting in the shoulder.

When elbows are out, your medial deltoid is being utilized thus your shoulder is lifting.

I know Moeller does something similar, but the fulcrum is still in the hand which create the wave-whip from shoulder -> elbow -> wrist -> hand. Making your arm the fulcrum as a fundamental while holding tightly like a gorilla doesn't translate to even what your final product ends up being (a fulcrum in the hand).

Perhaps you have found some strengthening benefit to this, as an isolated exercises but that is entirely different scope.


They can’t just use their fingers, or their wrists, they don’t have that kind of dexterity. I’ve seen it time and time again, with my own children and other kids. I personally watched a 9 year-old virtuoso destroy on the drum set, and he wasn’t using any rebound. What I believe happened when these world-class drummers were young, is they developed the fundamental single stroke I demonstrated naturally, maybe from watching other great drummers or maybe just by swinging a firmly held drumstick naturally and freely.
I see this more as a product of necessity. A small child's hand is simply not large enough to keep a fulcrum in the hand and the weight of the stick versus the strength ratio of an adult or even adolescent it is so much different, it's much heavier comparatively (plus, as you mentioned the dexterity in the hand is not quite there yet). And while there are some great kid drummers that can make it work until they come of age, this certainly does not make it evidence of a fundamental stroke for a starting point for adult drummers to go back to. You can search the boards, there is plenty on carpel tunnel and tennis elbow mentioned here and it's a lot less frequent in kids but not like adults and this introduces a potential injury prone motion IMO

You are obviously passionate on this concept w/ experience brought to this point and I have my own thoughts, so probably agree to disagree...that is ok. It's at least a thought provoking concept and an excellent question what is fundamental, not surprisingly gets a variety of responses and often it's personal journey on what works for everyone.
 

Alex Luce

Pro Drummer
I can say with certainty that you have forearm protonation/supination in this fundamental stroke from all the visuals share. It's in your pictures and definitely in your video, it's impossible the palm of hand to turn 90 degrees in that radial motion without doing so (e.g. from a 'handshake' to 'palm' down).

This is entirely different than say, a german grip approach, where the palm is down the majority while have the wrist to hinge or rest of arm whip like Moeller and have the fulcrum in the hand itself
Thank you for directly contradicting me! Geez...it's not that different than the german grip approach, the only change is the forearms are rotated slightly outwards upon beginning the stroke to create a greater range of motion...see my post to Matt Ritter. And you probably know there is no ulnar rotation in german grip, so changing the angle of the forearm upon starting doesn't mean I am rotating it during the stroke. The same goes with American grip, which you probably know is achieved by changing the angle of the forearm...rotating it outwards slowly from the german grip starting position. This doesn't mean that during American grip you are rotating the forearm for each stroke, it is still that same up and down pivoting from the elbow, as with german grip. And of course to just play with the palms down consistently like with german grip restricts the range of motion and doesn't work on the drumset at all, where the angles of your arms by necessity are constantly changing.

And while there are some great kid drummers that can make it work until they come of age, this certainly does not make it evidence of a fundamental stroke for a starting point for adult drummers to go back to. You can search the boards, there is plenty on carpel tunnel and tennis elbow mentioned here and it's a lot less frequent in kids but not like adults and this introduces a potential injury prone motion IMO
I learned this stroke when I was 22. Now I am 59. I have played 1000's of gigs over the years and have had no physical problems. I believe I am a better drummer today than I have ever been. So my personal experience does not equate with your concerns.

You are obviously passionate on this concept w/ experience brought to this point and I have my own thoughts, so probably agree to disagree...that is ok. It's at least a thought provoking concept and an excellent question what is fundamental, not surprisingly gets a variety of responses and often it's personal journey on what works for everyone.
Sorry, but it's not true that this is a personal journey, because anatomically we are all the same. The motion I demonstrated anyone can do with enough practice. And it creates a powerful feeling of motion in your arm that creates a precise drum stroke. If you don't think this is useful for high-performance drumming, you have to ask yourself why that is. You can't accept Moeller and reject this fundamental stroke. Because Moeller uses these exact same mechanics and then adds the whipping motion. The motion starts in the shoulder. Would you tell an athlete not to use his shoulder/upper arm when throwing, shooting or hitting a ball? Of course not! It doesn't make sense! Why would I only use the lower part of my arm to create a drum stroke, when I can use my entire arm with all its leverage to create a much more powerful stroke-- and one that enables me to get around the entire drumset with grace and fluidity?
 
Last edited:

Alex Luce

Pro Drummer
No, the stroke starts in the core muscles around the spine, etc., There’s a constant slight “dance to the groove” going on in those muscles that we take advantage of to drum or do anything else that involves the limbs moving while the core stays still.
Yeah, well I normally don't think about it in terms of the muscles being used, I am thinking about the motion of the upper body. I have a kinesiology book that says "In the human body, bones are levers, muscles create the forces that move these levers, and the axis of motion is located at the joint". So yes, there are a lot of muscles involved here, I am sure, but as far as the levers of the body are concerned, I believe it is the upper arm (which also consists of the shoulder) where this stroke begins.
Figure-1.jpg
 

s1212z

Silver Member
Thank you for directly contradicting me! Geez...it's not that different than the german grip approach, the only change is the forearms are rotated slightly outwards upon beginning the stroke to create a greater range of motion...see my post to Matt Ritter. And you probably know there is no ulnar rotation in german grip, so changing the angle of the forearm upon starting doesn't mean I am rotating it during the stroke. The same goes with American grip, which you probably know is achieved by changing the angle of the forearm...rotating it outwards slowly from the german grip starting position. This doesn't mean that during American grip you are rotating the forearm for each stroke, it is still that same up and down pivoting from the elbow, as with german grip. And of course to just play with the palms down consistently like with german grip restricts the range of motion and doesn't work on the drumset at all, where the angles of your arms by necessity are constantly changing.
The outward rotation I'm seeing is more than 'slight', but ok

The rest of what you said, I don't have much disagreement with though slightly tangential topic. The grip change from german <-> american <-> french I agree is a forearm angle change. From drum movement flicks to grip changes, it's not static for sure.

I learned this stroke when I was 22. Now I am 59. I have played 1000's of gigs over the years and have had no physical problems. I believe I am a better drummer today than I have ever been. So my personal experience does not equate with your concerns.
I believe it, otherwise why share. But I still believe this could be interpreted pretty badly with a stiff grip into a hard pad on a 90 degree forearm rotation...eh

Sorry, but it's not true that this is a personal journey, because anatomically we are all the same.

No, my journey is not yours...and we are definitely not all anatomically the same at all. In the basic sense, most of us have two arm with same fingers/thumbs....but there is so much variation within that.

You can't accept Moeller and reject this fundamental stroke. Because Moeller uses these exact same mechanics and then adds the whipping motion. The motion starts in the shoulder.

I'm not saying not to use shoulder or arm, of course we all use it...yes Moeller uses it for the whipping effect as you state. Moeller is fundamentally a gravity and centripetal concept while maintaining a hand fulcrum that extends into more advanced technique concepts like rebound and torque and finger techniques.

This fundamental stroke does none of this other than mimic the arm mechanic slightly to isolate it. But the whole arm motion from top to arm to finger of Moeller is the fundamental, not a sub-fundamental just isolate the start in the arm with a stiff grip to break the whole concept, so I can reject this very easily.

Would you tell an athlete not to use his shoulder/upper arm when throwing, shooting or hitting a ball? Of course not? It doesn't make sense!
Well, would you tell an athlete not use lower arm, wrist, hand and fingers when throwing a ball and just throw from their upper arm, of course not because that doesn't make sense! You really need the whole thing from top to bottom as it's a connected motion fundamentally, otherwise you start compensating for the lack of parts not introduced (like stressing the forearm protonation/supination mentioned, which does happen in sports activities).
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
Well this video is certainly thought-provoking, and Mr. Lang brought up a lot of points I hadn't thought about before. But have you ever seen Stewart Copeland's massive traditional grip back-beat? Pretty much annihilates his snare drum every time...and gets an amazing tone out of it. And Virgil Donati doesn't seem limited by his traditional grip playing.
I think traditional grip is an underhand way of holding a drumstick, and matched is overhand--but there are a lot of similarities in the underlying stroke.
Chi Chi Rodriguez is a great golfer but I don’t know many pros who would recommend stopping your backswing at shoulder height like he did, or putting with the putter between their legs like Sam Snead did. And when was the last time you saw a basketball player using the Granny shot for free throws? ;)

But seriously, I started as a kid doing trad grip, but mostly did matched since I could never get any power with trad. And since my comeback last year at 60, all I get out of it is an achy left hand. But lots of drummers crushed it with trad and still do to this day, as you said. Would I tell them differently? Of course not. If you sound good, I don’t care if you use sticks with your feet and pedals with your hands.

But as for me, it doesn’t work. Glad I have options, and learning more about these options and more current techniques to play better and stay injury free as long as I can is paramount to me. And I’m very glad that high level pros and instructors share your honest feedback and thoughts with each other.
 

Caz

Senior Member
Hi Alex,

I agree with your observation that: "it sure looks like he is snapping the stick back into his right hand with his fingers. So to me it looks like the stick is rebounding, and then he is catching it..." Yes, I am throwing the stick, it is rebounding and I am catching it as it flies off the drum and back into my hand. My fingers are closing around the stick, not "snapping," simply to help capture the upward momentum of the stick and keep the stick from flying out of my hand. For me, this approach generates the best sound, I seem to have pretty good control of the sticks and enough power to overpower just about any band that hires me.

Best,

John

Hi John, could I ask a question on this please? I worked on the full stroke in lessons with Asaf Sirkis at Trinity and spent quite some time on it practising on a pad. In terms of generating a powerful stroke when playing with a band, I could imagine it giving a strong backbeat on a snare - but to be honest would worry that the stick would fly out of my hand or that it'd be inconsistent as I only really did it on a pad. I think the benefits I got from it were more subtle things about rebound with the sticks, it probably comes through when swinging on the ride cymbal. There's probably an extra step I didn't do, on taking this to the kit and directly applying these strokes when playing with people - just wondered if you have any tips on making that step please, or examples of the type of situation where it comes through in your playing on kit? You mentioned accents with Buddy's singles so that's one good example.

Many thanks
Caroline
 

Alex Luce

Pro Drummer
I don't know if this will help clear up anything, but I made these gifs so I am going to post them. Going from left to right, first to last, or however it looks on your device, The first gif is the fundamental stroke I demonstrated in the video from the first post of this thread, which starts from the "rolled out" forearm angle (thanks Matt!). If you want to know what that is, refer to the Jim Chapin Video Speed, Power, Control and Endurance at the 22:00 mark. The next gif is the same stroke with the classic german angle with the flat palm. The last stroke is the one produced by French grip. I positioned my elbow outwards to perform this stroke, because otherwise it feels really awkward when not using the fingers. Again, I am just trying to demonstrate these arm strokes, but I always use my fingers in my regular playing. Lest I be accused of playing like a "gorilla", I guess I need to make this clear!

Finally, you will notice the elbow swings out much more noticeably with the rolled out position. This is just a natural feature of this stroke, but it is also a very important aspect, since it allows you to feel and produce a smooth back and forth motion, which I demonstrated in my initial video. When switched to the german position, this feeling dissipates, and the motion of the upper arm/elbow is greatly reduced.

RolledOut.05.gifgerman.05.giffrench.gif
 

John Riley

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
Hi John, could I ask a question on this please? I worked on the full stroke in lessons with Asaf Sirkis at Trinity and spent quite some time on it practising on a pad. In terms of generating a powerful stroke when playing with a band, I could imagine it giving a strong backbeat on a snare - but to be honest would worry that the stick would fly out of my hand or that it'd be inconsistent as I only really did it on a pad. I think the benefits I got from it were more subtle things about rebound with the sticks, it probably comes through when swinging on the ride cymbal. There's probably an extra step I didn't do, on taking this to the kit and directly applying these strokes when playing with people - just wondered if you have any tips on making that step please, or examples of the type of situation where it comes through in your playing on kit? You mentioned accents with Buddy's singles so that's one good example.

Many thanks
Caroline
Hi Caroline,

You ask a good question. Full strokes require a combination of the starting height, 90 degrees from the drum, the speed of the downward movement AND the looseness in the grip. They produce a big, open sound. The loose grip allows the rebounding stick to “carry” the hand back up to the starting position. The degree of looseness is the critical thing: too loose and you can’t control the stick, not loose enough and you kill some of the rebound of the stick. So we need to develop just the right timing and sensitivity in our hands and fingers to allow the movement to flow. Full strokes are “free strokes” in that the stick is free to rebound back to the starting point naturally - without the assistance of muscles.

One must practice the other “free stokes” as well in order to have dynamic variety: the half stroke is a stroke roughly 45 degrees from the drum and the tap is 20 degrees from the drum. Half strokes and taps have enough upward momentum to allow them to return to their lower starting point without the assistance of muscles.


Perhaps the step you are missing is the development of the non-free strokes - the control strokes. The control strokes are employed to change from one dynamic level to another. If you are playing loudly, full strokes, and need to suddenly play softly, you need to inhibit the upward flow of your last loud notes, killing the rebound, so that that last loud stroke finishes in a low position making it possible to play the next note softly without tensing up. The stroke that helps transition from loud to soft is called a downstroke - it starts high and finishes low. At the other end of the spectrum: if you are playing softly and suddenly need to play loudly you would play an upstroke - start low and finish high. In the upstroke muscles are employed to assist the rebounding stick up to the best height for the next loud note. The general idea of the control strokes is that, when changing dynamic levels, you want to have each stroke FINISH in the best position for it’s NEXT note. You achieve this by either inhibiting the upward rebound of the stick to go from loud to soft- the downstroke, or by assisting the upward rebound of the stick to go from soft to loud - the upstroke.

An exercise Joe Morello gave me to help develop the control strokes was: slowly play 4 loud strokes: RIGHT LEFT RIGHT LEFT followed by 4 soft strokes: right left right left. The stroke choreography would be FULL FULL DOWN DOWN tap tap up up. The exercises on pages 49-51 of “Master Studies” are designed to help make these movements become second nature. Practice them slowly while focusing on having each stroke finish in the best position for it’s next note.

Hope this helps Caroline.

Best,

John
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Hi Caroline,


An exercise Joe Morello gave me to help develop the control strokes was: slowly play 4 loud strokes: RIGHT LEFT RIGHT LEFT followed by 4 soft strokes: right left right left. The stroke choreography would be FULL FULL DOWN DOWN tap tap up up. The exercises on pages 49-51 of “Master Studies” are designed to help make these movements become second nature. Practice them slowly while focusing on having each stroke finish in the best position for it’s next note.
Hi Caroline,

You ask a good question. Full strokes require a combination of the starting height, 90 degrees from the drum, the speed of the downward movement AND the looseness in the grip. They produce a big, open sound. The loose grip allows the rebounding stick to “carry” the hand back up to the starting position. The degree of looseness is the critical thing: too loose and you can’t control the stick, not loose enough and you kill some of the rebound of the stick. So we need to develop just the right timing and sensitivity in our hands and fingers to allow the movement to flow. Full strokes are “free strokes” in that the stick is free to rebound back to the starting point naturally - without the assistance of muscles.

One must practice the other “free stokes” as well in order to have dynamic variety: the half stroke is a stroke roughly 45 degrees from the drum and the tap is 20 degrees from the drum. Half strokes and taps have enough upward momentum to allow them to return to their lower starting point without the assistance of muscles.


Perhaps the step you are missing is the development of the non-free strokes - the control strokes. The control strokes are employed to change from one dynamic level to another. If you are playing loudly, full strokes, and need to suddenly play softly, you need to inhibit the upward flow of your last loud notes, killing the rebound, so that that last loud stroke finishes in a low position making it possible to play the next note softly without tensing up. The stroke that helps transition from loud to soft is called a downstroke - it starts high and finishes low. At the other end of the spectrum: if you are playing softly and suddenly need to play loudly you would play an upstroke - start low and finish high. In the upstroke muscles are employed to assist the rebounding stick up to the best height for the next loud note. The general idea of the control strokes is that, when changing dynamic levels, you want to have each stroke FINISH in the best position for it’s NEXT note. You achieve this by either inhibiting the upward rebound of the stick to go from loud to soft- the downstroke, or by assisting the upward rebound of the stick to go from soft to loud - the upstroke.

An exercise Joe Morello gave me to help develop the control strokes was: slowly play 4 loud strokes: RIGHT LEFT RIGHT LEFT followed by 4 soft strokes: right left right left. The stroke choreography would be FULL FULL DOWN DOWN tap tap up up. The exercises on pages 49-51 of “Master Studies” are designed to help make these movements become second nature. Practice them slowly while focusing on having each stroke finish in the best position for it’s next note.

Hope this helps Caroline.

Best,

John

I love that exercise, I play it about 20 bpm per stroke. I also sometimes make the full strokes from above my head. I also practice it in French grip with the forearm rotation, I think this is helpful for timpani technique and ride cymbal technique.
 

jaymandude

Active Member
I was a student of Ed Soph during the fall and spring semesters of 1989-1990 at the University of North Texas, so it's been awhile! But yes, I remember practicing those motions with Ed, and also I remember working on the jazz ride cymbal beat at supper SLOW tempos, brushes, big band chart reading, transcribing and a bunch of other stuff too! He's great teacher and he taught me so much.

As far as technique goes, before Ed Soph, I had studied with Richard Wilson and Murary Sprivack. Completely the opposite approach as Ed's, but he never refuted or in any way bad mouthed my previous teachers techniques, he just presented new possibilities with a looser approach which made sense to me.

And Alex, I really like your approach to the single stroke. Did you come up with that or did you learn it from your teachers? Or a hybrid perhaps? Anyways thanks for sharing your ideas on technique with us!
Wow, Richard Wilson and Murray Spivak are heavyweights. That’s great.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
Wow, Richard Wilson and Murray Spivak are heavyweights. That’s great

Yes they were, at least in LA. Unfortunately, they seem to be becoming forgotten, I don’t think either of them wrote any books or really tried to promote themselves. Murray did make an instructional video of sorts were he coaches Louis Bellson. I believe he was in his 90’s at the time. Richard was a bit reclusive really, the epitome of “ anti- establishment “ Regardless, some very noteworthy players studied with both of them.
 

jaymandude

Active Member
Yes they were, at least in LA. Unfortunately, they seem to be becoming forgotten, I don’t think either of them wrote any books or really tried to promote themselves. Murray did make an instructional video of sorts were he coaches Louis Bellson. I believe he was in his 90’s at the time. Richard was a bit reclusive really, the epitome of “ anti- establishment “ Regardless, some very noteworthy players studied with both of them.

I’m a huge Keltner head, and I believe he was with Richard Wilson. And I’m always wondering how Richard Wilson taught. Because Keltner has this “ thing”. It seems like he throws the sticks at the drums, and I know he was a traditional grip player for a long time. And his snare angle is a pretty steep tilt. Again, just wondering what came from Richard, even tho nobody plays like Jim. As if anyone could.

I did a little of the nyc equivalent as I got older, to try and erase sone bad habits. I wish I had better training when I was younger but alas.. I do the best I can …
 
Last edited:

Paul Blood

Junior Member
I’m a huge Keltner head, and I believe he was with Richard Wilson. And I’m always wondering how Richard Wilson taught. Because Keltner has this “ thing”. It seems like he throws the sticks at the drums, and I know he was a traditional grip player for a long time. And his snare angle is a pretty steep tilt. Again, just wondering what came from Richard, even tho nobody plays like Jim. As if anyone could.

I did a little of the nyc equivalent as I got older, to try and erase sone bad habits. I wish I had better training when I was younger but alas.. I do the best I can …
I wouldn’t be surprised if Keltner studied with Richard Wilson. So many of the big name LA guys did. But man, the East Coast has always had some of the most respected teachers. I wish I could have studied with Joe Morello, Jim Chapín , Alan Dawson…. I of think drumming pedagogy comes from that region!
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
I wouldn’t be surprised if Keltner studied with Richard Wilson. So many of the big name LA guys did. But man, the East Coast has always had some of the most respected teachers. I wish I could have studied with Joe Morello, Jim Chapín , Alan Dawson…. I of think drumming pedagogy comes from that region!

Let’s start a new drumming pedagogy, where we just hit the drum. Kind of Zen, but with some feet happening too.
 
Top