Sanford A. Moeller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sanford Augustus "Gus" Moeller (1886–1960) was an American rudimental drummer, a national champion, educator, and author. Moeller was born in Albany, New York, and began his music education by studying the piano.

While still a young man, Moeller also learned the snare drum and studied with August Helmicke. He served in the Spanish–American War. Later, Moeller moved to New York, playing vaudeville shows with George M. Cohen.[1] He also played for the Metropolitan opera house and the Seventh Regimental Army Band.[2]

He is also known for what is called the Moeller Method, which essentially documents the way of playing snare drum used in the army, particularly in the Civil War. Among Moeller's pupils included Gene Krupa and the late Jim Chapin.

Moeller and drum instruction[edit]

"The belief that anyone can beat a drum is discouragingly popular!" - Sanford Augustus ‘Gus’ Moeller

Gus' Moeller is usually associated with the "Moeller Method" or 'Moeller Technique' (considered by some to be a misnomer), which advocates the use of 'ancient' snare drumming techniques that can be used by drummers when playing a drum set (drum kit).

In 1925, Moeller compiled and wrote "The Moeller Book: The Art of Snare Drumming". It was reprinted in June 1950 by Leedy and Ludwig ... (followed by - 1956 Copyright assigned to Ludwig Drum Co.), (followed by - 1982 Copyright assigned to Ludwig Music Publishing Co).

Moeller's unique point of view was that he considered drum students, who were learning to drum properly, to be students of eurhythmics (refer to page 69 in Moeller's Book). Moeller based his lessons and instruction around a playing style used by drummers who had served in the American Civil War.

The Moeller book speaks highly, in the publisher's note, of George Bruce's method of drum instruction, and indeed, The Moeller book has some similarity to Bruce and Emmett's The Drummers' and Fifer's Guide in that both have lengthy treatments of the rudiments,[3] and many of the pieces in Bruce's book also appear in the Moeller book.

This particular field drumming style actually arrived in the United States during the time of the American Revolutionary War. The 'open style' approach and little finger stick grip are the trademarks regarding this 'ancient' style of drumming. The roots of this approach stem from Europe, and go back before the 18th century.

One of Moeller's pupils, Allen Paley, said, "Moeller...understood the instrument as well as a surgeon does the human body. His system, for which you had to modify in order to play sitting down — he normally stood, was a matter of three strokes that you brought together in a smooth flow. ... He [Gene Krupa] warned me not to let Moeller's method to overpower me; it was originally fashioned for parade and concert drummers. To play with jazz and dance bands, one must modify what Moeller taught and proceed from there".[2]

The two main modifications that most drummers make regarding Moeller's book are to use the thumb fulcrum for both hands (matched grip) and to level the snare (instead of continuing to play a snare drum set up slanted or on an angle). Though Moeller recommended standing when practicing, he shows (on page 11 in his book) that some of his pupils, such as concert and jazz band members, will opt for sitting. These facts show that Moeller allowed for two right hand grips in the lessons that he taught (refer to page 11 in his book for a picture of him seated at a snare drum showing a right hand thumb fulcrum grip). In other words, the little finger grip was not the only grip Moeller recognized when working with his pupils.

Moeller as a drum builder[edit]

Moeller was also an expert drum builder. He made several deep marching snares and matching bass drums. Today, Moeller's vintage-style rope drums are still being played by marching organizations, annually.

The Mount Kisco Ancient Fife and Drum Corps [1] has the best known collection of Moeller drums - still being played today.

The Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps [2], of which Moeller was a member from 1930 to 1935, purchased five snare drums at $85.00 each from Moeller who delivered them personally on August 8, 1954. The Moeller drums are still in use today and have been merged with "Buck" Soistman and Bill Reamer drums since then, (showing a definite on-going drum building style and lineage that was initiated by Moeller).[4]

The Charles W. Dickerson Fife, Drum & Bugle Corp. of New Rochelle, NY of which Moeller taught the earlier Troop 16 members in 1935.

Moeller's Pupils[edit]

Moeller's influence on the early jazz drummers, such as Gene Krupa, is well known. He also instructed American drummer Jim Chapin.

Chapin's well-known book, "Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, Vol 1, Coordinated Independence" carries a dedication to Moeller on the title page.


  1. ^ Logozo, Derrick. "Systems of Natural Drumming: Stone Gladstone and Moeller" (PDF). Percussive Notes. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  2. ^ a b Drummin' men: the heartbeat of Jazz, Burt Korell, p. 58
  3. ^ Bruce and Emmett's Drummers' and Fifer's guide
  4. ^ Lancraft website retrieved on 2011-09-03

External links[edit]