Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Moeller Stroke: Jeff Hamilton style



The original inspiration for this technique comes from a fantastic Ray Brown trio album called "Black Orpheus" featuring Jeff Hamilton and Gene Harris.  On the the opening track "The Days of Wine and Roses", Jeff plays some phenomenal rolls around the drum set.  There is a similar sort of roll at around 1:50 in the video above.  The following exercises will help you work your way towards this technique using a variation of the Moeller stroke. 

Jefff Hamilton Around the Set  

Step 1: Basic Moeller Stroke
If you haven't already acquainted yourself with the basics of the Moeller stroke, now is the time to start.  I would recommend checking out the Jojo Mayer DVD to get oriented.  Once you have the basic technique somewhat comfortable, try my "Caravan Warmup" to get it to really soak in.  I would not recommend going on to step 2 of this exercise until you have a basic grasp of the Moeller stroke. Here is a video of me playing the first step of the "Caravan Warmup":


Step 2: Isolating the Moeller motions around the drums and practicing them slowly
In this step, focus on getting the Moeller stroke motion feeling comfortable in both directions (clockwise and counterclockwise) around the drums.  Use lines #2 and #3 above to help guide you.  Start slowly enough that you can use nice big Moeller motions and feel the bounce moving between the different drums.

Line #2 example


Line #3 example


Step 3: One motion into the other motion slowly
Use line #1, but don't try to play this fast yet.  Take this step at the same tempo you were doing step #2, and just focus on getting a good comfortable feeling around the drums.

Line #1 slow example


Step 4: One motion into the other motion with a pause more quickly 
In this step you will accelerate the tempo without stringing the two motions together.  Instead, leave a small space between the two motions by playing this step in 3/4 time.  Use line #4 to guide you.

Line #4 example


Step 5: Whole thing
Finally, try both motions consecutively at a faster tempo.  This is Moeller stroke around the drums Jeff Hamilton style.  

Line #1 fast example


Playing Tips
The key to making this technique sound good is keeping the relaxed, flowing feeling of the Moeller as you move around the drums.  Focus on the accents and maintaining the bounce of the stick between the various drums.

Because this is a really dense, aggressive drum fill, it is crucial to use it tastefully.  If you don't use your musicality to dictate when this fill will be appropriate, and instead just try to superimpose it in different musical situations, the result will be overplaying.  Jeff Hamilton only used this fill at the very climax of a song.  So, BE SENSITIVE!  When you do hear the right spot for this fill, go for it.