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Speed, Power, Control, Endurance by Jim Chapin

Great drummers focus on doing the basics very well. Once they know the basics, they have a solid foundation upon which to build a more complex drumming vocabulary.  I consider the drumming basics to be hand technique, foot technique, drumming posture and hand/foot coordination.  Master these 4 areas and you will have the building blocks to be a great drummer.

The DVD Speed, Power, Control, Endurance by Jim Chapin is a definitive work about one of these 4 drumming basics: hand technique.  If you learn the concepts on this DVD and put them into practice when you play the drum set, you will have no reason to worry about studying drumming hand technique from anyone else.

Chapin teaches on so many different levels at once that this DVD is great for beginners and for advanced drummers as well. I’ve watched the DVD many times over a number of years.  Each time I watch, I learn something new because I’ve grown as a player since the last time I watched.  Drummers at any level can learn something from this DVD!

Recently I wrote a post about the challenge of relaxing while playing the drum set (Relax…It’s Just a Drum Set!).  In that article, I briefly described 5 tips to relax while playing the drum set.  The tips are so important, though, that I decided to write a detailed post for each one.  The first in the series was I’ll Practice Drums on the Weekend! (Get on a Regular Practice Schedule).  The second post was How Whale Blubber Improved My Drumming Posture (Sit up straight and put weight on your butt).  This is the third post in the series.  The tip for this post is: Work on your hand technique.

Jim Chapin
Jim Chapin was born on July 23, 1919 and died July 4, 2009.  Besides being an exceptional drummer, Chapin was an author, teacher and ambassador for the drumming industry.  Because he touched so many drummers through his teaching and books, he has been called “the most renowned non-famous jazz drummer in the world.”

Chapin played all different styles of music as a drummer from big band jazz to rock ‘n’ roll.  He played the drums in 8 decades, so he had to be versatile and flexible.  Jim was always open to new drumming ideas. For example, when drummers started switching from traditional grip to matched grip in order to play louder, Chapin adapted his teaching to incorporate the matched grip.

“The Chapin Book”
In 1948, Chapin published Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, Vol. 1. This is one of the best selling drum books of all time and it is still the definitive guide to hand/foot coordination for jazz drumming. It is so popular that its known simply as “The Chapin Book.”

My first contact with Jim Chapin’s teaching was through my first teacher, Chic Colburn. Based on Chic’s recommendation, Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, Vol. 1 was the first drum set book that I bought.  I used the book so much that I wore out my first copy and had to buy a second one!

An Ancient Drum Secret Discovered
A few years ago I was having some trouble with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  My wrists would hurt after I played for several hours. I was also looking for a way to increase the speed of my playing without getting tense.

I did some research on the Internet and discovered the Moeller Method for developing hand technique. This method of playing allows you to hit drums at any volume and with great speed while continuing to be relaxed.  It’s named after Sanford Moeller, a drummer in the early 1900’s, who documented how drummers from the Civil War hit snare drums.

Speed, Power, Control, Endurance
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Jim Chapin was a big advocate of the Moeller Method. And he was highly qualified to teach it because he learned the method first hand (no pun intended) while studying with Sanford Moeller in the 1930’s (60 lessons, 2 a week for 30 weeks).

Even better, Chapin had created a DVD, Speed, Power, Control, Endurance, showing how to play the Moeller Method.  I immediately bought it, and spent many hours watching and re-watching Jim teach this important material.

The DVD is a no-frills lesson with Chapin sitting in front of a practice pad, facing the camera, and explaining all aspects of the Moeller Method.  No special effects, no special camera angles, no hype.  The teacher and the content are enough to keep the viewer engaged.  Presented in a straight-forward manner, Jim talks about and demonstrates different parts of the Moeller stroke, how to hold the sticks and how to hit the drum.  Jim also tells some entertaining stories along the way.

DVD Contents
Here’s what you get on the DVD:

  • Play Video – This is the main part of the video. 1 hour, 8 minutes split into 22 Chapters (see below).
  • Bonus Footage – 53 minutes divided into 5 segments showing a clinic, a master class, an interview, a song and an interview/lesson with Jim at age 88.
  • Chapin Products: A list of products created by Jim Chapin.
  • Acknowledgments: A list of endorsements and thank you’s.
  • Credits: Production credits for the video content.

Lesson Chapters
The content was originally produced for VHS tape so the chapters are somewhat arbitrary.  Here’s a list of what’s presented in each chapter (by chapter number):

Chapter 1: Jim Chapin Biography and Video Introduction by Dom Famularo (a student of Jim’s and another advocate of the Moeller Method).

Chapter 2:  Story about taking lessons from Sanford Moeller. Summary of the DVD. Jim plays with traditional grip but teaches mostly matched grip players. Talks about stick weight.

Chapter 3: Demonstration of different hand methods and the advantages and disadvantages of each: French Tympani Method and German Tympani Method.

Chapter 4: Explanation of the Moeller arm motion.

Chapter 5: Whip stroke: Down-Tap-Up Stroke. Explanation of up stroke and down stroke.

Chapter 6: Whip stroke matched grip.

Chapter 7: J. Burns Moore: Rolling your forearm like a Karate Chop.

Chapter 8: Think for yourself! Examine advice and adopt it if it works for you or discard it if it doesn’t.

Chapter 9: Changing the fulcrum between thumb/forefinger and the other fingers.

Chapter 10: How to hold the sticks.

Chapter 11: Look in a mirror to compare your hand positions.  Work on one hand at a time. How to play accents.

Chapter 12: Arm motion and wrist position depends on tempo and volume.

Chapter 13: How to relax while playing.

Chapter 14: Paradiddle exercise. Single stroke exercise.

Chapter 15: Paradiddle accent exercises.

Chapter 16: Open roll (double stroke roll) exercise.

Chapter 17: Buzz (or “crush”) roll playing traditional grip. Triple stroke, 4 stroke rolls, 6 stroke rolls.  3, 4 and 5 stroke ruff (also known as a drag).

Chapter 18: 7 and 9 stroke ruff.  Position of the forefinger and the thumb in the matched grip.

Chapter 19:  Nuances to the stick holds.  There is not only one way to hold the stick.

Chapter 20: Variations in the right and left hand for traditional grip.

Chapter 21: Discussion about working on technique vs. playing music. No sense in becoming a technical giant if you don’t become a musical giant. Some of the best drummers in popular music are not the best technical drummers but they know how to play music.

Chapter 22: Solo demonstration.

Bonus Footage
There’s 53 minutes of extra video on the DVD that’s both instructional and entertaining.  Here’s a list of the topics in the bonus footage part of the DVD:

  1. Jim Chapin Drum Clinic at Joerg Bach’s Drum School, April 6, 2004
  2. Kosa Masterclass, Summer 2002
  3. Jim’s Interview – England, November 4, 2006
  4. Jim on Buddy Rich & The Buddy Song, November 4, 2006
  5. Jim at 88 with Dom Famularo, April 11, 2008

I Highly Recommend This DVD!
As you know I only recommend things that I’ve used and that I think will help you become a better drummer.  If you want to play with maximum speed and power with minimum physical exertion, I highly recommend that you get Speed, Power, Control, Endurance!  If you want to learn about the Moeller Method, there is no better content available.  I’ve learned so much from the DVD already and will continue to learn more each time I watch it in the future.  It’s a rare private lesson with Jim Chapin, a master at the top of his game.

During the DVD, Jim refers to written exercises. Unfortunately, Alfred Publishing did not include these with the DVD. If you’d like to get the exercises, send a copy of your DVD receipt to: doug [at] learndrumsnow [dot] com and I’ll email to you a copy of the .pdf file containing the exercises.