Basic Background Info

Birth: July 23, 1919
Location: United States
Band: Jim Chapin, Art Harris, Harold Arlen
Genres: Jazz
Instruments: Drums, Percussion
Occupation: Musician, Teacher


Born to parents Abigail Forbes and James Ormsbee Chapin, Jim Chapin began playing piano and clarinet as a child. At the age of eighteen, Jim Chapin left college to become a professional drummer. Jim Chapin is best known for his work with Red Norvo in the 1940s and for his sessions with Woody Herman and Tommy Dorsey in the 1950s.

Jim Chapin is widely considered to be the last remaining student of Sanford A. Moeller, who created and popularized the Moeller method. Among the numerous drummers Jim Chapin mentored in his career spanning six decades, he taught the Moeller method to such greats as Dom Famularo, Cesar Zuiderwijk, and Thomas Lang. Though not as widely known as Gene Krupa (a friend of Jim’s and fellow Moeller method man), Buddy Rich, or other greats from that music era, Jim Chapin remains a big name in the world of jazz drumming.

Jim Chapin began his studies with Ben Silver in New York before going on to work with the celebrated rudimentalist, Sanford A. Moeller. By the beginning of 1940, Jim Chapin worked a number of jobs and gathered some much-needed experience. The house band at Goldbetter Studios was an early Basie-influenced band with arrangements by Vic Hunter. When former drummer Lou Fromm left to join Frankie Newton, Jim Chapin sat in for a few college dates the band played that spring. In the early 1940s, he was playing at New York's Hickory House jazz club with Flip Phillips in the evenings and writing independence exercises before he was drafted during World War II. After returning from the service, Jim worked with big bands at Roseland and the Acadia ballrooms, and he performed jazz gigs in Greenwich Village. Jim Chapin also went out with the Casa Loma orchestra for a while and worked in Atlanta, but he eventually returned to New York. Jim Chapin began to teach at the Brooklyn conservatory of modern music when he returned in September of 1948.

Simply put, Jim Chapin revolutionized jazz drumming with his book, Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, and is considered the world’s foremost authority on hand conditioning. Jim Chapin's book shaped drum set playing as we know it today, while helping to make Jim a legend in the process.

In 1971 Jim Chapin published his second book, Independence—The Open End. Innovative in design, it featured removable pages that could be superimposed over each other to create seemingly endless patterns. It is widely thought that one can never really “finish” the book. Expensive to produce, the book has only been published occasionally and in small quantities -today it is a collector’s item.

Jim Chapin is still as enthusiastic as ever and is often seen at Percussive Arts Society conventions and NAMM shows, where he never tires of demonstrating “the Moeller stroke” or exciting audiences with displays of independence and speed. Quite possibly, his greatest gift as a teacher is his ability to ignite the passions of his students with his own intensity about drumming.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1955 The Jim Chapin Sextet Jim Chapin
1955 Skin Tight Jim Chapin
1956 Jazz Goes to Post Graduate School Art Harris
1988 Gold Medal Collection Harry Chapin
1992 You're the Top: Cole Porter in the 1930's Various Artists
1998 Music of Harold Arlen Harold Arlen
1999 Story of a Life: The Harry Chapin Box Harry Chapin


  • Jim Chapin is the father of ten children.
  • He is the direct descendant of Deacon Samuel Chapin, who co-founded Springfield, Massachusetts, in the 1600s.

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Drum Workshop
Cymbals: Sabian
Hardware: Drum Workshop

Pics & Clips