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The Benefits Of Drum Circles

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Drumming circles | Drum Circle Benefits

About Drum Circles
About Drum Circles

So, here's my history with drum circles. When me and my husband were engaged, we met this really cool guy outside a coffee shop with an oddly-shaped case beside him. I recognize the shape of the case and asked him, "Is that a sitar case?"  He was shocked that I guessed correctly because that's not something you see where we live; you don't just stumble across random guys with sitar cases here. But it happened and a great friendship began.

The guy pulled his sitar out and played for us. I was so excited because I thought I was the only person interested in South Asian style music in the area. At that time I was beginning to learn how to belly dance and so I was really getting into Middle Eastern and Indian music.

The next time we ran into him at the coffee shop, he had drums with him and invited us to drum with him. I had never played any kind drum before. He taught me some basic Arabic beats and I caught on very quickly. I was actually quite surprised that I took to the drum so easily considering I had never played before.  Soon, we had other people joining us at the coffee shop to drum and I would give quick little belly dance lessons to anyone who wanted to learn.

The drum circle grew and moved to a public park. People would stop by  to see what we were doing and they would join us for a little while, but we never really had any visitors come back to stay. It wasn't that we were bad players or crazy people or anything like that. Our town is pretty conservative and traditional and they're not too fond of anything that doesn't involve country music, horses, sports, and beer. Meh.

Sadly, due to artistic differences, the drum circle dissolved but I was still able to play with my friends at the Renaissance Faire every year.

Drum circles, slaptop cajon
Me with my slaptop cajon

Fast forward a few years later and I see a post on Facebook that a drum circle has been started at a small town nearby. I almost screamed with excitement! I haven't got to play in ages! I ordered myself a slaptop cajon for Christmas (something that's been on my wishlist for years)  and when it arrived I joined the drum circle.

The drum circle meets at a park every Sunday afternoon and it's so wonderful that drumming has become a regular part of my life again. I LOVE to drum and drum circles give me the chance to play along with other people who love it as much as I do. When I sync up with someone who's a good player I get just plum giddy inside! It's an experience that I deeply enjoy.

So what's the big deal about drum circles anyway and why should you go to one?

To Make New Friends

Drum circles are for everyone! Some drum circles get very large and you're going to get a chance to meet a lot of different kinds of people from all walks of life who are all there for the rhythm, fun, and fellowship; those are my kind of people!

To Have Fun

Drum circles are fun! If you love music and being around a lot of people then this is going to be right up your alley! It doesn't matter if you're a good drummer or not, just do your best and enjoy being surrounded by some of the coolest people you will ever meet.

Increase Cultural Awareness 

Some drum circles are what you would call “culturally specific” meaning you're going to learn to play beats from certain parts of the world. Most commonly these kind of drum circles focus on Arabic, African, Polynesian, and Latin rhythms. Not only will you learn these different beats, but you'll learn about the different drums and percussion instruments that are used to play these rhythms.

Spark Creativity

Free-form improvisational drum circles allow you to play whatever you want with whatever you want -  just stay with the beat! At these kinds of drum circles you can work on having better rhythm, work on improving drum techniques that you already know, or even create new ones.

The freedom of these kinds of drum circles can even inspire you to create your own percussion instruments. I’ve seen 5-gallon water jug be used in a pinch. You can tap into your creativity and turn anything into a percussion instrument!

Alleviate Depression and Anxiety Symptoms...For Real!

Yes! A few years ago researchers in London discovered that drumming actually does help treat depression and anxiety.

The study, published in the online journal PLoS One, featured 45 Londoners, 30 of whom participated in the drumming lessons and 15 who served as a control group. All were "adults accessing mental health services" from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or support group; they volunteered to participate. Those in the experimental group took part in weekly 90-minute group drumming lessons, which were led by a professional drummer. "The professional drummer taught the participants the basics of how to use the drum, led the participants in a series of 'call and response' exercises where they copied the leader, and taught the participants rhythmic patterns," the researchers explain. The complexity of the music they played gradually increased over the course of the program. Those in the control group did not take any music lessons, but they did participate in other regular activities, including book clubs and quiz nights. Each week, all participants filled out a set of questionnaires designed to measure their levels of anxiety, depression, and general well-being. In addition, those in the drumming group provided weekly saliva samples, which allowed scientists to measure the strength of pro- and anti-inflammatory markers. "Significant improvements were found in the drumming group, but not the control group," the researchers report. For the drummers, "by week six there were decreases in depression, and increases in social resilience. By week 10, these had further improved, alongside significant improvements in anxiety and mental well-being." At follow-up interviews three months later, "all significant changes were maintained,"... 


drum circle benefits
Drum Circle Benefits


Different kinds of drum circles

The most common kind of drum circle is free-form or improvisation style. This is a community event that is open to the public. At these drum circles, you bring whatever hand-drum or percussion instrument you want, dive right in, and join the rhythm.

As I mentioned before, “culturally specific” drum circles most commonly focus on Arabic, African, Polynesian, and Latin rhythms. You might need appropriate drums for these. For example, Arabic drum circles might require you to bring a doumbek or zills. Visit the drum circle to see or contact the host of the drum circle to see what you need to bring. Since many of these ethnic drums are hard to obtain, many cultural drum circles are held in centers that already have the drum you need available to play.

A conducted drum circle is where the group is conducted by a person (facilitator). Everyone plays the the same rhythm or a certain rhythm created for their specific instruments that will be layered all together. Conducted drum circles can be done follow-the-leader style, or with a series of learned gestures from the conductor that will let you know what to rhythm to play next, when to stop, get louder, softer, etc.

Where to  Find Drums and Other Percussion Instruments

My newer instruments including, a slaptop cajon, bongo cajon, tambourines, foot tambourine, and aslatua were all bought on Amazon and Ebay. You can find pretty much everything you need there. We bought my husband's drum off a friend and I found my children's bongos at flea markets. My son's mini djembe came from Ross Dress for Less for $10! I highly recommend you buy online from a store that has several credible reviews of the products so you'll know you're getting something good.Pawn shops are also a great place to find affordable drums and other percussion instruments. Here's an interesting story for ya. My husband found our friend's drum in a pawn shop. He recognized the drum and called him. He told him that indeed the drum had been stolen by a roommate who evidently had pawned it. After filing a claim, my friend was able to get his drum back! So the moral of the story is... buy from pawn shops with caution???

Can children attend drum circles?
My son getting is first drum!

Should Children Attend?

I'm a firm believer in exposing children to new experiences, especially those that involve music and culture so my children come with me to the drum circle. I've learned there is a little bit of a drawback  there though. Young children often lack rhythm but they love banging on drums. A child's erratic playing can throw off the rhythm of a drum circle, especially a small group. A good way to prevent this is to give them more quiet instruments like frame drums (with no stick), maracas, rain sticks, and egg shakers until their rhythm improves. My children usually get distracted and go off to play with other children at the drum circle so it's not too much of problem. Community drum circles are usually family friendly but I recommend asking the host before bringing your kids just in case.

Are you interested in joining a drum circle? Do you like to go to them? Tell me all about it in a comment below!

Drumming circles | Drum Circle Benefits. All about drum circles.

#drumcircle #drumming #drummers #musictherapy #metalhealth #fun #depression

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