Drums are among the oldest form of musical instruments. Every culture has a history of drums to accompany war cries, manhood rituals, solstice gatherings, marriage ceremonies, harvest, and more.
In recent years, drumming has become increasingly popular in the Western World via Drum Circles. A Drum Circle, as the name suggests, is a circle of people, each with a drum or another percussion instrument and one facilitator to lead the group. The practice of group drumming extends to nursing homes, hospices, schools, hospitals. It is suitable for any age group.
You could hire a licensed Drum Facilitator or a Music Therapist to lead a class and instruct staff on how to facilitate a session. However, the absence of a Music Therapist should not stop you from organizing a Drum Circle session yourself. It is an entertaining and harmless activity well worth pursuing.
This article is geared towards Activity Coordinators and other activity staff. It does not encompass all there is to know about drumming; it simply provides some basic information, with some examples on how to conduct a Drum Circle session.
Good equipment is very important. Despite not being able to give advice on how to buy drums, here are some drum timbres (quality of sound) needed for best results:
Drums can be rather expensive but most facilities already have some available. Any percussion instrument is suitable for a Drum Circle. You may also hire drums or borrow them from local libraries.
For further understanding watch these videos prior to the session, and use what you deem suitable for your clients.
Drum facilitators, as far as I know, have no official governing body. That means anyone with enough enthusiasm can read a few books and watch a few YouTube videos and then go on to host a successful drum session.
If you would rather be trained as a facilitator, there are groups and companies offering these services; talk to your management regarding costs.
Group drumming is not about teaching people how to drum; it is simply allowing the group to express themselves for personal empowerment and wellness. This is especially important in the first session when freedom and encouragement is the name of the game.
Remember, most clients can drum even if they have never drummed before. We instinctively possess a sense of rhythm: we can tap our feet, our hearts beat, we use a rhythm to walk, we dance to a rhythm. The facilitator will guide the group to discover the rhythm that’s already within them.
A Drum Circle should be informal, entertaining, and satisfying. The session’s duration depends on the dynamics of the group; between 40 minutes to one hour is a good length of time to aim for. There are many ways to make a Drum Circle fun and exciting. The following is just one example.
Instead of tapping the drum you may vocalize the patterns. Always start slowly and when everybody gets it, speed up. Below are some examples of vocalised patterns to try, you can also make up your own.
Facilitator vocalizes the beat three or four times for participants to follow.
|Toot pah pah pah… toot pah pah pah… toot pah pah pah…|
And so on, then change loud soft fast and slow
chicka chicka boom… chicka chicka boom… chicka chicka boom…
and repeat as above
Ask participants to create their own vocalized beats for the group to follow.
Sentence patterns are another fun way to use the drums.
Be aware that if a participant is trying to beat a sentence, it is a matter of taste and perception how he accents the beat. There is no right or wrong way of beating the drums; everything is valid.
Ask clients: “When you are angry how would you express it on the drums? Play on the drum how you might feel.” Continue asking clients for sentences to be expressed in beats. Encourage them to come up with their own.
Expressing sentences is usually popular and the facilitator may stay there for a while. If not, here are some examples:
I’m not drunk I’m sober! – 3 beats for - I’m-not-drunk and 2 beats for I’m-sober
Don’t bother me! – 1 beat - Don’t and 3 beats for bo-ther-me
Shut the garage door – 5 beats - Shut-the-ga-rage-door
Bouncing pizza - 4 beats – boun-cing pi-zza
Start slow, find the rhythm and speed. Ask participants for nonsensical phrases.
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