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Drumming for Health

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Drumming has been, and still is, used down through history - by all cultures of the world.  Drumming has been a feature of ceremonies such as weddings, births, deaths & harvests etc.  

Drumming is good for relaxation, fosters a sense of unity and encourages self-expression, resulting in a more positive self-esteem.  A new study by Barry Quinn, a clinical psychologist specialising in neurobiofeedback for stress management, indicates that drumming for brief periods can actually change a person’s brainwave patterns, dramatically reducing stress.  He has found that the effect of drumming produces far greater results than any other form of stress management.

Drumming is something everyone can do, and requires no musical training. 

You don't need any specialist or expensive instrument either - anything goes.  I'm a great fan of Stomp - they make incredible music with drainpipes, brooms, dustbins and anything else.  Ensemble Bash visited Guernsey last year too, and were very impressive - particularly their number which was acted out at a dinner table using all the crockey, furniture etc as instruments.

Our own musical collection (of hand drums) includes:  Ocean drum, bongos, djembes, gong, tambourines, kalimbas (thumb pianos), dholak, pancake and monkey drums, Vibratone, afouche cabasa, wobble board (home made - hardboard!), glockenspiel, buffalo drum, tambour, bodhran, cymbals, maracas, rainsticks, cowbell, woodblocks, agogo, castanets, tulip woodblock, triangle, bells, claves, finger cymbals, rhythm thang, shakers, dustbin and lid, hammer handles, broom handles etc - all those can be used for percussive groups.  Anything and everything goes for a hand drum - it's possible to improvise with virtually anything. 



These are just some activities that I've used in groups - either at work or with the family at home.  They are mostly for fun, but by-products are relaxation, non-verbal communication, relationship building, laughter therapy (!), tension release etc. I am NOT a music therapist - I'm hardly even a musician!  I just love music, and enjoy having fun with it.

Talk about the instruments - where they are from, how they are played etc
Group singing - accompanied by guitar normally
Echo - either divide into 2 groups, or one person leads - beat a rhythm, the rest echo
Free Improvisation - everyone just does their own thing with their chosen instrument - the intention is that everyone finds the common pulse.  This activity can continue for some time.  Initially, people can be very self-conscious and worried about looking a bit of a fool, but they soon forget about that and start enjoying it!  A variation may be that every 2 or 3 minutes, everyone passes their instrument to the next person along.
Express an Emotion - anger, happiness, anxiety, calm, hope, fear, celebration etc
Memories - imagine an important event in your life (past, present or future) and try to express that
Seascape - the waves, wind, gulls, boats, beach sounds
African Rainforest - you could use vocals too!
If I were..  -  If I were a musical instrument, I would be a ...
Charades  -  mime the playing of a musical instrument, others must guess.  A variation on this is for one group member to leave the room.  A leader is nominated who will mime the playing of an instrument while the others will copy. (the leader will change instrument from time to time)  The other person has to guess who the leader is.
Listening - listen to 4 pieces of music, and write down the feelings you experience as you listen.  At the end, the group share their responses to each piece etc
Clapping - leader claps a simple rhythm, the others gradually join in until everyone is clapping
Making Eyes - the leader starts beating a rhythm, then makes eye contact with someone else who then joins in the rhythm etc
Using a standard rhythm eg. swing beat - one half plays the main beat, others play the other beats
If you're alone at home - then just do whatever you want to do!  You could drum along to some recorded music, or make up your own.  Check out the links below - some of them have audio files of various rhythms that you could try to copy.  Enjoy your drumming!

If anyone knows or can think of any other simple activities - please let me know!


Drumming Links

Ensemble Bash

Stomp International Site

Stomp UK site


Drumming About You

Drum Transcriptions

Healthy Sounds

Knock on Wood UK online Music Shop for world instruments

Biofeedback indicates Drumming relieves Stress

African Percussion

Drum Directory - UK site

Groove Archive

The Drums & Percussion Page

Full Circle Drumming

Drumming away Stress

African Dance Drumming

The Groove Factory

Djembe Ireland

Drumming Styles from around the World

Chris Southall's UK Page

African Drumming

A Circle of Drums

The Drum Cafe

Dougie's Drum Directory


World at Your Beat - Lots of Links



Research articles on Drumming at PubMed

Research articles on Drumming at Medscape/Medline


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22 April 2002