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D
rumming for Wellness
 


The ART of Drum Circles

© Christine Stevens MSW, MT-BC

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Drumming for Wellness by Christine Stevens MSW, MT-BC. View all columns in series

(Used by permission, Remo Inc. copyright, 2001, HealthRHYTHMS™ training manual, Bittman, Bruhn, and Stevens)

Drum Circle Principles
Combining an ancient practice with today's cultural need for creative expression and human connection creates a powerful alchemy all rolled into one aesthetic experience called a drum circle. Drum circles can vary, but most follow similar principles.

There is no audience.
Everyone is part of the musical experience.

There is no rehearsal.
The music does not come from reading notes on a sheet of music written in the past. It is improvised in the moment.

There is no right or wrong.
The drum circle is a safe, permissive explorational environment.

There is no teacher.
Instead, the drum circle is lead by a facilitator who has a dual focus; to build the musicality of the group while also building the sense of community and connection.

It is inclusive. Everyone is welcome; all ages and all levels of ability.

Spontaneity thrives.
There really is no plan except the importance of supporting the music and community connection.

It's about much more than drumming.
In fact, a survey at the Remo Recreational Music Center found that the highest ranked reason people attended the Tuesday night drum circles was actually to reduce stress! (50 percent) Only thirty-five percent reported they were there to learn how to drum.

Drum Circle Duality
There is an incredible duality within the drum circle of creative freedom and the unity found in the common pulse. It is similar in terms of the human side of the drum circle where self-expression found through improvisation is balanced by the demand and structure of following the group rhythm. This duality is lost when the drum circle becomes a music class. This book addresses this paradigm specifically, without wavering into teaching rhythms, only demonstrating and cultivating that which is already in all people.

The Science of Entrainment
Entrainment is the law of synchronization that causes two separate rhythms to naturally line up when placed near one another. Technically speaking, it is a "phase locking" or "going with" one another, creating a natural flow. In drumming, entrainment happens when two people with separate rhythms can't help but join together in a common beat. This principle was originally discovered through physics experiments in the late 1600s, where two pendulums placed next to one another, swinging at different tempos, eventually fell in sync. Because we are rhythmic in nature, the same thing happens to us. The key is letting go and not trying too hard. The only thing that can interfere with the natural property of entrainment is the mind.

Exercise: Bird Watching. Watch a flock of geese flying in formation up in the sky. They flap their wings in perfect synchronicity, a rhythm that actually carries them 70 percent more efficiently as they entrain to the leader's dominant tempo.

Exercise: People Watching. Watch people crossing a street or walking down a sidewalk together. They unconsciously step in sync, entraining to one another's rhythm. Keep an eye out for examples of entrainment where people move together, where rhythm commands congruency and unison.

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About The Author
Christine Stevens is an international speaker, music therapist, and author. A modern-day troubadour, she introduces people all over the world to the power of musical expression. As Director of Music Therapy and Wellness Programs at Remo, Inc., Christine developed HealthRHYTHMS, currently being taught to health-care professionals in the United......more
 
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