What Are Drum Circles? A Spontaneous Act of Music

What are Drum CirclesBy Elvert Barnes [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What Are Drum Circles?

Drum Circles are starting to become popular in many parts of the world. The basic requirements of a drum circle is people and a variety of drums. Quite often these drums are hand drums but many types of percussion instruments can be included. The main objective of a drum circle is fun and relaxation. The participants have come together to socialize while communicating through the instruments. There is absolutely no need to have a prior knowledge of drumming to participate in a drum circle.

Spontaneous Act of Music

I like to refer to a drum circle as a spontaneous act of music. The participants do not rehearse for a drum circle nor does the circle aim to create a polished performance. The final product is completely spontaneous with no definitive beginning or end. The players simply establish a beat and create groves within that beat. Players are encouraged to play what they feel rather then a predetermined beat pattern or form.

How Does the Drum Circle Work?

As mentioned above the basic makeup of a drum circle is people and drums. The Drum circle can either be freestyle or facilitated. Regardless of the type of drum circle you join the basic premise is to create rhythms and have fun. In a facilitated drum circle there will be a facilitator. The facilitator begins and ends the drum circle. In many case the facilitator will also help participants by showing them how to play the drum and provide drum patterns. The facilitator will encourage participants to learn now rhythms and invite them to solo over the group.

This video can give you an example of how a facilitated drum circles works?

Roles in a Drum Circle

While participating in a drum circle participants can take on a variety of roles. These roles can be predetermined by the group, a facilitator or happen naturally. I like to include the following roles when doing drum circles with my students.

Facilitator (In my music classes I call the facilitator the conductor) – The facilitator or conductors basic role is to tell the group when to start or stop. They may use a variety of hand signals or body movements to show what they would like the group to do. In the above video the facilitator used his hands to show the group what to play on the drum. The end result was a rumble.  He also used movement to stop the group. His actions were very clear without ever having to speak.

Keep the Beat – I like to refer to this as the heartbeat. Quite often a drum circle will start with a basic beat.  All the players may begin with the beat or a selection of players can start. This established beat will lay the foundation for additional layers or rhythms.

The Rhythm – Once the beat is established players can begin to create rhythms within the beat. The facilitator may indicate the rhythm to be played or the players can improvise (Make it up as they go).

 Solo – Players can be given the opportunity to create a solo. The solo player often plays louder then the rest of the group for a short period of time. While all players are encouraged to solo, nobody should be forced into this role. After all, the purpose of the drum circle is to have fun.

Who Can participate in a Drum Circle

The answer to this question is pretty simple. Everyone can participate in a drum circle. The beauty of a drum circle is there is no prior knowledge required. You do need to know how to play a percussion instrument or any instrument for that matter. All you need is a desire to socialize and have fun. The rest will happen naturally .

Where to Find Drum Circles

Community Drum Circles

Many communities have drum circles that are open to everyone. Quite often these drum circles take place once a week. Most community drum circles have a variety of drums to choose from upon arrival but participants are welcome to bring their own drum. The following video provides an example of what a community drum circle may look like.

The drum circle featured in this particular video is the final community drum circle of a workshop but it does show what is involved in a community drum circle. There is no doubt that these people are having fun!

Drum Circles in School

Drum circles have also become a part of many music education programs within schools. I have found drum circles to be a very effective activity with my music students. There are not many children who does not enjoy playing drums. Drums circles gives students another way to express themselves . They also provide the opportunity to explore different cultures since the drums within a drum circle come from many different countries.

Here is a video of children participating in a drum circle. There is no doubt that these children are in deed having fun and learning some valuable lessons in the process.

Now You Have the Scoop on Drum Circles

That was very a brief introduction to drum circles. But the next time you are asked “What Are Drum Circles?” or hear of a drum circle occurring near you, you will have a little knowledge. I encourage everyone to try it out. the benefits of drumming and drum circles are amazing. Stay tuned for a post regarding those benefits. Now go find a drum and start jamming. The only way to fully understand a drum circle is to be apart of one.

If you have had any experience with drum circles, I would love to hear about it. You can share your experience in the comments below.







10 thoughts on “What Are Drum Circles? A Spontaneous Act of Music

  1. Great article, enjoyed the video clips as well.
    I tried a drum circle ones and we had so much fun.
    It was all about the beat, the music and enjoyment.

    I highly recommend trying it, a great stress reviler as well.


  2. Hi,
    I am an electronic music producer and one of the most important elements of electronic music are the drums !
    I had never heard of drum circles but I am happy to have discovered. I could definitely use those as inspiration in my music.
    really love your website and I will certainly check out for some more posts and what is my passion too… music :)


  3. What a great site!
    I have never participated in a drum circle, but I have a dram, so maybe I should give it a try.
    It is so relaxing to drum, and you kind of change your energy and the vibrational feels around you.
    Not easy to explain, you have to use a drum to understand, right?

    All the best for you and your drum circle site.
    Live, Laugh, Love
    Linda :-)

  4. gosh this sounds fun!! I am so glad I saw your website- this is the first time i am hearing of this. I have seen this before however never known what this is, NOW I know!! Will definitely look to participate in such groups. *excited*

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