*This blog post is from the former Harmonia Music Therapy
“We all have a heartbeat – our own internal drummer! So, we are all musicians. We are made to make music.” This is something I often say when a client or their family member may express some intimidation when beginning the music creation process. Connecting music to the body can help others begin to understand that music making is something natural to us. As a music therapist, I use these innate musical processes in the body and our brain response to music as a base for how to engage clients in sessions. Something I love exploring with clients, that is directly connected to our internal beat and rhythm, is drumming.
Drumming is one of the first ways humans made music. It is well known that cultures all over the world have a long, deep rooted history of group drumming. African, Middle Eastern, Latin and Indigenous cultures are some examples. I truly enjoy exploring and learning from these traditions as I expand my knowledge to inform my music therapy practice. Drumming in music therapy sessions is an accessible way to engage individuals of different abilities. Drum circles, where individuals engage in group drumming, are a way to bring people of all abilities together – through beat and rhythm, which is innate in all of us. In my current work, it is a privilege to discover and witness the ways drumming or playing various percussion instruments in a drum circle can benefit those living in long term care. Drum circles can help residents feel the lasting connection of their mind, body, and spirit, as well as, connected to those around them – that they live in a community.
For a scientific perspective: according to a study published by Remo drum company, an hour of group drumming increases the amount of natural killer cells in the body. Natural killer cells circulate white blood cells in the body, which are part of the immune system. So drumming doesn’t just feel good, it can help strengthen the immune system to fight off illness and disease! See some more health benefits of drumming in this infographic below:
In my work in long term care, residents often value the challenge of learning simple songs or rhythms from different traditions and appreciate learning the history behind the songs and rhythms. I also enjoy incorporating aspects of mindfulness like intention setting or sharing gratitude in a chant together at the end of a session.
Some goals that drum circles can help facilitate are:
non-verbal self expression and communication
positive socialization: drumming a common beat and rhythms with the group, turn taking, making eye contact, sharing individually with the group through rhythm or verbal discussion
cognitive stimulation: through learning rhythms, echoing drum rhythms or vocalizations, sustaining individual rhythm parts, or recalling lyrics to a song
physical movement, range of motion: drumming with a mallet on a drum that’s higher, lower, left, or right
maintaining the body, mind, spirit connection
Along with these goals often comes the increased feeling of well being, laughter, smiling, fun, and the expression of the heart through beats and rhythms.