All cultures have drum circles. A drum circle is an informal, communicative group of people who come together to create music on the spot. Anyone is welcome to participate and even swap instruments. Every person has a natural heartbeat; all they need to do is allow it to shine through.
Although it’s advisable to encourage everyone to bring their own drum, it can’t hurt to have a few extras on hand in case any strangers decide to join in. There will always be one individual who forgets, of course!
Starting a drum circle is the topic of this article. I’ll start by providing some details and advice on planning the logistics before going over some suggestions for your initial few sessions.
I suggest attending a few drum circles that are already being led by others before creating your own if you’ve never done it before. Even though it’s not required, going to a few circles can help you have a good idea of how your sessions might go.
In addition to discussing a variety of topics, including boundaries and practical considerations, we’ll also look at some drum exercises and games you may use to get things started.
How to Start a Drum Circle: Logistics
If you’re a somewhat skilled drummer—or if you know some exceptionally talented drummers—you might be forming a group to connect with others, develop your skills, or just have fun.
If so, you’ll require five or six individuals, a location, a scheduled date, and some hand drums (djembe, bongos, congas, etc.). Finding the least expensive location is definitely helpful; in many places, this includes community centers and churches. Additionally, it could be a good idea to divide the venue rental fee among all attendees.
You decide on the session’s duration and frequency. However, each session should last for one to one and a half hours, with a break for coffee in the middle.
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If you’re leading a group of experienced circle drummers, having a specific schedule for each session is not as important.
If you’re somewhat new to this kind of drumming, planning can be helpful. Although having a plan may appear to go against the spirit of the free-spirited drum circle, the contemplative, spontaneous flow takes time to develop. Planning will make it easier to have fun and give you something to work on while your group comes together.
When circle drumming, time normally rushes by, so think about establishing a main plan that consists of only a few items; then, have extra stuff in the locker that you may pull from if you need to occupy time later.
It won’t harm to save some of these activities for later meetings if the group continues to meet. If you run out of ideas, there are a ton of internet resources with a variety of drum games and exercises you may utilize for your circle.
Some Items Your Plan Needs to Have.
Share details about the group, such as limits, schedules, and introductions.
It’s good setting aside five minutes at the beginning of the group for introductions and briefly describing any details about the group or the location that might be useful to know. Midway through the session, if you’re taking a break, let everyone know.
Usually, it is not required to specify exact boundary expectations. Even so, it can be worthwhile to bring up any pertinent reminders like venue laws, payment for rental fees, and certain easily overlooked etiquette guidelines, such as refraining from tapping while others are speaking.
Feel free to get things going slowly and gently at first, especially with new participants. Naturally, you’ll want to get started playing the drums as soon as you can, but sessions fly by so quickly that you don’t want to run out of time with 30 minutes left.
If Necessary, Describe The Drums
If your group has a few new members, spend some time explaining each drum. Explain the proper technique to grip each drum and demonstrate the many sounds you may create with it. Even though it should only take a few minutes, doing this will benefit everyone in the session.
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Warm-up games can frequently aid in the first few sessions. Again, don’t rush; we’ll cover some of these later in the article. Permit players to try out each game, take pleasure in the activity, and grow acclimated to playing with others.
Bring Three Or Four Rhythms In
Introduce three or four rhythms to the group one at a time. Give each beat some time. Let everyone have fun together as they practice the various rhythms.
Don’t undervalue how difficult some of the beats may be for participants who aren’t accustomed to playing in a drum circle. A good length of time to play each beat is roughly five minutes. You may make it easier for individuals to play each beat by using brief lines, movie titles, place names, and other spoken phrases.
Here are three illustrations:
Bring in Dynamic Changes
Describe how the group can create musical variety by using dynamic changes. For instance, you can raise and drop your hand to indicate to the group that they should play louder and quieter when everyone is having fun together. After a while, you can stop using this hand signal and tell everyone to pay attention to each other’s dynamic shifts.
Divide the group into halves, thirds, or quarters, and give each group a different rhythm.
The purpose of doing this is to get the ensemble habituated to playing multiple rhythmic phrases at once while maintaining time. If your group is very new to circle drumming, start with two simultaneous rhythms and expand from there as this is another area where people can first struggle.
Set Aside Some Time For Free Play and Start With Straight Quarter Notes
Including some free drumming in every session is a great idea, even if it’s just for ten minutes at the end (though you could undoubtedly budget more time than that as people grow in confidence). Try getting everyone to start playing 80 bpm quarter notes simultaneously if you’re new to circle drumming. Then, encourage participants to take risks by creating their own straightforward rhythms on the spot.
By getting things going in this manner, it is possible to guarantee that everyone remains together and that the group keeps a steady pulse. Encourage everyone to keep in mind some useful musical concepts, such as dynamic variation, and emphasize that they are not required to play constantly. The music can occasionally become more varied when people come and go, and that’s not necessarily a negative thing.
*** Read more: How To Teach Yourself Drums: Step By Step for Beginners
The Right Combination Of Planning And Smothering
Try to strike a balance between providing too much freedom and being overly prepared. It takes the correct combination of ingredients, activity, and timing to ignite a campfire. The best circle drumming experiences typically occur when there is a lot of flexibility to play and improvise. However, without a structure to direct the process, improvising can be challenging for beginner circle drummers.
Naturally, the opposite is also accurate. Every session runs the risk of losing its spontaneity if it is packed with organized activities. The sessions can eventually become monotonous and come to an end. The idea is to employ structure to provide people with a base upon which to develop, and then gradually remove that structure to help them gain more self-assurance when improvising.
The session will come to life if you can strike the proper balance. Eventually, you can begin each practice session with one or two warm-up exercises before diving right into free drumming.
Types Of Warm-Up
Here are a few warm-up activities that could serve as a nice spot to start your session. These can be applied in any situation, but they are especially useful for those who are new to circle drumming. Feel free to explore Google for additional drum circle resources if you like!
Game of Names
The Name Game is a fantastic way to get to know everyone and can make new faces feel more at ease. The circle of drummers alternately plays three quarter notes while each drummer shouts their name. Make an effort to hear everyone’s name on beat four and that the next person starts playing on beat one.
It’s a simple game, but it could be challenging for people who don’t play the drums, so feel free to go around the circle again if you have to. Also, don’t forget to give your teammates encouragement as they play.
Use more complicated rhythms for the first three beats and try increasing the tempo to make things difficult. Finally, you might complete several rounds of the circle while switching the category for each one. So, for instance, you may learn what people’s favorite dish or TV program is.
In this game, someone is chosen to play a rhythm, and the group as a whole must play the rhythm back to them. Again, make an effort to keep everyone together as they proceed.
You might begin by practicing a few rhythms on your own before suggesting other circle participants give it a shot. To make this more challenging, you can increase the pace, make the rhythms harsher, and include elements like dynamic variety.
Similar to the Mirror Game, but with a rhythm that needs to be transferred around the circle this time. Once more, you could like to start off with a few rhythms before delegating the task to other group members.
You might try accelerating the tempo, altering the dynamic levels, and making the rhythms harder as you progress, just like with the Mirror Game. For experienced circle drummers, you may even drastically slow down portions of the rhythms and send two distinct rhythms in opposite directions.
I Enjoy Playing The Drums
The game’s facilitator starts the round by saying, “I like to play the drum.” Everyone should hit their drum once when the word “drum” appears. Make sure that all games are fair and simultaneous.
Then, you might alternate between saying the line quickly and slowly to try to confuse the participants.
By omitting any other word(s) in the statement, you can further change the situation. Even though there are words lacking, each drummer is still required to perform at the exact same time when it comes time for the word “drum.”
As an illustration, you might say, “I enjoy to…”
Each player must use their imagination to fill in the blanks left by the phrase “play the drum” and play at the appropriate moment (you can also leave all the words out of the sentence and see if people can still stay in time).
When someone is caught out, you could decide for some lighthearted fun that they must put their drum down and refrain from playing until the game is restarted.
A “champion” of the game is someone who manages to play all the way to the end without being caught off guard.
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10 Tips On How To Make A Great Drum Circle
1. First, Find Your Own Beat.
You may do a lot to show the circle how much you enjoy music, from following along with a recording to gaining confidence in your own expression. Be confident and don’t think you need to “teach” them anything.
Remember, the goal is for individuals to uncover the rhythm that already exists within them!
2. Obtain The Tools You Require.
Equip your team with quality gear. Remo’s world percussion instruments are the ideal drum circle equipment because they are portable, maintain their pitch, and sound AMAZING. It’s crucial to have a variety of timbres:
– Bass (djembes, buffalo drums)
– Center (bongos, smaller djembes)
– High (shakers)
– Sounds of nature (thunder tube, and ocean drum)
3. Emphasize The Type Of Instruments You Want There When Requesting That Folks Bring Their Own Drums And Percussion.
Don’t be afraid of xylophones, flutes, or other instruments with melodic pitches or found sounds. In reality, everything is a percussion instrument.
4. Create The Space
The drum circle actually starts long before anyone shows up. Your task is to arrange the circle in your own manner. Make it hospitable. Be aware of your surrounds, and make sure there is access to water as well as enough room for a spontaneous dancer in the middle. (Have a few shawls available to really promote dancing!)
5. Be Ready To Disperse The Crowd.
We always learn how to stop before we go when we start a new sport. Before beginning the treacherous process of rolling down a mountain, a novice rollerblader would want to learn how to stop.
It may be ineffective to use your voice to signal a stop over a band of drummers. Even the loudest “1-2-3-4- STOP” is drowned out by the drumming. So, attempt to cue the group without speaking. Your own body acts as the conductor. Play around with this activity.
Put yourself in a calm, relaxed position. Move swiftly into a “stop”-signaling position at the count of three. Return to the neutral position and try it again, enlarging and making each one more distinct as you attempt to discover your own manner of telling a group to halt.
Use dynamics. – “Dynamics” refers to the ebb and flow of volume changes in music. Your hands can effectively signal the group to play louder or softer by raising and lowering them.
7. Make Folks Laugh!
Making music can sometimes make people anxious. The negative signals that “they weren’t musical” or “they didn’t have rhythm” were actually accepted by them. Find ways to make people laugh at themselves so they can get past these lies.
8. Promote “Heads-Up” Percussion.
It’s simple to lose track of the group around you and focus more on your own beat. To learn from the interchange of rhythms within the circle, encourage participants to “borrow” rhythmic ideas from one another. More synchronicity and connection result from doing this.
9. Attempt Not To Lead At All.
There is frequently no need for a facilitator. Without a conductor, a group can frequently jam together well. The best is this. Avoid attempting to do more than the organization requires of you.
10. Be Authentic
Include your special talents in the drum circle. Bring your entire personality to your experience, whether it is by dancing, singing, playing the saxophone, or tap dancing.
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When you know how to start a drum circle, it can be a lot of fun and very satisfying. Once you have the logistics down, you can definitely establish a drum circle quickly if you are an experienced drummer and know a bunch of reliable musicians. If you’re less experienced, I hope this post has given you some ideas to help get things started and mix things up a bit during the sessions.
You may need to build your circle gradually and calmly, bringing people along with you while having fun, if you don’t know many drummers or are new to drumming yourself.