Healthy Drumming Drumming Styles

Drumming Styles and Facilitator

Drumming circles in the United States of North America are gaining momentum and making way into different settings, including health care. Scientists are utilizing modern technology to investigate the effects of drumming, and their findings continuously affirm ancient wisdom related to the healing power of the drum. Yet, drumming circles are more than a group of people leisurely gathering to create sound and community. Drumming circles are based in indigenous medicine and spirit. This form of medicine is holistic, complex, and cosmological.

It is practically impossible to describe the complexity of drumming medicine because this knowledge is gained through experience and dedication over the course of many years. However, it is possible to explain the difference between drumming systems. This information is shared because our guiding principles include; a) honoring traditions; b) crediting the contributions of indigenous medicine; c) maintaining traditions vibrant; and d) providing informed consent for those interested in drumming.

We are familiar with the intricacies of ceremonial drumming and as such consider this method the most holistic of the drumming systems described below. We are also clear that drumming within itself attracts and transforms energy essence; and that the facilitator's inner state influences the energy essence and manner in which it is channeled. This is one of the most vital principles of drumming and fundamental to all drumming systems.

In general, most circles are within the parameters of; ceremonial, therapeutic, recreational, or free style drumming; nevertheless there is the exception. We only address general characteristics and effects; and provide insight into several issues to consider when participating in a drumming circle, seeking a teacher, or a method of interested.

Ceremonial Drumming
Indigenous societies view humans as holistic entities of mind (thought), heart (emotion), body (physical), and spirit (essence). These societies are attuned to the energetic essence that moves through all realms. This energetic essence is ever present in the universe; appears as and is experience in endless variants. The energy essence is subject to and influenced by other energy or vibrations. Over the course of millennium therapeutic methods have been designed to influence the energy essence. One specific restorative method is ceremonial healing drumming.

Ceremonial drumming is complex because it varies from culture to culture and its process is multidimensional. However, there are several features that remain consistent cross culturally. Central to the process of ceremonial drumming is the facilitator's intent, belief, spiritual attunement, and accountability to the community. Additionally, healers that lead ceremonial drumming are in tune to the metaphysical aspect of drumming and know how to access and channel the life force energy produced during drumming. These healers ensure that the vibrations invoked and emitted by the drum are in harmony with the universe and that the healing energy is directed towards the needs of those participating in the ceremony.

Such healers are usually considered elders in their communities or at minimum are recognized by their community elders as keepers of the sacred drum, musician-healers, spiritual leaders, or other culturally specific titles. Frequently, these individuals are knowledgeable in psychology, metaphysics, plant medicine, diagnosis, philosophy, music, rhythm, sound, song, symbolism, anatomy, and biological functioning; and incorporate these concepts into the drumming process.

These healers are few in between; their skills and profound knowledge are developed over decades through apprenticeships and as part of a lifestyle. Technical skills are also critical in order to appropriately work with the drum, but more importantly are; a) the spiritual and metaphysical understanding of the self; b) the correlation between the self, the drum, and cosmic energy; c) knowledgeable on how to appropriately influence the energy essence; and d) how to create, organize, and contain the ceremonial space for healing.

Therapeutic Drumming
Music therapists are usually clinically trained in the application of music as a healing modality. Some music therapists are skillful musicians while others are competent clinicians with basic to practical musical skills. Their scope of practice includes developing individualized treatment and supportive interventions based on a range of musical applications. The training required to become a music therapist varies, but is largely academic in nature and usually involves a clinical internship. This type of training qualifies practitioners to use music as a healing modality, but not necessarily drumming. If used, drumming is mostly based on behavioral and psychological principles. Additionally, the training for music therapists does not include the metaphysical, spiritual and consciousness in terms of energy manipulation central to ceremonial drumming. Yet, music therapy is effective and useful to treat a number or conditions. Frequently, the process of music therapy becomes a recreational and joyful activity, which within itself is healing.

Recreational Drumming
The introduction of mainstream drumming circles in the United States of North America has resulted in the commercialization of workshops designed to train recreational drumming facilitators. These workshops range from several hours up to a week in length and teach basic concepts of recreational group drumming. Workshops are usually taught by professional drummers and strategies cite studies that support the positive effects of drumming. Participants range from novice to skillful drummers.

There is no prerequisite to attend workshops and participants do not require previous experience with percussive instruments. The training offers participants a basic and straight forward facilitation approach to apply with groups. Recreational drumming has been reported to support building community amongst participants and reduce tension and stress. In order for the process to be successful the facilitator must possess at minimum an adequate level of competency, rhythmical ability, and aptitude to guide groups of individuals.

Free Style Drumming
This form of drumming is the most spontaneous type of drumming. People gather at a designated location, such as a park or beach, and anyone is usually welcome to participate in the collective creation of sound. These groups become fluid and unpredictable in terms of the type of energy that is generated amongst its participants. Usually the intent of these gatherings is to have a good time. These circles do not possess any form of psychological or spiritual containment nor anyone monitoring the effect of the life force energy produced by the drums and indiscriminately broadcasted amongst its participants. Although this forum could be stimulating and recreational it could also be toxic and detrimental to an individual's well-being.

People who are dealing with traumatic issues are strongly encouraged to refrain from attending such circles. The energy created by repetitive drumming patterns and certain rhythms unlock the neurobiological and spiritual mechanisms that suppress the traumatic experience encoded in the body and brain. Once this protective mechanism is unlocked the trauma surfaces and must be dealt with appropriately or could result in extended injury or in severe situations a psychotic episode.

All drumming systems are natural portals to the energy essence, which is influenced by the inner state of the facilitator and collective group dynamic. Repetitive patterns by nature create trance, entrain the brain, affect anatomical systems, activate memory (including traumatic), and much more. Dependent on a number of variables, drumming may either prompt healing or trigger adverse bio-psycho-spiritual reactions. Because the facilitator is responsible for managing the manner in which the energy essence is channeled and ensuring the safety of all group participants; we offer the following recommendations for consideration. This list is extremely limited, but does address a number of important items. We will expand on these topics in the future; meanwhile:

1) Learn and know your method well; be consistent in your approach.
2) Be organized; always include a beginning, middle an end to every session.
3) Clear your mind and center yourself before beginning any session.
4) Be mindful of your inner state throughout the course of each session.
5) Use simple rhythms; learn them well before using them in a circle. 
6) Learn the history of every rhythm you use. 
7) Establish steady and comfortable tempi. 
8) Remain focused, observant, and attuned to the behavior of all participants.
9) Have a plan of action in the event a participant experiences an adverse reaction.
10) Demonstrate unconditional positive regard. 
11) Be respectful and tactful.
12) Include humor and firmness when appropriate.
13) Use strength based language to empower participants.
14) Enjoy the process.




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