Imagine your camping in the woods at your favorite music festival when you hear the distant rhythm of drums. Feel your curiosity peak, and your senses heighten. Let the primal urge flow within you as you begin your search for the source of the enchanting sounds.
As you get closer you can see the flames of the fire billowing through the trees and a large crowd of people gathered around dancing and chanting. The pulse of the drums gets stronger and stronger as you approach the circle.
You notice that there is an enormous amount of energy radiating from the drum circle. As you focus on your surroundings you realize that the ground is vibrating in beautiful harmony; you’re becoming one with your surroundings.
I hope you brought your drum, you’ve made it to your first of many drum circles.
Here at The Zen Well, we love percussion, friends, fires, and letting loose at a good drum circle. I’ve been playing the djembe and other hand drums for over 10 years. Through this time I’ve had some amazing experiences participating in drum circles.
“A good drum circle can make you feel reconnected with the earth and those around you.”
In this post, I will explain what a drum circle is, what types of drums are used, what the participants are like, and where you can find drum circles near your city.
What is a Drum Circle?
A drum circle is a gathering of people playing percussion instruments as a group. Drum circles are generally unrehearsed and participants often play instruments with their hands rather than mallets or drumsticks.
Rather than being defined and rigid, drum circles are a flowing expression of freedom and creativity. Everyone in a drum circle is equal and there are no “specific” parts that each person must play.
Drum circles are a community gathering and a place to be yourself and relax. You can have a drum circle with just a few close friends, or you can have a massive drum circle with hundreds of people and fire dancers. There really is no limit to what a drum circle can or can’t be. It’s up to you to add your own personal flair and be a participant rather than an observer.
Different types of Drum Circles
Drum circles are arranged for many different reasons and not all drum circles are created equal. One of the most common reasons for organizing a drum circle is to provide a creative outlet.
This type of drum circle can be seen in a wide variety of places such as public parks, music festivals, beach bonfires, and community gatherings. These gatherings are used as an expression of creativity, harmony, and joy. They are free flowing and generally do not have a leader or facilitator.
Drum circles are also arranged for more defined reasons such as group healing, meditation, or corporate team building. Drum circles with specific intent will generally have a leader or facilitator.
The facilitator is responsible for setting the overall “vibe” of the drum circle and will help to guide the group towards their shared goal. This usually includes encouraging the participants and promoting listening and harmony among the group. The duties of the facilitator may change significantly based upon the group’s goals.
What type of drums are used?
The most popular drum used in a drum circle is called a djembe. The djembe is a loud African drum that is capable of making a wide range of tones. It has been in use for hundreds of years dating back to 12th century Mali where it was used as a source of entertainment during full moons, weddings, baptisms and more.
The three basic sounds of the djembe are the bass, tone, and slap. The djembe is an easy drum for a beginner to play, yet a difficult drum for an expert to master.
The djembe is the most popular drum used at drum circles, but other types of drums are also commonly used. Popular djembe alternatives include ashikos, bongos, congas, doumbeks, and djun djuns. I’ve also seen pots and pans, shakers, maracas, tambourines, five-gallon buckets, and any type of percussion instrument or tool you can imagine.
Drum circles are about coming together as a group and expressing creativity. Any type of instrument will do if you can feel the rhythm and listen to the sounds of other participants.
What are the people like?
Drum circles usually have a very diverse crowd both in race, age, and backgrounds. Drum circles bring together all walks of life and allow people to live in the moment for a small period of time.
I’ve never seen such a consistently friendly, open, and generally forward thinking group of people congregate for any other reason than a drum circle. This has surprised me over the years and has made me question what attracts these types of people towards drumming.
If you enjoy hand drumming you will definitely make new friends by attending drum circles.
Where can I find drum circles near me?
If you’re new to drumming and don’t have any friends that are interested in drum circles, it may seem difficult to get involved in a drum circle. Fortunately, this is anything but true, and it’s easier than you think to find a drum circle near you.
When I moved to a new city and quit going to music festivals as much, I needed a new way to find drum circles and like-minded people. To my surprise, Meetup.com proved to be the perfect place to find other hand drummers. I found a monthly drum circle group that hosts events and brings in guest facilitators.
This is probably the easiest, least involved, and most guaranteed way of finding a drum circle you can participate in. If you live in a decent sized city there will most likely be a group you can join.
The first time I was exposed to a drum circle was at a music festival at Nelsons Ledges Quarry Park. This event gave way to several “firsts” for me and was an amazing experience. I will never forget walking back to our campsite and stumbling upon a huge 50+ person drum circle.
There were people dancing around a roaring fire, fire spinners, and more drummers than I had ever seen. I was standing near the outskirts of the drum circle taking everything in when someone tapped me on the shoulder. They asked if I had ever played before, and if I wanted to use their extra drum…..the rest is history.
Music festivals are a great way to meet like-minded people and I’ve participated in countless drum circles while attending them. I’ve had the most success at overnight camping festivals that are “jam” or Grateful Dead-oriented. Don’t let this discourage you, because drum circles can be seen at many different types of music festivals.
While you aren’t guaranteed to find a drum circle at your first festival, there is a good chance you will. If you’re second guessing the festival strategy keep this in mind: the worst outcome is that you’ll see some good music and make a few new friends!
I’ve seen many community festivals and gatherings that foster drum circles. Sometimes they will be listed on the schedule of events, or they may be set up through word of mouth. I’d definitely evaluate this route and see if your local community gatherings include drum circles.
Drum circles are an amazing place for personal expression, creativity, and joining together with a group of like-minded people. They can be organized for a variety of reasons ranging from creative expression, to sound healing and corporate team building.
The people at drum circles are some of the most welcoming, nice, and down to earth that I’ve ever met. Hand drumming is a great hobby that will provide you with stress relief, new insights, and will help to foster new friendships. I strongly suggest that you find a drum circle to participate in through Meetup.com, music festivals, or other community gatherings.
Tell me about your first drum circle in the comments!