In previous articles I described the “roles” of participants in the Drum Circle. Behind the scenes, there is a little more to the Drum Circle than getting together and making a big noise. Many of us study rhythms, group dynamics and build the drums ourselves.
Now, just a few words about the relationship between drummer and drum.
A drum is simply a tube with a membrane stretched over one end. Depending on the kind you prefer, some are more elaborate than others. My preference is the Djembe. Because of the shape of the shell, you may develop a wide variety of sound depending on how you strike the skin. I also prefer goat skin rather than the remo equivalent. Goat does wear out, however the kind of sound you can develop with a goat varies from head to head, each time the drum takes on a different quality. Remo always sounds the same and is waterproof; once tuned it stays that way.
For a classical Djembe performer, my enjoyment of such imperfections would be generally avoided; this is due to how they play their instrument. The form and technique used in Classical African Music is extremely strict and precise, much like Western Classical Music. The need to control the kind of sound is imperative because of both the tradition and the vary practical use in language and communication. We all have our preferences…
From time to time, a head will break. Learning to re-head a drum is important to learn as re-stringing a guitar: most guitarists take care of their own instrument providing a deeper familiarity by carrying for their it. Unlike a guitar, the drum head requires you to take your drum down to it’s fundamentals: shell, rings, rope and skin.
Learning how to tune your drum is very important: it will prevent injury to your hands for one thing. A well tuned drum is more responsive to the way your hand connects with the head and will sound better. The added “bounce” of a well tuned drum actually helps with speed and precision.
I would recommend attending workshops at events where such demonstrations occur, learning from friends (who know what there are doing).
Another option would be to visit my friend Shorty’s Website, there you can purchase kits to put you drum together, there are DVDs which teach you every step. Once done, your drum will belong to you in a way which it never has before. Once you learn and teach someone else, you will have entered the Brotherhood of the Drum. The drummers who spend time with their drum, learn to tune, re-head – some actually build from the lump of wood to the finished instrument then turn around and teach, demonstrate and encourage others to learn and grow.
I refer to it as a Brotherhood because of how those who love the drum circle experience begin to treat each other. In order to make a good sounding circle we must listen to each other to blend sound and synchronize our rhythms. So too should one have information to offer, or a need to know, it should be freely shared so the circle may learn and grow. Teaching each other new rhythms and techniques; offering support in sessions for others to “stretch out” with their drumming makes the drum circle sound better.
Drumming is not a race to the top to see who is loudest, fastest and most dominant. If one thinks of drumming as a way to collaborate and grow together you will find your drum circle healthy and happy: generating Joy for everyone