More often than not,
once One attends a Drum Circle and discovered how easy it is,
One wants to drum a lot more often!
If you are lucky and live in a household
which loves drumming at all hours of the night
and neighbors cannot be disturbed,
little circles flair up at a moments notice.
Unfortunately it is not like this for most of us.
To have a drum circle,
you have to consider the amount of sound coming out of your place.
my circle of friends and I would pop out the drums
and we would have at it
only to have the cops at our door within minutes.
There was a often quoted line amongst us:
“It isn’t a party unless the cops show up”.
Djembe of Fire Amulet
If you are lucky and have a local drum circle in your area,
much of this is solved.
Practicing your drum at home may be a challenge:
once One gets the hang of drumming,
One discovers it is actually better at lower volumes,
if you are but one drum there is little or no real issue.
In practicing the important thing to work on
is learning the rhythms and taping out beats.
When you hit the drum head harder,
you will sacrifice your speed for volume.
A loud drum means tension in your arms.
A good “rule of thumb” is to first slow down,
hit the head more gently
then gradually increase your speed
without increasing the volume.
When it comes time to play in the Drum Circle
use the same rule of thumb:
start with the basic beats and slowly warm up,
then gradually increase volume;
careful not to over power the other drummers.
Again: if you cannot hear the drum next to you,
you may be playing too loud.
I have been often asked about Drum Circle Facilitation.
It is an interesting choice of worlds.
Notice is it not the Drum Circle Leader,
Conductor, High Priest or Grand Poo-Bah.
A Drum Circle Facilitator’s duties are basically thus:
To keep the beat of the Circle
The Down beat is the primary pulse of the circle
and every one must agree where that is.
Should someone spontaneously start a new rhythm pattern
which does not fit what everyone else is playing,
it is important to encourage them to shift their rhythm to match the rest of the Circle.
One option is for the Facilitator to shift the circle’s rhythm
to match the rogue drummer
or to step through the circle to gently speak to him or her about it.
This may be done gently and without being forceful.
As previously stated,
attitude is extremely important in producing a creative environment.
If all else fails and nothing else can be done,
the rouge drummer may be asked to step out of the circle
but this must be done gently without disrupting anyone else
and only as a last resort.
Enforcing such things is harmful to everyone and should be handled carefully.
To mold the rhythms so it the pattern is constantly changing
This is a challenge.
Some Facilitators use a very large bass drum and stick to Enforce a rhythm.
Although a favorite to some,
I personally find this both irritating and insulting.
This places the Facilitator into the position of conductor
and the life of the circle is cut.
Sure you can be heard,
but it lacks the finesse Music requires to live and grow.
My solution is to play a drum of the same kind as everyone else
(see Part One)
and gently move the rhythm by adding a beats here and there.
If all else fails
start verbally counting out the beat
so the drummers around you can find where the down beat is.
By beating the circle into submission
the Facilitator over rides the creativity of the other drummers
and places them in a more subordinate position,
which is counter productive.
For my part,
I have played in circles which uses the Bass Drum as a goad,
the sensation was akin to being whipped;
to compete with the volume encouraged me to play louder
which in turn damaged my hands.
A Drum Circle Facilitator is not a policeman.
Most Circles have Guardians
to make sure activities outside the circle are moving smoothly.
If there is a disruption the Facilitator cannot handle,
He/she should “catch the eye” of a Guardian
and point out the problem then return to facilitation of the circle.
Guardians are folks appointed by the Coordinators of the Circle
and should be trained to handle problems without conflict
or attracting attention.
This is an art in of itself,
a duty not taken lightly
If not handled properly a “well intended Hall Monitor”
can destroy the circle with a single incident,
chasing out drummers and dancers alike.
If you were to akin the Drum Circle to a Church Service
everyone participating should be handled with respect in Sacred Space,
you should not have any problems.
Without a Facilitator
you will have problems with cooperation between drummers
as to where the down beat is,
over enthusiastic drumming which would be out of synch with the circle,
and conflicts between drummers.
Without a Facilitator there is no progress
between each Drum Circle
as the Circle with fall into the same habits every week.
To become a Drum Circle Facilitator,
I would recommend the following:
Practice your drum regularly,
learn as many new beats as you can,
memorizing them as you progress.
Attend different drum circles.
Everyone one is different and you can learn much from everyone of them,
including “how not to do it”;
which is as important at leaning the right way.
Drum with your friends on a regular basis.
By doing this you learn how to
signal each other through your drumming,
encouraging them to shift the rhythms gradually from fast to slow,
from one pattern to another.
Teach what you have learned.
By becoming a Student Teacher,
you are both helping yourself and others
to learn Drum Circle Dynamics.
Spend time with other Facilitators and learn to their techniques.
Just because you may not agree on a point or two,
do not let that become a game changer for you.
Everyone has their won approach to the various problems in a circle,
some work better than others.
Find, teach, encourage and rely on a few selected friends
who will attend Circles with you.
Being a Facilitator is hard work.
You will expel a lot of energy
(it is akin to running miles on your hands!)
by have a good Second to assist in Facilitation
helps you to monitor and encourage other participating drummers in the Circle.
Try not to think of them
as a performance group for Star Search.
Keep in mind Drum Circles are not a performance,
they are a way for communities
to get together and work on a common goal
where everyone benefits:
like a constellation of Stars.