Drumming! What a huge world of possibilities!


Conversation Drum Circle - Group plays a beat. Pairs take turns exchanging musical dialogue.

Descriptive Drumming Use a drum circle to describe a specific place, song, phrase, etc., such as the beach, the song "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" with instruments representing the chracters, or a common phrase or mantra. Which instruments especially remind you of characteristics of the activity? Which ones? Why?

Drum Circle Rhythmic Assignments - The MT-BC assesses patients through a series of drumming assignments. 1) Individuals play single beats to gradually establish a group pulse , which the MT-BC modifies tempo and volume. 2) Short patterns are introduced for the group to repeat. 3) Everyone takes turns layering complementary rhythms. 4) The group then plays a single rhythm and synchronizes across dynamic changes. 5) Maintaining this group rhythm, each person then improvises a solo. 6) Loosen the amount of structure and encourage free play and musical dialogue 7) Patients take turns conducting and stopping the music (Dijkstra & Hakvoort, 2004).

Drumming Emotions: Group members will each write down one word describing the emotion they are feeling that day on a slip of paper provided by student music therapist. All group members will put their slips inside either a hat/or bowl and will draw a new slip of paper. Individual group members will “perform” or demonstrate emotion written on slip of paper, with their instruments, while the rest of the group watches and then tries to guess who among the group that emotion belongs to. Once the one with that emotion has been identified, they will be provided the time to speak about that emotion, if they so choose.

Drum to Music, emulating rhythms from recordings, i.e., "In My Place," by Coldplay, using shakers, ocean drum, and percussion simplified to 1, 2, 3&, 4 pattern; "I Want to Hold Your Hand," by the Beatles, using clapping pattern; "Hound Dog," by Elvis and emphasizing drum roll fill at end of phrases; or "My Girl," by the Temptations, playing backbeats or bass rhythm, then all playing 1&, 3&4 fill at end of chorus.

Leader of the Band You may sing a little song about who's turn it is to be the leader of the band, and then after first modeling yourself how the leader can give developmentally appropriate directions to the groups (e.g. "start!" "stop!" "LOUD!" "soft..." "fast!" "sloooooowwww...." "happy," "sad," or anything else the group will understand), you may select children displaying appropriate behavior to be the leader. Kids practice listening to directions and cooperation, but also are highly reinforced for their behavior when they get to take their turn communicating their preferred directions to the whole group!

Nature Form Drumming Establish an acoustic landscape that imitates the beach, rainforest, thunderstorm, city; something moving such as the seashore waves, wind, or footsteps; or something living such as animal, conversation, or heartbeat.

Nonverbal Self-Expression - Patients perform their emotions by selecting instruments and improvising. Group members share their thoughts of what was intended to be expressed. Performer explains. Group reflects on similar emotions or experiences in their own lives. The MT-BC may also hand out worksheets with challenging emotions, common triggers or specific situations to cue performances. Group discusses universality of feeling and response, as well as adaptive alternatives or healthy coping techniques.

Therapeutic Drumming - There are many approaches to therapeutic drumming, and an infinite variety of drumming interventions. Drumming benefits the recovery of substance abuse and dependence through relaxation, increased theta-wave production, brain-wave synchronization, pleasant experiences, emotional release, reintegration of the self, and a decreased sense of isolation (Winkelman, 2003).



Dijkstra, I., & Hakvoort, L. (2004). How to deal music? Enhancing coping strategies in music therapy with clients suffering from addiction problems. Music Therapy Today, 5(5), 1-27.

Winkelman, Michael. (2003). Complementary Therapy for Addiction: "Drumming Out Drugs" American Journal of Public Health, 93(4), 647-651.

Further Reading

Strutzel, Michelle. (April 27, 2010). Hi! My Name Is. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://

Strutzel, Michelle. (May 9, 2010). Building a rainstorm in any group. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from drum-circles-for.html

Tague, Daniel. (November, 26, 2007). Schoolhouse Rock: Ten Great Ways to Use a Gathering Drum. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from 2007/11/schoolhouse-rock-ten-great-ways-to-use.html

Tague, Daniel. (November 30, 2007). Schoolhouse Strategy: Drum Circles for the Special Needs Classroom. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from 2007_11_01_archive.html

Tague, Daniel. (April 4, 2008). Schoolhouse Rock: Five Exciting Ideas for Using an Ocean Drum! [Web log comment]. Retrieved from 2008/04/schoolhouse-rock-five-exciting-ideas.html


James E. Riley, MM, MT-BC

Evelyn Pinder, MT-BC

Briana Sherrod, MTS

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