Top 10 Tips for Facilitating Drum Circles by Christine Stevens

There are some great things you can do to prepare to facilitate a drum circle.
christine in desert

1. Discover your own rhythm first. – From playing along with a recording to building up your confidence in expressing yourself musically, you can do a lot to demonstrate your love of music and inspire the circle. Don’t be self-conscious and don’t expect to “teach” anyone anything.

***Remember, its about people discovering the rhythm that’s already within them!

2. Get the gear you need. – Outfit your group in good equipment. World percussion instruments by Remo are the perfect drum circle tools because they are light-weight, hold their pitch, and sound GREAT. It’s important to have many different timbres:

- Bass (djembes, buffalo drums)
- Middle (bongos, smaller djembes)
- High (shakers)
- Nature sounds (thunder tube, and ocean drum)

3. Invite people to bring their own drums and percussion, emphasizing what type of instruments you want there. Don’t be afraid of found sounds or melodic pitched instruments like flutes or xylophones. Everything is really a percussion instrument.

4. Create the space. – The drum circle actually begins long before anyone arrives. It is your job to set up the circle in your own personal way. Make it welcoming. Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure there’s water available and ample space for a spontaneous dancer in the center. (To really encourage dancing – have a few shawls available!)

5. Be prepared to stop the group. – In any new sport, we always learn how to stop before we go. If you were new at roller-blading, you would want to know how to stop before the harrowing task of skating down a mountain.

Using your voice to cue a stop over a group of drummers can be futile. Even the loudest, “1-2-3-4- STOP” can’t be heard over a group of drummers. So, try cueing the group without using words. Your body becomes the conducting instrument. Experiment with this exercise.

***Stand in a quiet, comfortable posture. At the count of three, move quickly into a pose that demonstrates “stop.” Come back to neutral and try it again, making each one bigger and clearer as your experiment and find your own personal way to signal a group to stop.

6. Use dynamics. – In music, there is an ebb and flow of volume changes called “dynamics.” By raising and lowering your hands, you can successfully cue the group to play louder or softer.

7. Make people LAUGH! – Sometimes people are nervous about making music. They actually believed all those bad messages that, “they weren’t musical,” or that “they didn’t have rhythm.” To help people overcome these lies, find ways to help them laugh at themselves.

8. Encourage “Heads-Up” drumming. – It’s easy to get more into your own beat than noticing the group around you. Encourage people to steal rhythmic ideas from one-another, to learn from the exchange of rhythms within the circle. This creates more synchronicity and more connection.

9. Try not leading at all. – A lot of time, there is no need for a facilitator. A group can often successfully jam together without a conductor. This is the ultimate. Don’t try to do more than what the group needs you to do.

10. Be yourself – Incorporate your unique gifts in the drum circle. From tap-dancing, playing a saxophone, singing, and dancing, bring all of your personality into your experience.

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