What is a drum circle?

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set of congas
Congas are one type of percussion instrument used in drum circles
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Drum circle: A group activity for all ages, backgrounds, experiences

If you've encountered the term but not its definition, you may wonder, What is a drum circle? A drum circle is a group event that involves various percussion instruments. Participants create music together by using their drums and percussion instruments in rhythm with each other.


What Is a Drum Circle Not?


The emphasis on entertainment in American culture has led to a professionalization of many arts, including music. Professional-level music involves a great deal of marketing, celebrity personalities, intense rehearsals, and so forth. A drum circle is not necessarily a professional undertaking, although it could be. In fact, many groups do not even perform for an audience. They participate together in a joint activity that is more of a jam session than a performance.


What is a drum circle? It is not a band. It consists of percussion instruments, but it does not include brass or string instruments.


What Instruments Do They Use?


When it comes to drum circles, not every percussion instrument has a place. The drum sets you typically see in rock bands, for instance, are not the type to show up in drum circles. Instead, you see drums such as congas, bongos, and so forth.


Where Do Drum Circles Play?


Drum circles may play virtually anywhere, including community events and festivals, churches, schools, conferences, hospital and rehab departments, public squares, music stores, and homes. Location is not really a defining factor in answering the question, "What is a drum circle?" They can and do occur in many places people gather.


Who Participates?


Anyone old enough to use the drum or a simple percussion instrument may participate in a drum circle. Some events are organized for particular purposes or groups of people which limit the participants. For example, a company's management retreat could utilize a drum circle as team building exercise. In this case, participants would naturally be limited to management members who are attending the retreat.


Other events are more open, such as some community drum circles where the goal is to allow people of different ages or cultures to interact. In such events, you may encounter people of various ages, backgrounds, and musical abilities. And here is another important point: Musical ability or experience does not define what is a drum circle.


Who Is the Leader?


There is not a "star" of the drum circle. Sometimes a facilitator may coordinate everyone's efforts or explain how participants will work, but everyone plays an equally important role in the event.


How Do You Start a Drum Circle?


If the idea sounds intriguing but you've never seen one in your own community, you can always opt to organize it yourself. Reading "Start Your Own" by Arthur Hull might be a good place to start. This article provides a step-by-step overview of the process.



"FAQ," Drum Circle Facilitators Guild

"Drum Circles FAQ," RhythmWeb

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