Earlier this week, I participated in a workshop for ProD day at my school. Founded in Australia, Holyoake’s DRUMBEAT uses music, psychology and neurobiology to help us connect with our self and others. I didn’t’ know what to expect with a drumming workshop – whether we would be actively drumming or just listening to someone drum in a circle with onlookers standing idly by. Led by one of our teachers, we all grabbed big water bottles (much to my surprise – I found it kind of funny to use water bottles but hey, they work! And are much more affordable than an actual drum), and jumped in with both feet (or hands). It took a while to get into the rhythm with the group – there were about 25 participants, all drumming at the same time; experimenting, playing and learning to match beat for beat. We learned the “listening song” which was base-tone-tone or translated: bottom of bottle, side of bottle, side of bottle again. And repeat. Over and over again.

To get us warmed up, we played inventive games like rhythm detective where a volunteer closes their eyes and walks within the circle, actively trying to tune into an outstanding rogue rhythm in contrast to the group drumming. It teaches one to tune into the rhythm and listen with their body. At one point, we took turns doing a drum solo, which was nerve wracking for me since I haven’t played a musical instrument in years. But as each person did their drum solo, it got easier to just wing it – improvisation drumming proved to be easier than originally expected or anticipated. And a lot of fun! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and everyone’s solo was different; some fast and staccato, some slow and methodical. Some a combination of both!

One of the benefits of drumming for both youth and adults alike is that it is the perfect avenue to let out frustrations. Have a bad day, pick up the drum. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed, pick up the drum. Have a fight with your partner, drum, drum, drum! Drumming lets you work out steam and creates a space to let kids deal with issues by drumming it out. A bad mood is quickly resolved by letting go of the negative thoughts and allowing the room to fill with the resounding sound of the drum(s) – it gives one a feeling of confidence and satisfaction and surprisingly – peace and contentment. Additionally, drumming gives youth a language to express themselves, to get into the groove. On a day where they are not feeling well, they might claim that their rhythm is “off” OR “I just can’t get into my rhythm”. This mode of music is befitting in several group situations, including those afflicted by incarceration or addictions.
My personal experience was that the drumming was very grounding – giving one the opportunity to come back to who you are. According to the DRUMBEAT website, ”Each DRUMBEAT session focuses on different relationship themes such as identity and social responsibility, values, dealing with emotions, peer pressure, harmony, communication and teamwork.” You might not associate all of that with beating a drum, but the connection made with others was a profound experience, not to mention the inner balance achieved from letting off some steam. It was a chance to connect with my inner rhythm, my body – even my heart rate, as the sounds naturally connect to our own internal beat. An interesting to note that anyone can do drumbeat – there is no special skill required, and everyone has the ability to create their own music. In this way, it is completely aligned with Expressive Arts Therapy. I think that a private practice in therapy would benefit from beginning a session with drumming as it creates space for creation, creativity, introspection and self expression.