Drum Circle Facilitation

By Kalani • August 11th, 2012

Drum circles are accessible, entry-level learning opportunities for just about anyone who enjoys making music with others. The whole idea behind a drum circle is that it's open to anyone who wishes to participate. Because the music in a drum circle is improvised, people have freedom to play as much or as little as they like. Participants make up the music as they go along and they do it as a group. How does this happen?

The main method of musical expression in a drum circle is improvisation. Improvising means 'creating in-the-moment, from whatever is available.' This means that people can play any types of instruments, either professional or homemade - whatever is available! They can use their available skills, even if they are very basic. The music can be tailored to fit the space and occasion, so if there's something to celebrate (and there always is), they can celebrate it. Even basic health outcomes can be achieved during a drum circle experience, given the right conditions and with proper training.

Drum Circle Facilitation

A Community Circle

To facilitate a drum circle, one must have a basic understanding of and skills in music. There's no need to be a profession drummer, but basic skills are recommended. This means having a functional knowledge of the most common types of instruments that are used in drum circles, which includes most hand drums and a wide variety of hand-held percussion instruments. It's also a plus if the facilitator or host has a basic facilitation skill set. This means being able to identify trends and support them, for example. What is facilitation?

Facilitation is the art of making something easier for others. In the case of a drum circle, the facilitator's job is to make it easy for the group to play together and have a satisfying musical experience. As mentioned above, the music that is created in a drum circle does not have to meet any specific standards, but creating music is the primary reason for a drums circle. Facilitating the music involves many different skills, such as being able to create and maintain a steady rhythm, being able to match and respond to different rhythmic phrases and being able to sustain and modify the music of the group. Facilitation is an art because it requires a sensitivity to what is emerging in the moment. Deep listening and observation are at the core of facilitation. After all, one cannot facilitate something until he/she is aware of it.

During DCM courses, students lean about the art of drum circle facilitation as they sing, play and laugh their way through many different types of musical experiences. Drum circle facilitation is one of many forms of developmental community music and is always included in each DCM course. The DCM approach to drum circle facilitation values a 'through the music' style of meeting the needs of the group, rather than a top-down approach where the facilitator conducts and cues the participants, essentially dictating what they do. The conducting style has become very popular in recent years and useful under certain circumstances, such as when working with group who require a lot of guidance and structure. Drum circle conducting, or guided interactive drumming, is also touched upon during DCM courses, as it can be a valuable tool in the spectrum of musical and rhythmic experiences.

Starting in 2013, Kalani Music will offer a separate Drum Circle Facilitation Certification in addition to Certification in Developmental Community Music. We realize that some people wish to focus on drum circles and may not have a need for learning how to lead rhythm games or use traditional songs in their events. The Drum Circle Facilitation Certification will be available to all DCM participants and attainable within the 5-day DCM training. For more information and to register for the DCM course., visit the registration page.

Happy drumming!

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