Community Drumming Facilitation

By Kalani • January 3rd, 2013

Community Drumming Facilitation (CDF) is the art of helping a group succeed in creating music, using mostly drums and percussion instruments. CDF includes popular types of community drumming formats, such as drum circles, drum ensembles, guided  interactive drumming, and musical games. CDF is conducted by individuals and teams who are familiar with the instruments, the various types of experiences, and the process of facilitation.

Drum Circles

Drum circles are a type of community drumming that offer basic music making experiences for a variety of populations. Salient features of a drum circle include:

  • open access to instruments and the freedom to choose what, when, and how to play.
  • music that is created through the method of improvisation (not reproducing or composing).
  • music that is a product of the individuals's collective impulses, intensions, and musical aesthetics.
  • very little direction and shaping on the part of the facilitator(s).

Drum Ensembles

Drumming ensembles are a type of community drumming that are based in musical traditions. Salient features of a drumming ensemble include:

  • learning and performing specific techniques (tones), rhythms, and music.
  • taking on various roles and musical responsibilities, such as teacher, student, accompanist, soloist, etc.
  • studying and reproducing music that has been developed within a specific culture, e.g., West Africa, Brazil.
  • performing works and arrangements for an audience.
  • moving from basic to more advanced skills over a period of time.

Guided Interactive Drumming

Guided Interactive Drumming is a type of community drumming that is structured to allow for participation by inexperienced individuals. Salient features of guided interactive drumming include:

  • the facilitators (leaders) provide a musical foundation, upon which the participants reproduce specific rhythm patterns and musical effects.
  • limiting play to a specific type of instrument or specific (basic) techniques.
  • consistently guiding, cueing, and leading the participants through the musical experience.
  • providing structured opportunities for individual and group improvisation.

Musical Games

Musical Games can be experienced through drums and percussion instruments. Salient features of musical games include:

  • the introduction of play rules (limitations, directions, actions, and contingencies) that serve to structure the experience.
  • following specific instructions and participating for the duration of the experience.
  • the use of specific instrumentation at specific times during an experience. (Facilitators will distribute and collect instruments)
  • structuring the experience around reaching a non-musical goal, such as working together (teamwork) or socializing.


Each type of Community Drumming offers different opportunities with regard to how someone participates and the type of experience they might have. Each type features different degrees of autonomy (the drum circle offering the most) and structure (guided interactive drumming or a musical game offering the most). Additionally, the different types of Community Drumming require different skills from the facilitators. A drum circle needs a minimal amount of experience and intervention on the part of the facilitator, while a drumming ensemble requires the facilitator to have specific musical knowledge, training, and teaching experience.

Each of these types (and there are more) of Community Drumming offer something different to participants and each has certain 'strengths' and 'weaknesses.' Seasoned facilitators are able to design and present many types of community drumming experiences for their participants. They select the type(s) that is most appropriate for the population and the occasion. While these experiences do have major differences, they are also similar in many ways and often overlap and blend together in practice.

Understanding the features, potential, and applications of each type of community drumming experience, as well as being able to design and present each type, is the goal of the Community Drumming Facilitator. For more about CDF, explore the DCM website and search under community drumming. See the books, Together in Rhythm and The Amazing Jamnasium. For Musical Games, see the Drum Fun DVD.

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