How Sound Affects You: Drumming for Health, Part 1

Continuing her exploration of using sound for healing, Lynda Arnold delves into the rhythmic side of music: drumming. Combining science and experience this article is a fascinating read.  

A wonderful shot of a drum circle set-up on the beach (

A wonderful shot of a drum circle set-up on the beach (

During my certificate program Sound and Music Healing a few years ago, I took two workshops that opened my eyes and ears to the world of drumming for health. One of the workshops was with professional musician and recording artist Glen Velez and the other with drum circle facilitator and certified music therapist Christine Stevens. Before taking these classes, I didn't think of myself as a drummer. My drumming consisted of programming beats in Reason and occasionally overdubbing a sound or two with my MIDI keyboard. But, I've always been fascinated with drumming as an art and after these workshops, as a tool for well-being.

When most people think about drum circles, casual jams on Venice Beach or Golden Gate Park come to mind. Not to say that those experiences are not beneficial to those involved, but for the most part, what you find is an unorganized clutter of sounds and people meandering in and out. The drum circles that are evolving today bring together community for an intentional purpose of connecting to one another, engaging in critical listening and learning the art of drumming in a group setting led by a trained professional. So, it's one part music class and another part community based stress reduction practice. As I've mentioned before, as audio producers and composers, we often spend a lot of time in our studios making music with computers and gadgets as opposed to participating with our larger music community in live music making. Drum circle participation is a great way to get out of the house, meet people and take care of your mind and body at the same time through the power of the drum.

Drumming Reduces Stress

REMO HealthRHYTHMS Drum collection

REMO HealthRHYTHMS Drum collection

Drum manufacturer REMO has a section of their business devoted to drumming for health called HealthRHYTHMS. This is a great resource for the why and how of drum circle participation. They also have an extensive article database on research conducted over the past decade showing solid evidence that recreational music making reduces stress, especially in high stress employment situations. Detailed research was conducted involving long-term care hospice workers and nursing students for example. The group of workers and students who participated in the drum circles showed boosted immune system markers, improved mood states, and in one study, stress reversal on the genomic level. Researchers were able to get this detailed information by drawing blood from the control group and the participating group immediately following the drum circle experience. In addition, the research showed greater employee and student retention as well as decreased health care costs overall. These results speak volumes about the benefits of recreational music making and the power of vibration! 

Drum Circle Techniques

Christine Stevens, UpBeat Drum Circles

Christine Stevens, UpBeat Drum Circles.

Christine Stevens, a certified music therapist and percussionist, has traveled around the world giving presentations, teacher trainings and setting up drum circle experiences in the places that need it most. In her workshop, she spoke extensively about her experience facilitating drum circles in Iraq and how music crossed barriers in the war torn country. There are many moving parts to the structured drum circle experience that we participated in during our hands on training with Christine. 

Here are some important aspects of the drum: 

  • The Set-Up - There is usually a rug in the center of the circle with chairs or cushions around for participants. The leader will often have a big, low sounding drum in the middle to help keep the beat.  The facilitator can also lead from the center, where he or she can cue starts, stops, dynamics and individual solos.
  • The Drums

Lynda Arnold is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (voice, flute, piano, and guitar), and electronic musician/sound artist who has been producing, performing, and developing her own sound for over 12 years as ‘Divasonic;’ an ethereal, song driven electronic music project with multiple album and single releases on labels EMI... Read More


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