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HOW DO I CHOOSE A DRUM CIRCLE – WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DRUM CIRCLES?

rahChoosing a drum circle, may depend on the outcome you’re looking for from your drum circle, so first you might want to consider what outcome you’d like first. Or consider the different types and then work out which one best suits you.
Drum circles are generally quite different from attending a ‘drum class’ for example. At Dindindi Drums we provide regular community classes that take a number of weeks to learn and create a multipart African based rhythm. This would be quite different from what we might create at a drum circle, and whilst look a little more like the ethno specific drum circle below, focus more on the learning and technique improvement.

There are many sources of information on the various types of drum circles, and they come under many varied names, but they mostly look like the following:

COMMUNITY DRUM CIRCLES: These tend to be held in a public space (we like to hold ours at the beach over summer) and are more of an open jam style. Instruments are either supplied, or you can bring your own, and the group aims to be about connection and fun. They are often more of an entertainment value in that it’s a wonderful way to spend some time with other participants, creating something collaboratively that requires no experience or musical ability.
Within this category, the level of facilitation (i.e. the person out the front leading the group), may be high or low in nature. Where it’s high, the group is generally pushed along on a direction that is fed by the facilitator. The facilitation is important, because they need to have a good understanding of when to let the group go, or intervene to keep it upbeat and moving. Or it may be a low degree of facilitation where the group is left to it’s own devices. This often means the beat is started by a group member and picked up by other group members until a good strong beat is obtained. The group generally follow that until it either falls apart, or is brought to an end. The level of facilitation will usually depend on the age and the experience of the group. I.e. if there are a lot of small children involved, or mostly people who haven’t drummed before, facilitation might be high to assist those inexperienced to get the best out of their event.
CORPORATE TEAM BUILDING: Drum circles are a wonderful way of bringing work colleagues (even those in competitive companies) together. The workshop might bring about outcomes such as unity, focus, stress relief, and open channels of communication. They can build teamwork and morale. Often team members will open up in a drum circle in a way they might not in a more forced environment. And it gives members an opportunity to laugh at themselves where they might not be able to in a day to day work environment.
ETHNO SPECIFIC: Arthur Hull speaks of the Ethno Specific Drum circle – that group that is working on an ethnically specific rhythm, where that rhythm may be centuries old and have a complete history on it’s creation and use within that community.
“In an ethno-specific drum circle the rhythms have history, are hundreds of years old, and are passed down through oral tradition from generation to generation. An example of an ethnic specific drum circle would be Afro-Cuban drum circle. It consists of congas, supported by claves, and bells. Congas in a normal Afro-Cuban drum circle would be a Tumba, a Conga, and a Quinto, each drum having a specific tuning, and each drum has a specific part that, when played creates the Afro-Cuban rumba drum songs of which there are many. Another culturally specific drum circle would be a West African Djembe/djun-djun circle, where only Djembe, djun-djuns and atoke bells would be used to create rhythm songs, specific to the culture that the drums came from.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS: These might be found in aged care or health facilities and would typically be run by Music Therapists – depending on the specific outcome required by the facility itself.
That said, in Australia we are finding these specific types of drum circles being used more and more in schools, typically for disengaged youth or outside of school for children in care.
As well as that, anyone that drums can tell you how good they feel after, how they feel their body vibration or energy level has lifted after a class. So we think drumming makes you feel good no matter what kind of circle you join.  “Thanks Megan, enjoyed tonight.  Was feeling a bit *#@ed before class but about half an hour after class, my horrible mood lifted, right off me.  I’m glad I went.  It fixed me.”
CONFERENCES, SEMINARS: Typically the drumming will be used as icebreakers or stress relief breaks and sometimes of short workshops to create fun and cohesion.

Understand that attending a drum circle, is not usually like attending a class or workshop. It’s a place to feel the freedom of drumming and be able to express your own rhythms, and feel the energy of being part of a greater whole.

Whatever the drum circle ‘type’ they are all about fun and unity. But understanding their differences may provide a way for you to determine what will be the most fun for you, and your required outcomes.
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