Sunday 5 February 2012


I know we usually let our drums do the talking at the circle, but I think it's important too to be able to talk about things that could make the circle better.

It can vocal - reminding people "Play Together!" (Dev:), or hollering "FASTER!" if the pace is lagging, or someone whooping or cheering to acknowledge that a groove has found it's sweet spot. Let that drummer know that you like what they´re playing. It can be eye contact, a clap, a call and response.

I also think it's fair to tell someone who's not playing with the group to listen more, or to make someone who's wailing on a cowbell aware that they´re shredding your eardrum, try playing at the volume of the group a little more. Or if a drummer or dancer doesn´t know how physically close they are to you, to let them know. I know some seated drummers who prefer not to have an assblocker.

At last night's circle, it was obvious that, it being so close to Christmas, the circle was set too wide for the number of participants. There were gaps of 4 or 5 chairs between drummers in some spots, the energy was low and there were no dancers. It was suggested that we move the chairs in to close the gaps. People were a little shy at first, but once we got going, the music was tighter, people were more engaged, connected and energetic, and the floor filled with dancers. Success!

The point is, as long as it's done kindly and directly, with the best interests of the circle at heart, drummers shouldn't be shy about communicating about our playing together.
It's just plain (playin') healthy for the circle.

Wednesday 1 February 2012


Everyone has their own style, strengths and weaknesses at a drum circle. Some people are natural leaders, other prefer to follow. Some people listen to what's going on around them, some people are oblivious to what's going on around them.

Here's me: first I feel the atmosphere, the space. Is the circle pumping, lethargic, busy, empty? I usually look to see who's playing, do I know anyone? I move to the rhythm, internalize it and start thinking of a pattern that would compliment it.

A lot of times, I don't not rush to drum, especially if EVERYONE is drumming, but rather take out a cowbell, shaker or tambourine to get my ears and body coordinated. I usually stand outside the circle and play quietly, warming myself up without distracting the group. Then once I'm hitting a consistent pattern that meshes well, I'll increase the volume and engage with the full circle and probably make my way inside. When I start drumming, it's the same. Start simple and at low volume outside the circle and then move in once I'm warmed up.

I tend to isolate the main rhythm accents and play with it, either exactly or with minor variations, and then after sitting in that groove for a few rounds, I'll start exploring more variations at regular intervals.

When a strong groove is going and it suggest a melody to me, I'll try play a melody trying to encourage longer rhythmical phrasing, and then go back to supporting the groove.

The other thing is that I try not to lead unless it's necessary. Some people will try to start EVERY rhythm as soon as the last one ends. That's not leading, that's dominating! Maybe not everyone is adept at starting beats, but you gotta take your hand off the wheel sometimes, let things flow and see where it goes.

So that's me drumming: respectful, sensitive, supportive and patient with flights of wild exploration.

Who are you??

Tuesday 31 January 2012


Yesterday, one of the participants in the drum circle playshop asked, "What's the best way to practice outside of the drum circle?" Here's what I suggested:

Develop your internal sense of rhythm by playing the following series that goes from hole notes: 1 - - - (1 beat per bar), to half notes: 1-3- (2 beats per bar), to quarter notes: 1234 (4 beats), to eighth notes: 1&2&3&4& (8 beats), to sixteenth: 1-ee-&-a-2-ee-&-a-3-ee-&-a-4 ee-&-a (16 per bar), to a drum roll - playing as fast as you can! Alternate hand strikes. Try it on your Hi tone, then your bass, then try combinations using both. Focus on maintaining consistency of the sound and of the timing - don't speed up!!

Drum with music you like, especially music that has strong percussion. Play at the same volume level as the music and stay on beat. Try to imitate the rhythm. Try to find variations or additional layers for that rhythm or song. Improvise a solo. Do these with the music then try them by yourself. Move on to another song and start again.

Drum until you find something. Don't think. Just play. It doesn't need to have rhythm or repeating pattern, just play FREELY until a pattern emerges. Repeat it a few times, find variations, and then go back to drumming freely. Try drumming how you felt about your day. Try drumming emotions, stories, relationships, elements, the weather, your home, your city...

Be open to noticing and interacting with rhythms in your day-to-day life. Chewing. Breathing. Talking. Walking. Brushing your teeth, your hair. The sound of rain, a streetcar, your car's turning signal blinker, bird calls, your alarm clock, fire crackling, trees creeking, wind whistling....


Tuesday 24 January 2012

Drum Circles in Toronto
 Got updates, corrections? Please let me know!

Drummers in Exile (Fb) An open, welcoming weekly indoor freestyle drum and dance circle, every Tuesday throughout the colder months at the Remix Lounge, 1305 Dundas Street West near Dovercourt.
8:30-12:30, 19+, Bring ID, $5, Om Circle at 12:30. No drum or drumming experience required. Formerly of Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Queen's Park & Cherry Beach in the summer, but alas, no longer. Want weekly email updates? Email

SUNDAYS: Trinity-Bellwoods Drum Circle (Facebook): May 3 to August 30, 12-1pm hand-drumming class (by donation), 2-6pm drum circle (Free). Family-friendly, Community-friendly. Earth-friendly. Drummers, dancers, hoopers, shakers, movers... all are welcome!

Monday 23 January 2012


Musicians' brainwaves sync up when they play together. I always like to talk about entrainment, the phenomenon that proves that humans bodies instinctually, naturally WANT to work together. Like how when people walk side by side, they start at different strides, but eventually syncronize on the same stride and pace. Same with peoples breaths when they sleep beside each other, or the heartbeats of drummers, beating at the same rhythm as the drums. 

It's real and it's amazing!!