Be a Member of Drums Not Guns | Who | What/Events | Our Partners |  Drumcircles |Drumming Articles| Giving Thanks | Pictures | Volunteer | DNG WISH LIST | | Webmaster | HOME | FEEDBACK
TexasDrums CommUnity | Djembe-L FAQ |
Soli Drum and Dance Festival, May 22-25, 2009

Custom Search

Drumming Articles

Rhythm Is Going to Get You
Feel the beat for education
March, 2008

Article posted on DallasChild Magazine

Rhythm Is Going to Get You
Feel the beat for education

Local families are gathering their djembes and joining traditional African drumming classes. What’s that, you ask? Health experts and families alike are discovering the fun and enriching qualities of drumming, from building self-esteem to math skills.

It’s no longer just leftover hippies and, well, Matthew McConaughey, who like to take up their drums and jam. African drumming is a family-friendly and often-overlooked form of entertainment and even therapy. And it’s quite popular here in North Texas … if you know where to look.

Drumming’s benefits reach far beyond learning simple rhythms. Experts have found drumming has many positive effects, including mood elevation, stress relief, free expression, sense of accomplishment and lessons in cooperation and focus. And that’s just the short term. Long-term benefits include learning math skills, improving eye-hand coordination, synchronization, midline balance, increasing self-worth and self-confidence and creating a sense of community for participants.

Finding the Beat
Michael Kenny, a Dallas area MMT, MT-BC, works with a variety of special needs and at-risk children and adults. He has witnessed first-hand the positive effects of using traditional drumming with therapeutic goals.

“I have been in detention centers where there’s always a kid sitting back in his chair, arms across his chest, and he’s just holding down the chair. By the end of the drumming class, this same kid is smiling, tapping his feet and bent over a drum. I’ve even seen geriatric patients slumped in their wheelchairs come alive and get up to dance,” Kenny states.

And, the benefits don’t stop there. Two scientific, evidence-based studies headed by Dr. Barry Bittman, neurologist and medical director of Pennsylvania-based The Mind-Body Wellness Center, reveal drumming participants experience significant increases in immune activity and decreases in stress and burn out.

“The Power of Percussion”
Drumming’s unique benefits may stem from the fact that it is essentially accessible to everyone. Anyone can tap out beats on a table top, but it’s the sense of community that come with group drumming that seems to breed success and confidence. Based on the West African oral tradition of teaching rhythms, everyone can quickly learn drum accompaniments. It takes little time for a group to form a piece of feet-tapping, get-up-and-dance music.

The two most active groups teaching African drumming in the Dallas area are Cross Timbers Youth Orchestra (CTYO) and Drums Not Guns (DNG).

Beat It: D-FW Drumming

Grab your bongos — there are plenty of drum groups carving out their own beats in the Dallas area. Whether you want to take in a performance or get in on the action, here are some resources to get started:

Drums Not Guns Drumming Workshop
Saturdays 10am–12pm
Old Settlers Recreation Center, McKinney

Tweneboa Family Drumming Orchestra
Cross Timbers Youth Orchestra

Library Live!
World Music, African Drumming and Stories

Music Together
Allen, Dallas, McKinney

These nonprofit organizations offer families opportunities to experience the joy and benefits of drumming; hippie attire not required.

CTYO’s programs include the Tweneboa Family Drumming Orchestra and Drum Fun at the Samaritan Inn. Tweneboa is designed to unite families in a musical experience, learning and performing together regularly. Dr. Jeffrey Walter, CTYO’s artistic director, acknowledges this family drumming orchestra could be the only one of its kind in North Texas.

“We live in a world where we drop one child off at soccer practice then run across town to take another to piano lessons. Parents don’t get the time to enjoy the activities with their children. This is why we’ve created Tweneboa. Family members learn together, practice together, perform together and then celebrate success together,” Dr. Walter comments.

Additionally, CTYO offers an outreach and community service program called Drum Fun to children living in Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter. Instructor Allie Lang, music specialist at Slaughter Elementary, meets with the children weekly to create traditional music.

According to Lang, “Drum Fun gives kids an opportunity to come together and make music in a safe environment. The joy is in working together as a team and everyone pitching in to make sure even the smallest member is successful in each activity.”

The rhythm and order of drumming even provides a creative outlet for the city’s most at-risk youth. Dallas-based Drums Not Guns is devoted to increasing peace by providing creative ways to re-channel negative energy, diffuse anger and build team spirit through the power of percussion. DNG provides free Saturday workshops in McKinney along with a variety of other drumming opportunities throughout the Dallas area. These informal gatherings bring children and adults together in a fun-filled, cooperative environment where they build community, create music and learn a new skill that they can even take away and share with their friends.

DNG leader Randy Harp says these classes are designed to provide quality drumming lessons, as well as life lessons, which remain long after the class ends.

“What I’ve seen from the people who do learn the rhythm is they realize they can do something that they never would have believed they could have done. Something clicks that makes them feel more confident and better about themselves. There are many life metaphors in drumming. Drumming brings people to life,” comments Randy Harp.

Lucy Parker Watkins is a freelance writer, editor and drummer in McKinney.
DallasChild Magazine


Pounding home their message

McKnney: Drums Not Guns works to steer youths from violence

08:16 AM CST on Friday, February 10, 2006

By JEREMY ROEBUCK / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

The members of Drums Not Guns start with simple combinations of tone and bass hand slaps. Leading a group of beginners in a drum circle, they slowly work toward greater complexity. Soon, the rhythm takes off.

Melody McDonald, 7, of McKinney caught a glimpse of participants practicing with Drums Not Guns.

The air thrums with energy. Windows buzz. Heads begin to sway. Expressions of concentration break into grins and laughter. And when the drumming suddenly stops, a palpable silence lingers.

"There's a pretty tremendous impact when a group gets a rhythm going," Drums Not Guns member Randy Harp said, wiping sweat from his face. "People that thought they had no ability to play the drums suddenly find themselves doing it."

The lesson, held Saturday at McKinney's Old Settlers' Park Recreation Center, was the second in a series of workshops sponsored by the Dallas-based nonprofit group and the McKinney Arts Commission.

"We've been very active in Dallas, but not so much in the surrounding counties," Mr. Harp said. "We saw an opportunity to move our mission into the northern suburbs."

Founded in 1994 by Dallas resident Happy Shel, Drums Not Guns has worked with at-risk teenagers across the area to spread "the power of percussion" as an alternative to violence. Mr. Shel found his inspiration on a bus painted with the message "Food Not Bombs."

"Suddenly – shazam! – the earth moved," he said. "Why not Drums Not Guns? We could give kids a positive alternative to all the bad things they face."

The group hosts drum circles and workshops, marketing drumming as an avenue of expression and a way to work off tension. Members have brought drums with names like djembe, doumbek and dununs to orphanages, festivals and after-school programs.

"Drumming is a language we can all speak, and we can hear each individual part," Mr. Shel said. "I want kids to come and join the 'drum gang.' "

McKinney resident Seamus McKenna understands the physical release drumming can provide. The 49-year-old started drumming with the group in September and was thrilled to learn about the program near his home.

"You would imagine that drumming is very energetic," he said. "But actually, my breathing slows down once we get into a rhythm. I get very calm and enter an almost meditative state."

For 13-year-old Christopher Dunlap, the chance to bang on a drum just sounded like fun.

"I thought it was something that looked interesting," he said. "I'm learning a lot."

The group plans to cap off the McKinney workshops May 20 with the Soli Drum Festival, featuring drummers from across the Southwest and students from the classes.

"It's just a really easy way to earn a sense of accomplishment," Mr. Harp said. "The effect is almost spiritual. It seems to open up people to the possibilities of life."

Jeremy Roebuck is a Dallas-based freelance writer.



MEXICO Swaps Computers for Guns - March 27, 2007


Following this link will lead to some interesting articles on Drumming This is an auto-magically updated list of the articles on drumming ordered with the most recent first, so you may wish to visit it occasionally to see if there is something new.

Austin: The Beat of the drum April 1, 2005
Hey, Hey, Hey, Dante Dominick has written an article about what drum circles mean to different people. It can be accessed online at 

Drum circles help people reconnect with themselves, the community -- and wellness

PUBLISHED: February 15, 2005


How they beat stress

Drum circles are becoming a popular way for people to get in tune with the body's rhythms

The Beat goes On
Story and Page Design n by Leah J. Simmons
Story last updated at 4:00 AM on November 7, 2004

Therapists put art to work in healing, Fall, 2004

Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Fall/Winter, 2003, just published.

 The study is entitled, Recreational Music-making, A cost-effective group interdisciplinary strategy for reducing burnout and improving mood states in long-term care workers - insights and potential economic impact by Barry B. Bittman, MD, Karl T Bruhn, Christine K. Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, BS and Paulo O. Umbach, M.A.   

The research team studied the effect of a Recreational Music-making protocol using REMO drums and the YAMAHA Clavinova with staff from different departments within the Wesbury United Methodist Long-Term Care Center in Meadville, PA.  The study found a statistically significant reduction in burn-out and improvement in mood in the group which participated in the 6-week program of weekly one hour sessions.  Additionally, an economic impact analysis showed an annual savings of $89,100 for a typical 100-bed facility, demonstrating for the first time the cost-effectiveness of a Recreational Music-making (RMM) intervention involving group drumming and keyboard.  It is estimated that implementing RMM programs for employee wellness could potentially save the long-term care industry 1.46 billion dollars.

The RMM program involved an enhanced variation of the HealthRHYTHMS group empowerment drumming protocol, which included a wellness exercise and the use of the keyboard to provide melodic accompaniment to the drumming.

 To learn more, please visit,  click on Latest Research, or visit  for more information on the study.  - here is the link.  

Happy drumming,
Christine Stevens, MT-BC, MSW
Director of Music Therapy and Wellness Programs, Remo Inc.


July 2002
IN TOUCH MAGAZINE, "The Good Health Guide To Cancer Prevention and
recently featured the research of Dr. Barry Bittman who conducted the first scientific evidence based study on the impact of group drumming on health, sponsored by Remo, Inc. The article also included interviews with music therapists Barb Reuer and Rachel Jacobsen, as well as drum circle facilitators such as Steven Angel and myself, who are working with cancer patients and survivors with group drumming.

The article on page 46 of the July 2002 issue, entitled "Drumming Up Good Health" can be accessed through their website.

In Touch Magazine goes to over 30,000 Oncology specialists and 6,000 cancer centers at medical and university settings. Often seen in waiting rooms, this new magazine is fast becoming a standard in over 3,000 patient advocacy groups around the USA. The article on group drumming appeared in a section entitled, InSync: Mind/Body Connection, making a strong statement of our philosophy and moving forward the scientific use of group drumming as one component of an integrative medical strategy for cancer treatment and

Michael Drake, E-mail address:   To view articles,
books, and workshops on shamanic drumming, please visit his web site,
Talking Drum Publications at:  To
subscribe to the FREE Talking Drum Newsletter, just send a blank email
to:  New subscribers receive the FREE etext,
The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees.

Shamanic Drumming Circles

(c) 2002 by Michael Drake

"Drum fever is sweeping the country as people discover the physical, psychological and spiritual rewards ... even for those who can't read a note of music," wrote Claudia Ricci recently in the New York Times. All over America, people of all ages are taking up drumming in astounding numbers. At a grass roots level, small drumming circles are gathering in communities all across the country. Since there are no prerequisites to
drumming, anyone can join in and explore rhythms with hands and drumsticks as an exhilarating way of communing. While some drumming circles are content to jam and make a lot of rhythmic noise, others prefer to explore intricate patterns of rhythm, and still others gather for shamanic drumming.
     Shamanic drumming is a time-honored method of healing and helping others. Shamanic drumming circles provide the opportunity for people of like mind to unite for the attainment of a shared objective. There is power in drumming alone, but that power recombines and multiplies on many simultaneous levels in a group of drummers. The drums draw individual
energies together, unifying them into a consolidated force. Synchronized drumming is the most effective, so individuals should alternate the responsibility of setting the tempo and leading the group. The basic steps that I find most effective are as follows:

1. Simply join together, forming a circle. By creating a circle, you are structuring an energy pattern that will contain, focus, and amplify the power generated by drumming.
2. Next, you should smudge the space and all participants. This can easily be accomplished by passing a smudge bowl clockwise around the circle. The drummers can then smudge themselves and their drums. Smudging cleanses the mind and environment in preparation for spiritual or inner work. The sacred smoke dispels any stagnant or unwanted energy, opens the energy channels of your body, and raises your personal power or windhorse. According to Mongolian shamanism, windhorse can be increased through smudging, drumming, and other forms of shamanic practice in order to accomplish significant aims. Sage, cedar, thyme, and sweetgrass are traditionally used for smudging, but any dried herb is acceptable. Light
the herbs in a fire-resistant receptacle and then blow out the flames. Then use a feather or your hands to draw the smoke over your heart, throat, and face to purify the body, mind, and spirit. Next, smudge your drum by passing it through the smoke. Conclude the smudging by thanking the plant whose body made the cleansing possible.
3. At this point, you may wish to invoke the powers of the four directions. Invoking the four directions or elements is an ancient shamanic rite practiced cross-culturally to access and honor the powers of creation. The facilitator can lead the group in this process. I like
to have the participants stand and face each direction in unison. Rotate clockwise, facing first the East, then South, then West, then North, inviting each direction to participate and assist in the ceremony. If you wish, you can include Father Sky above and Mother Earth below as the fifth and sixth directions.
4. Having invoked the four directions, it is important to form the group's collective intention or goal-what you desire or expect to accomplish. Intent is a kind of decision making that directs the focus of our attention. It is through our attention that we influence and direct
the aspects of our experience and the world around us.
5. The next step is to commence the first or "prayer" round of drumming. All participants should focus their attention on the group intention or goal during this round of drumming. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to set the tempo. A steady, metronome-like pattern with precisely regular intervals, at around 180 beats per minute (or three beats per second), is the most effective. This rapid "eagle-beat" creates the sensation of inner movement, which, if you allow it, will carry you along. It is projective in nature and carries your intention, prayers, and awareness into the spirit world that underlies and sustains our
physical reality. All forms and events in the material world have their source in the spirit world. 
6. The timeframe, however, varies from ceremony to ceremony. It is best to trust your intuition in this process. When leading a group, I move the beater around the drumhead until I find the sweet spot and my drum begins to sing and hum. Eventually, I can hear the sound of my drum moving around the circle, resonating through each person's drum. The drums begin to sing in unison and the experience is indescribable. I sense that each
person is connected to the spirit world. I try to hold this energy dynamic for as long as possible. This climactic phase eventually wanes, and the drums start doing their own thing again. This is usually the point where I signal the end of the first round of drumming with four thundering beats of the drum. 
7. Once the group intention has been introduced, commence the second or "healing" round by drumming the pulsating lub-dub, lub-dub of a heartbeat rhythm. Stroke a steady heartbeat rhythm at around 180 beats per minute (or 90 heartbeats per minute since one-heartbeat equals two beats). This magnetic pulse draws power from the spirit world into the drum circle.  Each participant should clear his or her mind of everything. You must surrender all attachment to the desired outcome to achieve success. It is best to close your eyes and focus on the sound of the drums. Let the drums do the healing. The drums will shape available energy into a powerful vortex that will spiral out into the fibers of Mother Earth's
8. When you feel the power ebbing, signal the end of the second round of drumming with four booming beats.
9. Commence the final or "thank you" round of drumming with the even cadence of the eagle-beat. Sustain a tempo of 180 beats per minute for one to five minutes. Participants should give thanks for the needs met and the needs they are asking to be met.
10. Finally, signal the end of the drumming with four resounding beats. It is important to conclude the drumming circle by rotating counterclockwise, thanking each of the directions for their participation and assistance. This counterclockwise movement will close the energy vortex and signal that the sacred time of focus is ended.

Exercise Summary

The basic steps in the preceding exercise are:

1. Join together, forming a circle.
2. Create sacred space by smudging.
3. Invoke the four directions.
4. Formulate the group intention.
5. Drum the eagle-beat and focus on the group intention.
6. End the prayer round with four thundering beats.
7. Drum the heartbeat and focus on the sound of the drums.
8. When the power ebbs, signal end of healing round with four booming
9. Drum the eagle-beat, offering thanks.
10. End the drumming with four resounding beats.

   I have found these basic steps be very effective in a myriad of situations. Feel free, however, to adapt them to serve your own needs.  Rhythm is a very personal thing. Experiment with different tempos and rhythms. My intention is to provide a foundation upon which the reader can then build.
   Drumming circles open portals to alternate realities. They facilitate a merging of the physical and spiritual realms. They expedite communication with helping spirits and draw them in. The drumming circle also links the consciousness of each participant to the entire web of life. It develops a continuous, shared consciousness with all our relations. Even small
groups of people of one mind, one purpose, and fully attuned through the drums can transform the world and manifest what is needed to benefit all beings.
   A recent medical research study indicates that drumming circles boost the immune system. Led by renowned cancer expert Barry Bittman, MD, the study demonstrates that group drumming actually increases cancer-killing cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including AIDS. According to Dr. Bittman, "Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin." Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of group drumming on Alzheimer's patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, substance abusers, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. The primitive drumming circle is emerging as a
significant therapeutic tool in the modern technological age.

   Michael Drake is a writer, rhythmist, and ceremonial drummer of Cherokee descent. He is a member of the United Lumbee Nation and author of The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming and I Ching: The Tao of Drumming. He has studied with master drummers from the Native American and Mongolian shamanic traditions. Michael lectures and gives workshops around the country. Through his work, he has guided thousands in the
healing art of ceremonial drumming. To learn m
ore, please log onto Michael's web site at:

Buy the book,
The Shamanic Drum


Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Drumming Circles

TREND Americans getting together to bang the drum communally

HOW IT STARTED An ancient ritual, first brought to the U.S. in the '60s by African jazz musicians, lately seized on by spiritual seekers

JUDGMENT CALL For women, it can be empowering; for everyone, not a bad way to access your inner beast

Yoga is fine, but if you want spiritual uplift with a little more noise, try beating on some bongos. African and Asian cultures have been practicing community percussion for thousands of years. Now Americans are fast joining "drum circles," informally or through organized centers, to reduce stress, connect with others or just jam. A recent study in the journal Alternative Therapies even found an increase in disease-fighting cells among participants in drum circles.

Rhythm circles have been especially popular with women, who say the once male-dominated musical form offers a powerful means of expression. But the groups, which have doubled in the past five years, are also attracting executives, health professionals and schoolchildren. The most popular drums are the Afro-Cuban conga and the West African djembe--a loud, responsive instrument with the brightest high tones and the deepest, most sensual lows. "Drumming is primal," says Kulu Spiegel, who conducts circles for at-risk youth and corporate honchos out of his World Beat Rhythm Circles in Durango, Colo. "It brings people together in a trusting way they often have never known before."