Are percussion instruments necessary for drum circles?
It’s personal for each drum circle facilitator. From my experience that’s a big YES. I admit it, I’m a percussion nut!
Drum circle participants really enjoy collaborating with each other through the percussion sounds, it creates an atmosphere of anticipation.
Whether you’re a professional drum circle facilitator, drum teacher, school teacher, music therapist, professional musician or someone who’s never played drums before, the following I hope may guide you on what percussion instruments to add with your hand drums.
I’m a huge advocate for implementing a variety of drum and percussion sounds for rhythm-events. Whether it’s a drum circle facilitator and teacher training for 40 participants, well-being workshop for 10 people, a leadership program for 30 college students or a community drum circle for 200 people, I have the opportunity to mix and match my drum and percussion sounds to suit whatever program.
Not only is it great to have a variety of sounds, it can also be used as metaphors during your rhythm-event. It compliments diversity, adds dynamics and offers a lot more musicality to sculpt out songs and showcase sounds in the music-making. Let’s face it; it would be pretty dull if we had the same sounding instrument.
What’s the difference between drums and percussion instruments?
“What’s the difference between drums and percussion instruments?”, I hear this question a lot. In the drum circle setting, drums are both played with hands, sticks or mallets and originally made from membranes which are stretched over one or both ends of a drum. With modern technology we have the option to go with synthetic or traditional drum heads (skin).
Drum circle percussion instruments are wood sounds, shaker sounds and bell sounds, and yes sound effects have been designed to be used in the music-making.
My mentor and drum circle facilitator Arthur Hull had brought the three sounds to my attention when I attended Village Music Circles Hawaii Playshop training back in 2010.
Short percussion video
I created this video to show just a few percussion instrument ideas you can have fun with in your circles. Notice the dialog between percussion. Facilitating dialog is key when facilitating a drum circle.
Three percussion sounds
The great thing about drum circles (spontaneous music-making and non-culturally specific rhythms) is the variety of drums pitch and percussion sounds.
Let’s go over three percussion sounds – wood sounds, shaker sounds and bell sounds.
The following is a guide to get you started. (I’m not indorsed by any company, so I’m not pushing any product. This has been my experience using these types of percussion).
Here are a few brands that specialise in drum circle percussion instruments, Nino, Remo, Rohema, Toca, LP.
I also recommend second hand music stores; you never know what bargain you might pick up.
So let’s look at wood sounds. Keep it interesting by having a variety of wood sounds.
- Clap sticks
- Clave sticks
- Slap sticks
- Frogs and temple blocks
Let’s look at shaker sounds. Keep it interesting by having a variety of shaker sounds.
- Egg shakers
- Fruit shakers
- Juju shaker
Let’s have a look at bell sounds. Keep it interesting by having a variety of bell sounds.
- Cow bells
- Agogo bells
- African cowbell
- Tibetan singing bells
I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas on percussion instruments you use. I invite you to write in the comments below.
I jumped on the net and found some prices, the following percussion instruments are RRP new in Australia.
- Clave sticks, Rohema $4.95 pair
- Nino frog guiro, small $24.95 each or mini guiros from $7.95
- Rahema shaker $7.95 each
- LP Jingle Stick pair $60
- Nina small ago-go bells $30 each
Instruments to stay away from
I’ve been blessed and had the great opportunity to work with and facilitate a variety of groups from corporate, primary/secondary college students, bubs to community, people with disabilities, older adults and women. And have learnt and continue to learn from working with these groups.
From my experience, not all percussion instruments are going to be appropriate for all drum circles.
Lets say, you’ve decide to work with young children, people with disabilities, or older adults. Shakers for example that look like fruit, they sound great, but some fruit shakers look like the real deal (sometimes I do a double take – is it real?) and can be quiet confusing to some people.
Drum circle instruments that have sharp edges such as African go-go bells, cheap wood tambourines with nails through the frame, small African shekeres, (beads can be easily swallowed).
Choose instruments that are durable, easy to clean (especially if you’re working in the hospital environment) and have less movement parts. I’ve learnt the hard way and have spent money on instruments that have been easily broken and unrepairable, costing me lots of money to replace.
What drum circles do you want to facilitate?
First thing first, ask yourself and write down what kind drum circles you want to be facilitating and for whom (what group(s) of people). Is it clear in your mind? It may be working with kids, bubs, community, older adults, people with disability, corporate, women, combination?
Take time with this step and spend some quiet time reflecting and writing.
“What is it about this particular group of people I want to work with and why?”
Keep writing until it is clear. This will help you define your goal and aim, which will help determine what percussion instruments you will have in your drum circle kit.
Are you starting community drum circles and not quite sure what rhythms to play? Start with simple drum circles rhythms.
Want to be a drum circle facilitator?
Are you looking to develop and build facilitator skills and confidence in leading your own drum circle, either in your school, community or work environment?
Do you have any tips or insights to add? Please keep sharing the positive vibe by sharing this post with friends and your community by clicking the share button below, thank you.