The Health Benefits of Drumming: Less Stress, Lower Blood Pressure, Pain Relief, and Altered States of Consciousness

Drumming—from tablas to tym­pa­ni to djembes—is uni­ver­sal, so much so, says author Say­er Ji, that it seems “hard-wired into our bio­log­i­cal, social and spir­i­tu­al DNA.” Drum­ming may well be “an inborn capac­i­ty and arche­typ­al social activ­i­ty.” But many mod­ern peo­ple have become alien­at­ed from the drum. We out­source drum­ming to pro­fes­sion­als, and machines. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists the­o­rize that drum­mers may have dif­fer­ent brains than “non-drummers”—findings that sug­gest the activ­i­ty is con­fined to spe­cial­ly-designed peo­ple. Not so, say many sci­en­tists who believe that “drum­ming has some pro­found and holis­tic uses,” as Luke Sumpter writes at, “to enhance phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tion­al health.”

In addi­tion to anthro­po­log­i­cal evi­dence not­ing the cen­tral­i­ty of drum­ming to human cul­ture, abun­dant research has demon­strat­ed its poten­tial for per­son­al heal­ing. While drum ther­a­py may be noth­ing new for cul­tures who have retained the prac­tice, those who haven’t can learn group drum­ming eas­i­ly enough with teach­ers like Peter Mari­no in the short clip above. The ben­e­fits, as stud­ies have shown, include reduced stress and increased immu­ni­ty. Group drum­ming may reduce anx­i­ety and blood pres­sure, it may work as pain relief and boost pos­i­tive emo­tions, and may even lead to “improved exec­u­tive func­tion” and a growth in white mat­ter in the brains of patients with Huntington’s dis­ease and oth­er neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions.

The evi­dence-based approach to group drumming’s socio-phys­i­cal ben­e­fits should sway skep­tics, even those like­ly to see drum cir­cle ther­a­py as some kind of hip­py-dip­py woo. Sci­ence-mind­ed peo­ple with­out such hangups may also take an inter­est in stud­ies of drum­ming as a “shaman­ic” activ­i­ty that “induces spe­cif­ic sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ences.” As Michael Drake reports, one recent study “demon­strates that even a brief drum­ming ses­sion can dou­ble alpha brain wave activ­i­ty,” which is “asso­ci­at­ed with med­i­ta­tion, shaman­ic trance, and inte­gra­tive modes of con­scious­ness.” Drum­ming with oth­ers “pro­duces greater self-aware­ness” as well as a sense of inter­con­nect­ed­ness, and can strength­en social bonds among adults as well as chil­dren.

While much of the writ­ing about group drum­ming as ther­a­py stress­es more intan­gi­ble, mys­ti­cal ben­e­fits, no small amount of data sug­gests that the phys­i­cal effects are mea­sur­able and sig­nif­i­cant. This is not to min­i­mize the musi­cal prowess of your favorite drum­mers, or to belit­tle the musi­cal val­ue of machine-made beats. But the research strong­ly sug­gests that not only is most every­one able to pick up a drum and get into a groove, but also that most every­one who does so will be hap­pi­er, health­i­er, and more peace­ful and tuned-in.

via Reset

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Neu­ro­science of Drum­ming: Researchers Dis­cov­er the Secrets of Drum­ming & The Human Brain

Play­ing an Instru­ment Is a Great Work­out For Your Brain: New Ani­ma­tion Explains Why

Iso­lat­ed Drum Tracks From Six of Rock’s Great­est: Bon­ham, Moon, Peart, Copeland, Grohl & Starr

Bri­an Eno Lists the Ben­e­fits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intel­li­gence, and a Sound Civ­i­liza­tion

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (6)
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  • Sarah Harriman says:

    As a drum­mer, I total­ly agree. When we’re all drum­ming togeth­er, it’s like mag­ic. I’m part of it but sep­a­rate all at the same time. I am SO glad I start­ed drum­ming a cou­ple of years ago.
    Thanks for the arti­cle and links. All very inter­est­ing.

  • Judy says:

    Is there a group drum­ing in Toron­to you rec­om­mend? Please pro­vide con­tact. I am a novice, inter­est­ed to learn drum­ming.

    Thank you,

  • Woody Wazzo says:

    Man, I’m guess­ing that if Bud­dy Rich had nev­er picked up a drum stick, he would have turned into an axe-mur­der­er. He was one intense, short-fused SOB even with all that rhythm ther­a­py!

  • Gale says:

    What about group drum­ming near Wasil­la, AK.?

  • Hemmy says:

    I love drum­ming
    Am real­ly hap­py when­ev­er am on it
    It real­ly good to be a drum­mer

  • Vivian Black says:

    I thought it was very inter­est­ing when I read your infor­ma­tion about how drum­ming ses­sions can increase alpha brain wave activ­i­ty which is like med­i­ta­tion and it can even make more self-aware­ness. My son wants to learn how to play the drums so he can join a neigh­bor­hood band. He is not sure when he wants to start. I will let him know of these addi­tion­al ben­e­fits so we can move on to find­ing him some drum lessons and get him start­ed.

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