The Amazing Benefits of Drumming

The act of playing the drums forms an essential part of the human experience in every single culture on the planet, without any exception. Rhythmic patterns have an undeniable power when it comes to bringing groups together. The act of playing the drums alone also has proven therapeutic benefits; it has been shown that playing even simple patterns on hand drums can reduce blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones. Lowering blood pressure and stress in turn promotes a healthy and properly functioning immune system, so it could very well be said that drumming promotes overall good health.

To be quite specific about the health benefits of drumming, the evidence makes it very clear that playing drums induces what’s called ‘hemispheric coordination’ in the brain. With hemispheric coordination, both the right and left halves of the brain become synchronized.

Normally, for any given activity it is almost always the case that one half of the brain is far more active than the other. For instance, when you are doing your taxes (or engaged in any other activity involving math and numbers) you activate the analytical left side of the brain. In contrast, when you are decorating your living room (or otherwise engaged in a spatial and creative task) this stimulates the brain’s artistic right side.

However, something delightfully curious happens when you play drums: as you play the drums, and as you become immersed in the rhythm you are simultaneously producing and hearing, the brain wave activity of both hemispheres of the brain become remarkably synchronized. This convergence of brain waves across both hemispheres leads to what mind scientists call an “integrative mode of consciousness”. It’s hard to describe this mental state in words, but anyone who plays drums is well aware of this uplifting, naturally induced altered state of consciousness. It can probably best be described as a feeling of “oneness’ with the environment, and an overwhelming sensation that one really is in his or her own skin. It is a meditative state of mind/body. At any rate, hemispheric coordination goes hand in hand with heightened insight and creativity.


David Robertson online –

History of Sean

About Sean:

I’ve been drumming since I was 17.  My brother, Jon, was a street busker with a modified acoustic and a little portable amp he clipped to his belt. He asked me to keep a beat for him. All we had was a little kid guitar missing the strings. I banged on the high and low parts of the tone box like it was a bongo.  We would go to Washington plaza in downtown Orlando and sell our handmade jewelry and jam on the street.

There was a little coffee shop next to the rundown theater called the Yab-a-Yum.  On friday nights they ran an open mic.  Like a couple beatnik hippies from bygone days, we ascended the stage and “did our thing”.  There was a regular there, a nice guy, who would read his terrible poetry and tap dramatically on his bongos. We fit right in! Long story short, I guess the guy felt sorry for me having to bang on a guitar like that (I didn’t at all. I loved it!).   So one night he asked if I’d like to borrow the bongos for our set.  I jumped at the chance.  After our set, he said I could take the bongos home for the next week and practice some more.

As the weeks went by, I practiced like crazy thinking the bongos were going home soon.  I would bring the bongos and we would share them or it would just be me playing them.  Each week, I tried to give them back and he would tell me to keep practicing.  I thought, I must be terrible at the bongos and I seriously thought about quitting.  It was about that time, after I’d tried to give them back 3 or 4 times, that he finally put his hand up and said, “Dude, you obviously love the shiz outta them things.  You play beautifully and have improved tremendously.  Please stop trying to give them back!  Just keep ’em.  I hardly ever play them anyway.  Just promise to take care of them and keep practicing!”

I still have those bongos.

In 1999, I started studying with Martin Wolf Murphy of the Jammin Drum school.  He opened my eyes to an entire world I never knew existed.  Names of rhythms, different parts, writing beat music; building rhythms with different parts and different instruments; the importance of foundation.  There was no one doing this!  There were no teachers, especially ones that I had access to and could afford.  He talked about drum circle facilitation and his conversations with Freedom on the subject.  For me, I feel and many of us in Florida and beyond feel, we owe our modern drum circle culture to Greywolf, Freedom and Nighthawk. These guys did a lot of research and personal questing to discover and refine what a drum circle is and what it can be.

I have since studied with many African master drummers.  I have attended Camp Africa several times, Paralounge Drum Gathering for years, as well as several large festival drum circles.  I have been teaching workshops, group classes and one-on-one classes for more than 10 years.  I’ve been doing local summer camp programs for 6 years. 40 kids for 2 hours!  Now I’m doing three such events a year and looking for more!

Drumming has improved my life in more ways than I can count.  It’s benefits are many and far reaching.  It never gets boring because the wealth of knowledge on the subject of hand drumming is never ending.  The more you know, the more you realize that you know nothing.

Drum Circle Etiquette

  1. Listening to each other is the key to communication.
  2. When in doubt, keep it simple. Use the heartbeat to anchor the groove.
  3. If you solo, share the solo space, give others a chance while you take turns playing the supportive accompaniment. Soloists remember this is not a competition.
  4. Beginners please have fun and don’t worry about making mistakes. Beginners please do not play cowbell, clave, or loud shakers. These instruments need specific rhythms with perfect timing.
  5. Listen for the pulse of the rhythm, feel the groove, and support it.
  6. Please do not touch or borrow someone’s instrument without asking permission.
  7. Remove all hand and wrist jewelry to prevent damage to hand, jewelry, and drum.
  8. Let there be space in the music, allowing room to communicate. Space defines rhythm.
  9. Do not intentionally change the rhythm, or tempo, this may happen naturally, as a group.
  10. Be aware of your playing volume.
  11. When a rhythm ends, allow at least a few seconds for silence.
  12. The inner circle is for the dancers.
  13. No fire spinning, poi, hooping, bright lights or flashing lights inside the circle, unless the circle is large enough, this varies in different groups.
  14. If you want to talk to your friend, or use the phone, go outside the circle. Phones on silence.
  15. Abiding local laws: Don’t put our group at risk by doing illegal activities near the group.
  16. All smoke must be outside the circle, preferably downwind.
  17. If there is a bonfire, keep a safe distance from the fire, and be aware of the fire keepers’ path.
  18. Each drum circle has slightly different etiquette, if you are unsure, just ask.
  19. Unless facilitated, drum circles have no “leader” this is a community gathering of friends, family & neighbors. Please leave your ego elsewhere.
  20. Most of all we’re here to have fun… smile, enjoy, stay positive, and please pack your trash.

Posted by Charles Baumgartner –

Tips on Buying Your First Djembe

OakenFire Rhythms carries finished djembes built by Sean.  We can also order drum shells and build a drum according to the type of skin you want, colors, and with or without wood burned artwork.  Mayra is always available to provide custom artwork on your drum at any time.  We know many of you will be new to the world of drums, so we have written this as a guide to help you with your purchase.

We would love for you to buy your first drum from us.  Sean has many years of experience with drums and drum building.  Our djembes are guaranteed to be of quality wood, materials, workmanship and infused with love.  Regardless of where you buy, there are some things you should be aware of and consider before making a purchase.

The following is a list of things to consider when buying:

  1. Small drums normally have 8” drum heads.  These drums are good for children or adults with small hands.  We recommend a drum with no less than a 10” drum head and at least 24” tall.   A larger size will provide more comfort for your body and room on the drum head for both your hands to fit comfortably.
  2. There are drums made from many different hardwoods and others made from synthetic materials.  The wood instruments have warmer tones, carvings, are usually rope-tuned, come with a goatskin and are also heavier.  Synthetic drums have brighter or tinnier louder sounds, synthetic heads, are key-tuned, and lighter.  Synthetic drums are usually chosen by players who need to sound louder when playing in a band with other instruments.  They are also very portable if you plan to travel and carry if often.
  3. Some skins that are normally used are goat, cow, and synthetic.   Synthetic drum heads are made from different man-made plastics and can vary widely in the way they sound.  If you buy a synthetic, most drummers would recommend REMO.  Goat skins have been the traditional drum head for djembes because of their wide and rich tonal quality and their great sound for slaps and lead drums.  Cow skins are traditionally used on congas and bongos and have rich mellow tonal qualities used to carry the rhythm in a drum circle.
  4. Synthetic heads are key tuned while natural heads are rope tuned.  Key tuning is easier, but rope tuned drums have better sound quality.   If you purchase a rope tuned drum we can tune or teach you to tune your own drum.  You only need to tune your drum if you like a really high and tight sound.  If you keep your drum in a controlled environment, you shouldn’t need to tune it very often.