Shamanic Drumming

Drumming Up Spirit

There are many different reasons we play drums. Perhaps you enjoy the feeling of social togetherness when you drum in a circle. There are two very distinct drumming circles in my vocabulary; one is the shamanic drumming circle, which encourages all participants to drum as we bring up our Spirit Song; the other circle, for me as a drummer, is for pure Joy!! Perhaps you are a musician at heart and enjoy performing for people within a group. You might have a goal of mastering complex African polyrhythms, I know I have tried many times. The key to being able to, I have discovered for myself, is practice. It may be that you simply enjoy drumming, that the rhythm moves your body and spirit in ways that not many other things do in life. Whatever the reason, becoming aware of why can help to ease your state of mind and open you to your own spirit song.

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Just Try It

I often see people drum for the very first time, and I know for some, it is something out of their comfort zone. If you are beginning your rhythm journey, the most important quality you can bring to your drumming is the willingness to try. Sometimes, that attitude may be the only difference between a person who becomes a confident player, and one lacking confidence. Kwasi Dunyo, master Ghanaian drummer says, “You can only fail by not trying”. He believes “that music is in everyone, a gift from the Creator”. So step number one, pick up your drum and play it. Do not simply “tap it”, but play it with heart! Don’t be afraid to make noise! And if you cannot drum in your house, take it outside. Yes, it can take courage to drum alone outside, but I have the utmost faith in the power of the drum. When I drum alone in nature, I am never bothered by other people. What I have found, is most people will give you space to drum and not disturb you.


Some people are so afraid of another person’s judgment, they will never drum. It is very easy to feel when someone else is being judgemental about something. Sometimes, it is a lot harder for us to see within ourselves, how we are self-judging, or judging others. Many times, especially with brand new drummers, they compare themselves to those who are more experienced drummers. To give power to this judging attitude can be fatal to your progress. Community drumming is about connecting, not competing. The spirit you bring to your drum is just as valuable as another’s. So please don’t compare and please don’t judge when you drum, for your own sake. And keep in mind, every single drummer loses or misplaces the rhythm, I call it gakking. It is highly likely you will too, so expect it, just don’t berate yourself for it.

Heart and Mind

When you are first learning to drum, your mind will initially be actively engaged in the process. You may be trying to stay mentally focused on a rhythm, or keeping count of a beat. If you drive a vehicle, remember when you were first learning how much mental attention you put into consciously applying the right amount of gas, or how your hands turned the steering wheel. Now think about how you drive today with minimal attention to those details. It is the same with drumming. By continued playing, the details of the rhythm will become absorbed into your body so that you can play without much of your mental capacities being engaged. This is one of the key components to drumming for your own journeys. The relationship between my drum and myself is very close. When I drum for myself, my hands and mind know the beat as if by absolute magic! ;) If you are too far into your head, you may lose your ability to play straight from the heart. Play direct from your heart and spirit, you will find, as many in our drumming circles have experienced, you are not playing the drum, but your drum is playing through you. Trust me, when you get to that place, you will know it. It is the place where you truly feel connected and inspired.


The intention you hold in your mind as you drum is the single most important aspect when you are drumming in a healing or spiritual circle, far more important than musical technique or skill. In that scenario, the drum is the most important tool to transmit your intention vibrationally into the spiritual dimensions. Intention is also important when drumming in other drum circles that may be focused more on musical qualities. When you drum, try to focus on holding an intention of peace, love, and community to your fellow players. This will add to the richness of your experience immeasurably.

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Originally published at Shamans Way.