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The Drum Garden

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This page is updated per questions asked at all our Earth Rhythm Wellness Workshops!

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Group on Drums
PercussonGallery

Section 1. Instruments & Gear Info Gallery

Instruments which are likely to be seen and heard at drum circles (world percussion) and some other neat community interests will be added to this gallery from time to time. Click an image, then click it again to read more about it.

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Section 2. Drum Garden Rhythm & Percussion Playlist

PercussCuriousMinds

Section 3. Percussion: for Curious Minds

Are you feeling confused about percussion and wondering why some instruments are considered percussion? No worries.

This section should give you some basic, introductory knowledge. Instruments and their categories are quite intertwined.

But remember - all that really matters is finding what you like, practicing, and enjoying it!

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To Percuss

To percuss (as a verb) can mean to gently tap, to tap sharply, to strike, to hit, to scrape, to knock, to shake, or to cause to shake or vibrate, etc. Technically, if you tap on a guitar string with your thumb, you are using percussion, even though guitars are string instruments - first. Cooking pots and utensils are not intended to be used for percussion either, yet you are making percussion when you stir inside a pot and hit the sides with your wooden spoon. If you blow on some small chimes which are hanging in your window, and you cause them to bump into each other, you are also playing percussion as if it is a wind instrument!

 

Top 3 Instrument Categories: Percussion, String, and Wind

There are three, top categories of musical instruments which are percussion, string, and wind. Drums and xylophones are examples of percussion, flutes and didgeridoos are examples of wind, and guitars and pianos are examples of strings, but piano also falls into the percussion category because of striking the keys. If you strum your guitar and also tap a rhythm on the side of it, you are using the guitar as both a string and percussion instrument. What something is intended for and how you use it can be two different things and/or they can occur simultaneously. But there are specific instruments which are "intended to be used - as percussion."

Next, we will consider this top-category-percussion only, and we'll divide it into two smaller categories.

 

Top 2 Percussion Categories: Pitched and Unpitched 

The two top categories of percussion are "pitched" and "unpitched." The reason why a melodic and harmonious instrument such as the steel tongue drum (seen and heard in the gallery above) causes confusion for some people is because it is pitched. Each tongue produces a specific note when struck, and it is designed to do so and to have a place among the other notes on the drum. If someone said, "Give me a C," you would be able to strike the tongue that produces the C note. On the other hand, djembe drums are not pitched. Most drums can be tuned, and higher or lower pitch can be achieved. But they are not created to produce a sound that is on a specific scale. If a bunch of djembe drummers got together with the purpose of getting all their drums to sound exactly the same on a digital tuner, it might not be possible because all the drums have an indefinite pitch and various skins (or drumheads) - and they are made with various materials and thicknesses.  But if a bunch of people with the same size steel tongue drums and the same mallets got together, they may find that everyone's C note sounds the same - or super close so long as no one's drum is dented and no tongues are bent or damaged.

Now let's smoosh pitched and unpitched percussion back together again as "top percussion," and break down all percussion into smaller categories. Just like there are potatoes that are good for roasting, and some that are good for frying, and some that taste great mashed, yet they are all potatoes... percussion simply has types.

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Classifications & Sub-classifications of Percussion in General

First, instruments are sometimes classified differently according to the capacity in which they will be used. For instance, if I hold a drum circle, and I want people to know to bring drums "only," I may say, "No wind and no stringed instruments." But if the conductor of an orchestra is talking to her orchestra, she may address the wind sections as the brass section and the woodwind section because there is a need to differentiate between the two. Percussion classifications are also sometimes different - according to purpose and use.

 

Below is what might generally be known as the percussion classifications - with a few examples.

Idiophones produce a sound that resonates throughout the whole body of the instrument. A few examples are chimes, singing bowls, hi-hats, cajons, and cowbell.

     Sub-classifications or types of idiophones: concussion, friction, percussion, plucked, scraped, shaken, stamped

     Examples: Singing bowls are classified as friction idiophones, and chimes are percussion idophones.

     (A singing bowl is featured in the Instruments and Gear Gallery.)

 

Membranophones produce sound when the "membrane" is struck. A membrane is a thin tissue, or lining, or sheet. In percussion terms, it is also usually stretched before being applied, it can often be adjusted or "tuned." With only some exceptions, most drums are membranophones. (Imagine somebody asking you if you'd like to go to a struck-membranophone circle instead of a drum circle!)

     Sub-classifications or types of membranophones: struck, plucked, friction, singing, other

     Examples: A kazoo is a small instrument that you blow into, and the membrane inside vibrates.

     A kazoo is a singing membranophone. A djembe drum is a struck membranophone.

If you ever had a whistle that rattled when you shook it, then you know what it's like to play an aerophone. Aerophones are wind instruments (thus the aero) which also include a percussive quality, such as the little ball that percusses by smacking into the walls of the whistle when you blow into a whistle. It also causes the air to get funneled between the ball and wall. The udu drum, shaped similar to a vase (and meaning vessel), featuring an opening in it's side, originated in Nigeria, and is also considered an aerophone.

     Sub-classifications or types of aerophones: whistles, blowholes, cup mouthpieces, reeds, organs, and free

     Examples: If you blow on chimes in the open air, you are creating a "free aerophone" - with breath and chimes.

     A flute is an example of a blowhole as the air is blown across the hole rather than directly into a mouthpiece,

     and the whole instrument vibrates (makes sound).

Chordophones are (mostly) stringed instruments which also get struck, such as a piano in which the strings resonate by first having their keys struck. Known as an early version of the piano, the hammered dulcimer (not to be confused with a regular dulcimer or zither) is also a chordophone, producing sound from strings which are first struck with special hammers. Those hammers are similar to piano hammers which are inside the piano.(That's why it is a "hammered" dulcimer.)

     Sub-classifications or types of chordophones: zithers, harps, lutes, musical bows, lyres

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Note: You are not confused. If you are scratching your head right now, it may be because of all the cross-categories. For instance, a guitar is a plucked string instrument, and it is a chordophone, which is percussion. Although strings are a category of their own and are separated from percussion and wind at the top of the category pyramid, strings also have a place in the subcategory of percussion instruments as do wind instruments! 

 

It's a good thing that you can just figure out what you like and play it, right? :)

RhythmPineapple

Section 4. About Rhythm:

Pattern and Speed, and a Block of Time (or Tempo)

Your heart has a rhythm. Most of the time, your heart beats in the same pattern over and over when you are resting, and it beats in a faster pattern, when you are exercising.

In music, the speed of the music within a specific amount of time is called the tempo.

To "keep a rhythm" or to keep playing a rhythm on a percussion instrument, you would need to play the same pattern again and again and in the same amount of time - at the same speed, so that other players can trust it and play along without wondering what to do next. But you can also play more beats within that rhythm, and that's where a lot of the creative fun comes in!

"Pineapple"

Listen to the rhythm of pine-apple, pine-apple, ap-ple, pine-apple:

"Pineapple Plus"

Listen to the same rhythm, but with additional beats added - within the rhythm:

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People Playing Djembe

Section 5. Getting Ready for Your First Drum Circle 

Don't panic. Drum circles should be stress-free, and I'm sure you'll find that experienced people are very helpful! If you've never been to one, however, you probably have some questions. Maybe this can help...
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Download Drum Circle Etiquette PDF

There's a good chance that you don't need to bring anything to your first drum circle, other than a chair perhaps. Every circle is different. My advice is to contact the organizer. Tell the organizer that you plan to visit for the first time, and ask what you should or can bring. (The photo gallery in the next section can give you some ideas.)

Often, public drum circle facilitators will provide some share drums and percussion which you may borrow and use while at the circle.

It is a good idea to bring bottled water and a chair if the event will be outdoors. 

If you have some of your own percussion or other musical instruments, you can ask the facilitator if your instruments are a good fit for the circle. Depending on the size and location of the circle, some instruments may overpower the rest. If that happens, it may be hard for players to hear themselves and their neighbors. So don't hesitate to ask!

There exists drum circle etiquette. Once you experience a few circles, the etiquette should become common sense to you, and you probably will not need to think about it anymore.

One big etiquette to know is to not wear rings. If someone asked to use your personal drum and wore rings while drumming on it, they could destroy the drum head, costing you lots of dollars! So, it is a good idea not to wear rings - especially if you will be borrowing a share-drum.

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Tip: To find public drum circles, try searching on FB!

Circles are everywhere around the world, and many are in your area!

Don't forget that our Earth Rhythm Wellness & Percussion Workshops often include drums!

First Drum Circle
Bongos

Section 6. Learn About Buying Instruments, and Popular Brands

Earth Intern does not sell instruments, and the following resources are not affiliated with nor endorsed by Earth Intern, though we have used and do use some of them. It is not uncommon to use more than one resource when you're really into music!  After a while, you get the feel of who carries what.

The list below is here in answer to some questions that come up in our Earth Rhythm Wellness Workshops. It is not comprehensive! But it's a start.

Tip: Thoroughly explore a company or source and check reviews before you purchase from them. Reputable companies, sellers, and crafts people care about protecting their reputations.

Tip: Learn all about an instrument before buying it: how to store it and what temperature it likes, how to carry or transport it, if it will need to be tuned and how to do it or what it will cost, if parts need to eventually be replaced, and more.

Tip: When searching inventory for common instruments used in drum circles or for meditation, search under the  "world percussion" category first!

About Buying

Crafts People, Makers, Drum Makers, Powwows, etc.
If you follow drum circle communities on social media, you will surely find makers of drums and percussion near you. They probably really care about their product and need to be known for a good product! Drum making / instrument making is a very spiritual act to a lot of people. It should be easy to see what their customers have to say. Check them out. Keep in mind that the cost is going to be much higher than a mass produced product, but you will likely be purchasing a very well-made, quality product. (You may find their products at local festivals. And other great resources for wind instruments, shakers, percussion, and drum-making supplies are powwows! Try searching "powwow near me" especially before the weather gets warm, so you know when to get tickets.)

Your Local Consignment Shops and Pawn Shops
You can always try finding instruments at these. Keep in mind that store owners cater to what most of their local clientele would buy. So, you might need to explore out of town if their clientele likes pocket books and jewelry more than musical instruments. I can't recommend buying used drums until you really know how to spot drum issues -or- you're up for a learning experience.  But you may find other gear, carrying cases, parts, and small percussion instruments as well as all kinds of other instruments there too.








Used & Online
You can buy used instruments online. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. I'll be frank - it's a risk.  (I bough some bongos that pretty much crumbled into dust, and I bought a djembe that needed repairs that I wasn't willing to pay for!) A good idea is to learn a lot about the instrument that you intend to purchase and know what to look for, what issues to look for in the used version, and what to ask the seller. (Some reputable sellers of new instruments offer a used stock as well, and the criteria to sell used instruments is strict. But please don't buy drums from online thrift stores.) There are usually plenty of videos on YouTube to help you understand what to look for! But if you can't examine it (and smell it) in person, you're still taking a risk. Still, that rare and amazing find is fun when it happens! Your best bet is to buy (new or used) from a reputable seller.

Note About Online Sellers: Here are a few tried and true sellers, and special interest sellers to explore if you're just getting started. Know that not all sellers may sell every popular brand, so if there's a brand that you like, scroll to the brands below and look at their online sellers lists!

Sweetwater Sound  (since 1979)  https://www.sweetwater.com
Note: Many of my workshop participants live in apartments. I tell them that Sweetwater offers shipping to an alternate (FedEx) location, and other cool stuff. Good to know in case you don't want your new gear sitting outside in a semi-public place after delivery. 

Guitar Center (since 1959 / First founded as The Organ Center) https://www.guitarcenter.com
Note: Contrary to it's name, it's not only about guitars.

West Music (since 1941 / First founded as Peterson-West Music) https://www.westmusic.com

Steve Weiss Music (since 1961) https://www.steveweissmusic.com

Music & Arts (since 1952) https://www.musicarts.com
Note: Several Physical Store Locations in NJ, and also Online

Elderly Instruments (since 1972) https://www.elderly.com
Note: No, these are not instruments specifically made for the elderly, lol. They have new, used, and vinatage  instruments.

X8 Drums (since 2007) https://www.x8drums.com​

Wula Drum (see below)
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Some Popular and Reputable Brands

Note: The following brands are "just some" that are popular at drum circles.

Note: Most brands do not sell from their own site, and they instead provide a distributor's list. Check the list to see where you can buy their products, and learn what you can at the brand's site. (No matter how great your favorite distributor may be, not all online stores carry "all" the brands!)

Remo (since 1957)    https://remo.com

I can't tell you how many times I've heard somebody say, "Don't worry - it's a Remo. Remo parts (especially drum heads/skins) are often a part of of other manufacturers' products.

Meinl (since 1951)    https://meinlpercussion.com/en/home

Note: Access all of Meinl's brands from here.

LP / aka Latin Percussion (since 1964)   https://www.lpmusic.com

Toca Percussion (since 1993)   https://tocapercussion.com

X8 Drums (since 2007) https://www.x8drums.com

Pearl Drums (since  1946)   https://pearldrum.com/en

Wula Drum (since 2006) https://wuladrum.com

Note: High quality and *heavy* authentic wood djembes, and more. (These are not lightweight travel drums.)

Note: To find other popular brands (there are a lot), you can "search by brand" at online stores, and a list of all the brands from which to choose will come up!

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BenefitsOfDrumming

Section 7. Benefits of Drumming & Rhythm
Unaffiliated Links/Articles and Resources of Interest

How Learning to Drum Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing
by Jim Donovan (Jim Donovan Training Programs)

https://www.jimdonovantrainings.com/blog/how-learning-to-drum-can-improve-your-health-and-wellbeing

You can explore Rhythm, and Percussion, and Drumming until your heart is content at the site below. Here is just one link.
Article "Promoting well-being through group drumming with mental health service users and their carers" on NCBI / National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041820/ 

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