Rhythm is the first thing we hear before we are born, the beating of our mother’s heart. Our whole nervous system is created around our pulse and from there rhythm is a basic need in everyone’s life.
We need it to cut with scissors, brush our teeth, for speech and language and to move in a coordinated way. More than just hands or sticks on an instrument, drumming taps into the primal sense and need for rhythm.
Self-regulation is our ability to manage in an appropriate way our reactions, emotions, and behavior. It also affects our ability to make friends, learn, and feel good about ourselves.
Better internalization of the steady beat leads to better self-regulation. You can’t make someone find the beat, but given repeated opportunities and working with rhythm, the brain and body work together to be able to internalize that process and match an external beat with the drum.
Those with good self-regulation have better problem-solving skills and more empathy toward other people.
Drumming in a group environment helps to develop this in additional ways to solo drumming.
2. Team Building
If you are part of a drumming circle, drumming group or Taiko drumming, it is great for team building. You have to work together as a group, listening to each other, pulling back or pushing ahead to keep perfectly in sync.
The synchronicity of group playing is empowering and makes you feel part of something as a whole. Rhythm is a universal language and for those who are more quiet in the group, it can become their voice. It can create a safe place to explore different perspectives in a way that nothing else can.
3. Impulse Control
Research has showed that people who consistently drum have better impulse control and enhanced neural tracking of the musical beat.
Rhythm, in particular, engages the motor and rewards circuitry in the brain.
The study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2018 found that the “development of rhythm skills strengthens inhibitory control in two ways: by fine-tuning motor networks through the precise coordination of movements “in time” and by activating reward-based mechanisms, such as predictive processing and conflict monitoring, which are involved in tracking temporal structure in music.”
In short, drummers and percussionists who consistently drum, have better impulse control.
Add to that the need for regular practicing, learning to stay on a task and see it through, and stop what you might want to be doing to achieve that, drummers are getting continual opportunities to further build more advanced impulse control.
4. The Ability to Stay on Task
You don’t learn to drum by doing it whenever you feel like it in short 5 minute sessions. The ability to continue to practice, learn and master new rhythms and become accomplished, relies on the ability to be able to stay on task and see an idea through.
Playing the drums and mastering the drums takes 100% focus and attention, repetition and consistency, all things required for staying on task.
5. Listening Skills
We have 13 auditory skills that are necessary for us to process and sound and our world. Learning to play the drums helps to develop several of them. Here are 3 of the main ones increased by drumming:
This skill enables us to know which sounds are loud and which ones are quiet. It also helps us to know if they are fast or slow.
There are 3 elements to this skill which are:
- Comparing and
- Distinguishing sounds
This is essential not only for drum playing but also for language. For example “three” and “free” are different but sound very similar. If you didn’t have good auditory discrimination you would not be able to tell the difference.
You might have 2 of the 3 elements, but that could still cause issues. For example: If you noticed that there were 8 beats in your rhythm you noticed that they were different but could not distinguish HOW they were different, you might end up playing them incorrectly.
Frequency perception is the ability to perform a frequency analysis; the ability to split sounds into various frequency bands. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz).
As we hear sounds it is flagged by segments found within the cochlea which relate directly to sections in the tonotopic map found in the auditory cortex part of the brain.
It is imperative that we develop the ability to store sounds systematically within the tonotopic map in their correct areas according to frequency (hertz). If we can’t do that, then the brain has no frame of reference for what it is hearing and struggles to formulate an appropriate response. This process is called Temporal coding.
If we were playing a djembe drum, for example, we would not be able to process the difference between the base (a strike in the middle of the drum) and a tone (a strike in the middle).
Learning to play the drum enhances this skill by fine tuning what we are hearing through repetition and consistency.
This is when we are able to analyze the timing and pattern of sounds. The ability to detect gaps is really important.
Music and Language have 3 main things in common:· Pitch· Timing and· Timbre which you will learn about in more detail in number 14 – increased language skills. Drummers are much more able to detect the timing of sounds in language and everyday life because they get so much practice at it.
6. Leadership Qualities
A paper by Ed Mikenas on drumming and leadership found that “Similar principles unconsciously understood in drumming are consciously demonstrated in leadership. Leadership is the ability to communicate a vision and mobilize the resources to make the vision manifest.”
Likewise, the drummer in a band is the one that provides the central role to keep everyone together and on the same page – they are the heart of the outfit.
Leaders place an emphasis on skill building and relationships. Drumming is all about building skills and its relationship with the rhythm, other drums (if in a drumming group) or others instruments in the band.
7. Internalize Steady Beat
To internalize steady beat, you have to be able to feel it with your body. Drumming is the perfect way to learn and reinforce this because it is a whole-body action.
The stick or hand strikes the drum, the reverberation is felt all the way up the arm (and in the same way with the feet and legs). If you play Taiko drums, it is felt through the entire body.
This steady beat is grounding, it speaks to our very soul. It is familiar and something we hear internally 24/7. As pre-born infants, we heard our mother’s heartbeat, now we can feel ours pulse through our entire body.
We gravitate towards steady beat and when our bodies feel that from an external source, it further helps us to internalize it.
This helps us move in a more coordinated way and helps with better impulse control and self-regulation.
8. Spatial Awareness
For drummers, their efficient performance depends mainly on the processing of spatial information. Where their feet are, where each hand is and what it is doing in relation to their bodies; all information that has to be gathered, correlated and coordinated together.
To create a performance that is both accurate and pleasing to listen to, this coordinated movement also requires temporal accuracy, which requires spatial awareness and attentional control.
A study found for drummers this intentional stimulus—response translations were faster than non-drummers.
9. Motor Skill Development
Learning to play the drums can be more difficult than other instruments because they have less time to enact motor decisions. With woodwind and string instruments, for example, the player interacts with the instrument for the entire length of the sound of a note. They can adjust their grip, change the way they are blowing or adjust the timbre of the sound with moving to a different position.
For a drummer, their interaction with the instrument is limited to a split millisecond, with whatever timbre they are trying to achieve being all over an done with in one strike.
This takes precise motor development and split-second decisions.
Some strokes are to rebound from the drumhead, others are to be more controlled and not allowed to rebound as much. Some strokes are loud, others soft. All of this takes advanced motor function and coordination of thought.
Additionally, drummers on a drum kit, have the coordination issues of hands (doing different things at the same time) and feet (also often doing different things at the same time) having to come together in split second timing to create the desired rhythm.
10. Reduce Stress
Music speaks to our emotions and is a form of self expression. If we are sad, we like to listen to sad songs, if we are happy we like happy music.
Playing the drums is a great way to destress. With the motor function of drumming, endorphins flood the brain and the emotional part of our brain is activated.
If we are frustrated, drumming is a great way to relieve stress. If we are lethargic, it is a great way to feel energized.
Playing the drums can play a very significant role in our health by helping to reduce stress.
11. Grow Your Brain
Neuroscience has come a long way in recent years in being able to test and see exactly what our brains are doing when we are involved with music. Listening to music creates a firework effect in the brain with it lighting up in all areas.
While listening to music has interesting effects on the brain, playing a musical instrument is the equivalent to a full body workout for the brain.
Various types of information are processed simultaneously in intricate and inter-related ways at an extremely fast pace.
Playing a musical instrument engaged many areas of the brain at once, in particular the visual, auditory and motor cortices. The repetition and structure of practice, strengthens those brain functions.
Apart from forming new neural wiring when new skills are acquired, both hemispheres of the brain learn to work together more effectively, allowing messages to pass from one hemisphere to the other more easily.
This translates to other areas such as better coordination, better communication, and better executive functions.
12. Increase Academic Performance
In addition to all the research already in existence, a new study done in 2020 and printed in the Journal of Educational Psychology, found that learning an instrument has “been shown to positively relate to a broad range of measures of academic-related cognitive, visual, and auditory competencies.”
Specifically, the study revealed that those high-school students who learned a musical instrument scored significantly higher on English, Math and Science exams than students who did not learn an instrument.
Because of the cross over in concepts such as size, length, duration etc, learning an instrument has been linked with a better understanding of English, Science and Math.
13. Increase Working Memory
Our brains can only cope with a certain number of pieces of information at a time. This number depends on age and personal ability. Let’s say that number is 12.
Once the brain has taken in 12 pieces of information, it is at full capacity and can’t take on board anything else. These circles represent 12 pieces of information.
But our brains have a clever mechanism in place in the way it can recognize patterns and group things together. In this way, 12 pieces of information now become 3 groups. Those 3 groups are seen as 3 pieces of information, leaving room for 9 more pieces of information for the brain to take on board.
Music is filled with patterns and musicians are very good at identifying, recognizing and grouping information together in order to cope with more information in their working memory.
Learning to play the drums gives you that ability and this skills translates to every area of processing information – not just music.
14. Increase Language Skills
It is well known that music and language have 3 things in common:
All 3 are vitally important to both music and language.
You might not think drums deal with pitch, but different drums sound different. A snare drum is higher, a bass drum is lower. So pitch is part of the process.
In language, we use pitch to know what type of sentence we are saying. A rising pitch at the end is a question, a lowered pitch is a statement.
|Sentence||What We Know From the Sound|
|Coming Soon?||Rising pitch at the end means a question|
|Coming Soon!||Falling pitch at the end means it is a statement|
Rhythm, of course, is paramount when learning to play drums and drummers have an excellent sense of rhythm and timing. Timing is essential for language because different letters having timing differences when we process the sound.
For example, there is a 40 millisecond (40,000ths of a second) difference between a “b” and a “d”. If we can’t process the timing differences (which are minute in language) we might swap a “b” for a “d” because we wouldn’t hear the difference in them.
Timbre is the color of sound. So a snare drum has a bright sound whereas a bass drum has a more muffled, dull sound. These differences are essential in language as well.
Some consonants are bright and others are dull. Take a “b” sound – it is bright sounding and is at the front of the mouth. A “g” sound in comparison, is dull and at the back of the throat. Our ability to process the differences in timbre allow us to acquire, read and understand language much more easily.
15. Cardiovascular Fitness
Drumming takes physical effort and depending on the type of drumming, not just with your hands. With a drumkit, the whole body is involved including core muscles, arms and legs.
Djembe drumming in a drumming circle takes a lot of physical effort and larger drums, such as Taiko drumming, takes the strength and physical nature that any athletic sport does.