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Drumming: The Art of Living

Article by Jayson Brinkworth // September 02 2009
Drumming: The Art of Living

This month I want to touch on the “real” meaning behind drumming. I know a lot of us started playing with a specific goal in mind– play in a band, meet girls, money (not) or many other reasons. We all just want to experience playing music and communicating on a different level.

But what about those people who have no desire to play in a band and want to play drums for a totally different reason? Believe it or not, there is a very high percentage of people who use the drum for many other purposes than jamming along to their favorite songs.

Years ago when I realized this, I had a real hard time wrapping my head around the concept. People want to play but not learn all of the complicated stickings and rhythms they can? They don’t want to play along with Rush or AC/DC? Well I soon realized that in my narrow-minded thinking I was missing the true spirit of this instrument. The drum is the communicator, and in Africa it is used as such. If tribes were to send a message to a neighboring tribe, it would be played on the drum. I don’t imagine there was anyone in the tribe who was wanting to hear a 7 over 4 polyrhythm in 13/8 time. The pulse needed to be clear and convey the emotion of the message.

As I have stated before in past articles, clarity is everything in playing music, and most times playing this way involves less notes. Also most of the drumming referred to in this article is based on hand drumming and instruments such as djembes, congas, bells, etc. Let’s look at a few ways the drum can be a helpful tool in our everyday lives.


Many drummers tend to forget that drumming is a very physical activity. It is also a very stimulating activity for our mind as well. I believe that drumming is truly one of the few activities that stimulates the mind and body simultaneously. This being said, there are many health benefits related to this wonderful instrument we play.

I was given a fantastic book from one of my students last year that I am really finding inspirational as I read. It is called The Healing Power of the Drum by Robert Lawrence Friedman. In this resource he explores how drumming is used to aid Alzheimer patients in focus and interaction and cancer patients in dealing with their illness and recovery. He also has great stories and research done on drumming to help with addictions, disabilities, stress management and many other subjects.

This type of research has been ongoing for sometime now, and the data they have compiled is quite astounding. Another friend of mine who runs a great drum circle here has done workshops and drumming events in senior care homes, rehabilitation centers and other locations that are not your typical drumming atmospheres. The reaction and response she gets from the people involved is not short of amazing, and I am sure that the 85 year old woman in a wheelchair playing a shaker could care less about playing YYZ, but feels just as powerful as the 15 year old who can.


It is very safe to say that everyone wants to be happy in their lives. It is also safe to say that life will hand us many situations that will try and prevent this. I have seen friends turn to drugs and alcohol to help cope with family illness, tragedy and other very tough situations.

Music, specifically the act of drumming, can be a very good healer to our minds in these trying times. I recall a personal situation where drumming was my saving grace at such a time. It was the fall of 2000 and my first marriage had just fallen apart. I moved out of the house in November. Around this same time, my grandmother, who I was quite close to all my life, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was becoming quite ill. Unfortunately she passed away shortly thereafter, and I was having a very tough time with all of this going on around me.

I quickly discovered that music was going to be the only thing that would help me through this. I listened to the lyrics and rhythm with more attention than I ever had before. I also had a teaching space that allowed me to play anytime of day. I remember many times when I would wrap up a night of teaching and be extremely tired and have my mind wander. I would think about my grandma and my kids and get very sad. Luckily I could sit at the drums and start playing whatever I was feeling at the time, sometimes slow, sometimes sticks would get broken, but I made sure I always laid my emotions on the line. There were nights when I would leave the space at 5 or 6 in the morning because I was totally lost physically and mentally and healed a little bit of myself through the drum.

There are many other situations that the drum is used as a healing tool for depression, high stress occupations, war veterans and even inmates in prison. The act of drumming is a bit like meditation and can shut our mind off from the outside world. And we all need that once in a while.


In regards to the origin of the drum, you will moreoften read that it evolved in community events in early African villages. The drum has the power to bring people of different cultures, beliefs, languages and ages together. It seems that if the world was one big drum circle, it would be a much happier place. Instead of the old saying, “Have a coke and a smile,” it should be, “Have a drum and a smile,” because drumming is an extremely joyous activity.

One thing I have found is that there is still a gap between the drumset players and the hand drum/world/drum circle communities. Something the kit players keep forgetting is that the traditional hand drums, like djembes and congas, have been around a lot longer than the drumset. The drumset is based on those instruments and not the other way around— please don’t forget this.

I have an event coming up this month that I am hoping breaks down some of the misconceptions between the types of drummers, making everyone “drummers.”

With the help of a few friends, I am putting together a halftime show for a professional football game. The game is sold out and attendance will be around 30,000 plus, so the pressure is on. I am putting together 70 drummers from our community for this event. Some drum on a professional level, some play casually, some play once in a while and some might have their first drumming experience at this event. It is involving drumset players and hand drummers with more of a world drumming approach.

This event will be a blast as I know everyone will commit 100% to the task at hand– rocking that football stadium on that day! The rhythms are not fast or complicated at all, but we will experience a true community and team effort through this event.

Drum circles around the globe bring people together to share their love of rhythm and music, but most importantly, it brings people together. 

I challenge all of you players out there to explore new areas of percussion that you have maybe missed or been overlooking. Set aside your thoughts on playing and try to view the drum from a position of health, happiness or community. I guarantee you will find yourself getting way more out of your drumming than you had ever imagined.



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About the Author
Jayson  Brinkworth

Jayson Brinkworth is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, vocalist, educator and writer based out of Canada. He is co-owner of the Saskatchewan music school Music In The House, as well as the founder of both the Regina Drum Festival and The Stickman Drum Experience.

Jayson proudly endorses Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans heads, Impact cases, Kickport, Flix, Future Sonics and Mountain Rhythm. Visit Jayson online at www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.

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