BLOG: Is drumming good for you?

Published reports offer sound evidence

In a recent MusicRadar blog, we asked the question "Drummers, what are they for?" But another question might be, "Why do we drum in the first place?"

As previously stated, our timing isn't impeccable (and world-famous drummers such as Stewart Copeland have made nice livings for themselves even when saddled with less-than-accurate inner metronomes). But when faced with the empirical evidence that drumming might actually be good for us, the question turns around yet again: Why don't more people drum?

Let's look at some of the findings. Dr. Michael Drake has verified the therapeutic effects of rhythm techniques. According to Drake, drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self.

These benefits might be the result, Drake asserts, of the fact that drumming requires a player to focus deeply on practically each area of the body - as opposed to other instruments that might only need the mental and physical applications of the hands. In this way, a drummer may experience a distraction from pain and grief. Because the act of playing the drums promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates (the body's own morphine-like painkillers), a drummer is likely to relax naturally, and as a result, the blood pressure is lowered. The lowering of blood pressure then benefits pulmonary health: Heart attacks, strokes, immune system breakdowns - all dramatically affected by the act of drumming.

The healthful benefits to the immune system cannot be overstated. Dr. Barry Bittman, a renowned cancer expert, has determined that drumming actually increases cancer-killing cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as certain viruses, including AIDS.

Bittman's assertions were verified several years ago by BBC News. In a published article, the BBC noted the positive effects of drumming in the office of all places. During a study, participants - staff at a Pennsylvania nursing home - took part in six weekly group drumming sessions. At the end of the study, the participants' moods were improved by 50%, with marked decreases in feelings of fatigue and depression. In addition, there were 49 fewer employee resignations than during the same time period a year earlier. Margaret Bailey, a colleague of Dr. Bittman at the Mind-Body Wellness Centre, noted that drumming created a "connectiveness and energy within the group."

In other words, if you want a happier workplace, hand your employees some sticks. Or some bongos. Anything will do - as long as you can bang on it. (Makes me think, Wow, the Gretsch factory must be one sunny joint - all those smiling workers pounding away all day.)

The doctors' findings are not entirely surprising, however, for drummers, perhaps intuitively, have long known that the lure of the kit goes far beyond the act of simply making music. Our passion for playing the drums is buried in the thicket of our senses, making the act itself a physical and mental necessity. On days when we drum, all is somehow right in the world. When we don't, everything is off - our surroundings, our friends and family, and especially ourselves. To this day, when my wife asks me why I drum so much (and in her defense, I admit that I don't always pick the optimal of times), I can only answer "because I have to," and hope she understands.

Now I can present her with a different response: because it's good for me.

By Joe Bosso


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