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Communication Through Call and Response Drumming

28th Oct 2014

Drums, like all musical instruments, are communication tools. Throughout history, drums have been used to “talk” to others, sometimes covering vast distances. Call and response is one of the most natural ways to use djembes, for example. Even in our modern times, this method has become one of the most helpful tools in drum facilitation. Whether used in drum circles or more structured therapeutic sessions, call and response methods enable drummers to practice two of the most important aspects of effective communication: self-expression and active listening.

In a call and response drumming situation, one drummer may begin the conversation by playing a simple beat. That serves as the “call”. In response, the other drummer or drummers repeat that beat on their own drums. When used this way, drummers are able to practice being in sync with one another, learn new beats and rhythms, and enjoy drumming together in a way that leaves no one behind. We all come to drumming with varying levels of experience. Call and response techniques, especially in group drumming situations, help to ensure everyone is on the same page and that a good time is had by all.

One of the reasons drums are so effective in boosting communication skills is because they require the drummer to listen as well as play. It is common for people to hear without listening. In drumming, an inability to listen is a liability. Fortunately, though, the same drumming that requires good listening skills can help improve any deficits in this area. The very act of drumming, especially when utilizing call and response methods, assists in the development of the necessary drumming skills.

Call and response has proven to be a wonderful unifying tool during drum circles and other group drumming sessions. Since one of the purposes of group drumming is to unify those present, it is helpful to use a method that fosters a sense of connection. There does not need to be a formal leader present to initiate the call, because anyone can step up to begin the conversation. And, what is true in speech is also true in drumming: you cannot talk and listen at the same time. Boundaries are naturally laid out when the call and response technique is utilized.

Whether a drumming session includes five hundred people or two, call and response is a great way to get all involved and onto the same wavelength. Drumming as a unifying device and communication tool has proven its effectiveness in relaxed, social settings as well as in more formal, therapeutic environments. Communication at its best is apparent in a well-led call and response session, leaving all the drummers revitalized and ready to take on the world.