Sunday, January 07, 2007

Drum Circle

Here's what I learned at yesterday's inaugural drum circle.

First, it is not helpful to have a Yamaha drum machine along with all the traditional technology. The Yammy is filled with riffs and fills that, if selected by a curious operator fiddling with the selections as he plays, totally mess up the flow and change the mood, and not for the better. I eventually had to ask Chris (who was using the drum machine) to use his powers for good.

Someone needs to get each rhythm segment started. It's hard to know when to fade into the background when there are relatively few drummers around, though, because if everyone is following the leader then they all want to fade into the background too.

Claves are good leadership instruments because the sharp tap-tap sounds cut through everything. So is a big conga, or a big plastic tub thumped with a stick, because the sounds don't blend that well.

People seem to prefer playing skinned drums with their fingertips. This makes sense - lots of dexterity with only small muscles involved, and the drum amplifies the fingertip impact.

We hit a couple of moments when the beat took over. One woman said she "felt like howling" at one point. Bless her.

Less than a third of the gathered throng was interested in the drum circle. The rest stayed upstairs.

Lastly, and this may be obvious, but not everyone has a steady sense of rhythm. But everyone can participate and enjoy as long as the worst rhythm isn't coming from the most audible instruments.

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