Drum Circle

Indoor Drum Circles Can be LOUD!

Can Group Drumming Cause Harm?

Most of us prefer to focus on the many benefits of drumming, things like improvements in coordination, timing, listening, attention, focus, achievement, socializing, creativity, expression, artistry, and many more. Most of the time, we’re either drumming alone or in small ensembles of a few people.

With the rise of large-format drumming, such as drum circles and guided interactive drumming events, there is an increased chance that the volume levels produced might reach a point where they are classified as ‘dangerous’ or ‘damaging.’

I was recently giving a music workshop in China where one of my goals was to demonstrate a few of the common community drumming types. Participants experienced  Drum Play, Drum Ensembles, Guided Interactive Drumming, Drum-A-Longs, and Facilitated and Non-Facilitated Drum Circles.

When we got to the Drum Circle part of the training, something struck me. (No, it wasn’t a drum stick) The volume level seemed to jump up to a point where I was feeling it in my body. I could suddenly feel the sound pressure and my ears felt like they were under a new kind of stress. It was a noticeable difference. Maybe it was due to the 50 participants freely playing as if there was no tomorrow. They were excited and many of them were not trained drummers, so perhaps they lacked the skills to play in a way that would keep the volume down

Drum Circle Db

Ouch! That’s too loud.

I whipped out my iPhone and opened up my Decibel App to measure the volume. Much to my surprise, the volume was at 96 dB. No wonder I was feeling it in my body. According to some sources, sounds at 96 dB can cause hearing damage after only 30 minutes. See this article at DangerousDecibels.com.

If drumming is to be therapeutic, then it needs to also be such that it does not cause hearing damage. Sometimes loud sounds add to the excitement of an experience, such as when watching fireworks, a sporting event, or certain types of live music, but we can’t claim benefits in one area if we’re causing harm in another. What can we do?





We can make sure that we keep the volume at healthful levels by:

  • Facilitating specific TYPES of drumming that do not result in super high volume levels, such as rhythmic games, drum play, drum-a-long, and drum ensembles.
  • Reducing the number of “outdoor” instruments, such as bass drums, djembes, cowbells, woodblocks, etc.
  • Giving participants smaller sticks and mallets to use.
  • Taking turns playing.
  • Reminding people to play at lower levels (listen harder than you play).
  • Modifying instruments to produce lower volume levels, such as placing a cloth over loud drums and taping up bells.

How have you made sure that your drumming events don’t get out of control with regard to volume?

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