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Pulse and Balance


Pulse and Balance

Matthew Staples

by Matthew Staples

A drum circle is fundamentally a listening exercise.

As the drummers play together, a pulse emerges, a pattern that they are all following. Once this pulse has been established, things get interesting. Some drummers will want to build on the pulse, playing around or in answer to what they hear, which eventually shifts the pulse to something new, maybe something exciting. Others prefer to rest in the foundation of the established pulse.

The thing is, an effective drum circle needs both—in fact it thrives off of the dialogue between where we are and where we are going. If everyone stays with the pulse, the drum circle becomes repetitive and stagnant. But if everyone tries to push ahead, the group loses clarity and becomes chaotic. The power of the drum circle's sound is in the common beat that grounds it. It only works if we all enter in with what we have and contribute as we can.

It requires balance.

The pulse will naturally shift into something we haven't done before. When this happens, it feels like a natural outgrowth of the pulse—where the pulse has been trying to go—not something we need to fight. But we must also note and accept that the direction we want to take the pulse may not be what the group needs.

Be willing to consider others' musical ideas before your own. This is what makes drum circles so interesting. They combine self-expression and selflessness.

We each contribute what we have, but that's not what we’re here to do. We’re here to listen.