What is a Drum Circle?

What is a drum circle?

A drum circle is a community function based on rhythm and dance. Many cultures throughout the planet have traditions that include drum circle activities. Each culture has drum circles that function differently for different purposes.

Ancient tribes used music to bring the members closer as a functioning group. The instruments they created mimicked the sounds of nature around them. Utilizing these sounds and placing them in rhythmic patterns created a communal effect that was advantageous to the group intent. Drum and dance celebrates harvest, weddings, and religious ceremonies since before written history.

 What instruments are used?

Do not let the name fool you! Drum Circle is the name given, but it allows all forms of musical instruments. It is the group intent that rules the ingredients. The African Djembe is the most common used among modern drum circles. The African Djun Djun, Japanese Taiko drums and the Native American Mother drum are present to keep the heartbeat strong and steady. The Agogo bell and Shakere can cut through the drums easily and set up layers of rhythms that compliment each other. Gongs and whistles add wonderful texture. According to the number of participants and their awareness, flutes and didgeridoos are beautiful additions. Any instrument can be used in a drum circle, but you must be aware of what you are expressing into the music.

Why is it a circle?

The circle formation allows everyone to participate at full potential. Most drum circles are set up just big enough for dancers to move about. The center ring grows in layers as more participants join. Normally you will observe the most confident players are seated in the center ring. Everyone in the center circle has the ability to have eye contact with others in the center. You can see others hands for gestures of where the rhythm is. In the circle you can observe all aspects of the musicians. If you get a group on one side that has locked together without the entire group, you will hear the effect in the music. Like a record on a record player, it wobbles! Of course you will hear different rhythms in different areas of the circle. It’s the “one” beat that counts! In the circle everyone has an equal chance to hear the one beat.

Drum Circle Etiquette

The Paralounge drum circle is a celebration of the human spirit with drum and dance. The Paralounge drum circle is for the entire family to experience the magic of drum and dance and become aware of the rhythm that surrounds us everywhere. Here are some guidelines to keep the drum circle functioning at its full potential.

  • Absolutely No Drugs!
  • No Glass. Put it in a cup. Some dancers have bare feet.
  • Ask permission before playing someone else’s instrument.
  • Only enter the center of the circle if you are dancing.
  • No Nudity.


Standing drummers play behind sitting drummers.

Be aware of your surroundings; don’t blow away the person behind you.

Drum circle enthusiast from around the world are attending the Paralounge Drum Gathering. The drum circle community in Florida has been growing for some time and each large city has developed a drum circle community and many of them have regular times and places where they celebrate drum circle weekly and monthly. The Paralounge Drum Gathering provides a focus for these communities to unite, network and inspire each other.

The Paralounge Drum Circle begins with hundreds of drummers! From the inner layer of drum circle superstars, to the outer layer of grinning faces and dancing feet they function as an organic circuit of musical expression. The Paralounge drum circle is not complete without a great fire in the center of the drum circle. The fire burns from dusk to dawn. As the numbers of participants get smaller as the night nears morning, the music gets more intimate and creative as the drummers get closer to the center and create the eye contact they need to function at full potential.

The loudest instrument

The ego is by far the loudest instrument in any drum circle. No matter what instrument you play, it is your ego that will play the loudest. Observe the drum circle make eye contact with everyone. Listen. The loudest drum has the most confidence! You will hear it every time. It may or may not be the heartbeat. When you hear the loudest drum, make a decision. Is that drum playing for their ego? Or is that drum playing for the group intent?

If the loudest drum is playing for their own ego, you can look and see they are oblivious to the group intent. They will not be paying attention to the dancers.  The drum circle is like a record player. If you get a group of friends on one side that lock together without the entire circle it creates a lopsided circle. People are playing but not locking in.

What every drum circle needs is a confident drummer that is self aware and knows how to play with the group intent. That drummer knows how to mark the one beat, makes it simple enough for the group to follow, but easily manipulated to add complex rhythms for the advanced players and is aware of that responsibility. Remember the most important player in the drum circle is the one that recognizes the one beat. Sometimes beginners feel overwhelmed by the more complex rhythms. The best thing to do is find the one beat and play it. The more people lock into the one beat, the more it will ground the entire circle and create a musical expression.

Everyone that has taken the time to learn the drum and play it correctly should understand the responsibility of that accomplishment. When you can take a large group of drummers and play them into that moment of bliss, you should!

That moment when the beginner feels that self empowerment of confidence, if you can bring them to that moment then you have found the true meaning of the drum circle.

Our blessings to you!