Therapeutic Drumming

Nursing Homes and Alzheimer and Dementia Residents

Drumming is becoming an important therapeutic tool.

In nursing homes, “drum circles” and other forms of music therapy help Alzheimer’s patients focus, if only temporarily. Drumming exercises greatly reduce stress, apparently by altering their brain-wave patterns. And listening to music with rhythmic cues improves motor coordination in stroke patients and in those with Parkinson’s disease, helping them walk up to 50 percent faster.

Residents with dementia who experienced a weekly rhythm circle, showed a significant improvement in concentration and focus. While each member bangs out numbers and shakes maracas to the tune of Yankee Doodle, some who seemed otherwise confused could nonetheless tap perfectly on cue. Alzheimer’s researchers report similar results: patients unable to speak who can sing childhood melodies; those barely able to walk who can dance a waltz. As yet, neuroscience has no sure explanation, but some experts think the brain’s receptors for music and rhythm are spared the early ravages of senility. And while no amount of drumming can cure the disease, it can improve the quality of life and offer another way for family members to communicate with their loved one.

Therapeutic Drum Circle for Dementia and Alzheimer residents is a 45 minutes long session.

The residents will be introducing to different kind of world instruments and the sound they produce. They will beat the drum, count beats, sing along and even dance and explore drumming techniques and exercise the brain with echo and follow along games.

The pounding sound of a drum is a constant reminder of our own heartbeat. Our heartbeats keep us alive and vital. When we drum, we keep the beat alive and vital.

Drum Therapy – Therapeutic effect

Drumming can also be very therapeutic in getting in touch with our inner selves.

The sound of the drum varies from a low, steady beat that creates calmness to a stronger fast beat that whisks us into a high energy level of action.

Drum therapy is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote healing, relieve stress and discover self-expression.

Therapeutic rhythm techniques are used to create and maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Current research indicates that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self.

Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations.

Study results demonstrate that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a wide range of physical disabilities.

Drumming stimulates deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. Stress, according to current medical research, contributes to nearly all disease and is a major cause of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes, and immune system breakdowns.

A recent study found that a program of group drumming helped reduce stress and employee turnover in the long-term care industry and may help other high-stress occupations as well.

Many individuals live with chronic pain that can have a progressively draining effect on the quality of their life. Researchers have suggested that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Drumming promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, which are the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, and can help in controlling pain.

Research has demonstrated that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain synchronizes the two cerebral hemispheres. The ability to access unconscious information through symbols and imagery facilitates psychological integration and a reintegration of self.

Drumming also synchronizes the frontal and lower areas of the brain, incorporating nonverbal information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex, producing “feelings of insight, understanding, integration, certainty, conviction, and truth, which exceeds ordinary understandings and tends to last long after the experience.

Drumming accesses the entire brain

Rhythm is such a powerful tool because it spreads through the entire brain. For example vision and speech are in different parts of the brain, but drumming accesses the whole brain. The sound of drumming produces dynamic neuronal connections in all parts of the brain even where there is significant damage or impairment such as in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). According to Michael Thaut, director of Colorado State University’s Center for Biomedical Research in Music, “Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, as with Parkinson’s patients…”

Drumming induces natural altered states of consciousness

Rhythmic drumming stimulates altered states, which have a wide range of therapeutic applications.

A recent study by Barry Quinn, Ph.D. shows that even a brief drumming session can double alpha brain wave activity, which drastically reduces stress. The brain changes from Beta waves which are focused concentration and activity to Alpha waves which are calm and relaxed; this produces feelings of euphoria and well-being.

Alpha activity is associated with meditation, shamanic trance, and integrative form of consciousness. Rhythmic stimulation is a simple but effective technique for affecting states of mind.

Drumming creates a sense of connectedness with self and others

In today’s busy society traditional family and community-based groups of support have become more separate, drum circles provide a sense of connectedness with others and interpersonal support. A drum circle provides an opportunity to connect not only with your own spirit at a deeper level, but also to connect with a group of other like minded people.

Drumming helps us to experience being in resonance with the natural rhythms of life

The origin of the word rhythm is Greek meaning “to flow.” We can learn “to flow” with the rhythms of life by simply learning to feel the beat, pulse, or groove while drumming. It is a way of bringing the essential self into accord with the flow of a dynamic, interrelated universe, helping us feel connected rather than isolated and estranged.

Drumming releases negative feelings, blockages, and emotional trauma

Drumming can help people express and address emotional issues. Unexpressed feelings and emotions can form energy blockages in the physical and emotional body. The physical stimulation of drumming removes blockages and produces emotional release. Sound vibrations resonate through every cell in the body, stimulating the release of negative cellular memories.

Drumming places one in the present moment

Drumming helps relieve stress that is created from focusing on the past or worrying about the future. When playing the drum, you are placed exactly in the here and now. One of the ironies of rhythm is that it has both the ability to move your awareness out of your body into a spiritual space and to ground you firmly in the present moment.

Drumming provides a medium for individual self-realization

Drumming helps reconnect us to our core, enhancing our sense of empowerment and stimulating our creative expression. Each person in a drum circle is expressing themselves through his or her drum and listening to the other drums at the same time. Each person’s sound is theirs individually and also an essential part of the whole. Each person can drum out their feelings without saying a word, without having to reveal their issues. Group drumming complements traditional talk therapy methods. It provides a means of exploring and developing the inner self. It serves as a vehicle for personal transformation, consciousness expansion, and community building.


I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, but most Alzheimer’s patients typically keep heir heads down. They sit, heads bowed, with little facial expression, and normally unaware or disinterested in external stimuli. So when we start our sessions we see their heads begin to raise, their eyes begin to move. They become aware of the instruments, of the group, of the facilitator.

Rhythm, even more than tone, reflects our earliest – actually prenatal – experience.

The first sounds we hear are those of the mother’s heartbeat when we are still in the womb. And when our mother holds us against her chest, and tenderly pats our back we can hear and feel the rhythmic pulse of her heart and hand. That beat can evoke the memory of a familiar, peaceful state. It can affect our emotions and the reactions of our muscles. It helps our body relax. It can create an emotion close to that of euphoria.

The act of drumming calls to mind that familiar rhythm.