Drum circles, how do you do them well?

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I went to the DC Meridian Hill drum jam this weekend. It was on my bucket list of things to do, and I'm glad I did. I am definitely going back.

I wonder if there are any tips for doing them well. The Meridian Hill jam was enormous, it was roughly divided into two groups. An Cuban/Salsa group playing traditional parts, mostly congas. Then a later group in a different part of the park that had the louder samba type marching bass drums.

I wonder if there is some specific etiquette to keep things pleasant and enjoyable. I didn't know what to expect, so I brought my frame drum, which the traditional group seem to appreciate, as long as I didn't drift, and minded my dynamics. I found myself also playing the breaks to get things going, either by tapping time with my hand then playing clave on the rim, or calling it with a whistle, similar to a timbalero. Though, when actual timbales showed up, I saw most of the congaceros hit the road.

The later group was cool, marching bass drums, and sounded samba-ee, my whistle, cuica, tamborim fit in surprisingly well, but I didn't hear much in the way of organization. Not enough kapick's to call the breaks I think.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
Personally, if the circle is too big, it's going to be bland and maybe boring. If you have fewer players, I think it's easier for a leader to emerge. If there are decent percussionists playing. Sometimes a circle is just a bunch of people who "think" they can play drums--and the easiest way to join in with others is in a circle. Doesn't always sound good either. Keep it small, change who leads/starts. It's been 20 years since I sat in a circle. I wish my hands could handle it these days.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Personally, if the circle is too big, it's going to be bland and maybe boring. If you have fewer players, I think it's easier for a leader to emerge. If there are decent percussionists playing. Sometimes a circle is just a bunch of people who "think" they can play drums--and the easiest way to join in with others is in a circle. Doesn't always sound good either. Keep it small, change who leads/starts. It's been 20 years since I sat in a circle. I wish my hands could handle it these days.
Yeah, its been maybe 15 years for me. I also am avoiding playing with hands, just doesn't help keyboard skills. II was thinking about taking the trumpet, and playing some heads to tunes like Afro Blue and Oye Como Va, maybe Watermelon Man, or So Nice etc, to help get things going.
 
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