Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tell It Like It Is: Expression Through Drumming

This is one of the great classic songs of the early rock and roll period!  Originally sung by Percy Sledge, I used this song as an introduction to a very successful drumming activity.  I started by playing the song for a group of in-patient psychiatric consumers who all seemed to recognize the song and enjoy listening.

The song served well as a transition to a discussion about sharing feelings, but when I proposed that we try and share feelings through drumming, they were very skeptical!  I told them that I would pass around a drum (a 12" tubano) and each person would express an assigned emotion through playing on the drum. (I love Remo drums and especially tubanos!)

Before we started the drumming I gave them all a quick drum lesson about how to hold the drum and play several different sounds.  A tubano drum has a low and a high sound depending on where you hit it on the drumhead.  I also demonstrated how to "bounce" off the drum like it is a "hot" surface or play the drum with a flat hand that remains on the surface without bouncing off.  (You can achieve the classic drumbeat for the song "We Will Rock You!" by using these  concepts.)  It was important for the individuals to understand that you can make all kinds of different sounds and play with different styles so that they could be successful during the activity.

I gave each participant cards printed with different emotions.  My list included things like sad, happy, mad, upset, shy, scared, tired, excited and even sorry (this one was pretty hard to guess!).  Each person was instructed to try and play the emotion while the rest of the group tried to guess the emotion word.  Sometimes the group was able to guess immediately!  This really helped them to feel more confident in their drumming and participation.  We were also able to have a good discussion about all the nonverbal cues provided by the drummer that helped convey the emotion.  I think the consumers left the group with a sense of how powerful nonverbal communication can be when expressing emotions or any other information.  This was a fun group!  

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