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The Mind-Altering Power of Drums

Updated on March 31, 2012

by Christine B.

Drums have a long history of creating music that can inspire humans to dance. Natives have used drumming as a means of communication. The sound of a steady repetitive drum rhythm of about 4 to 5 beats per second has also been known to act as a trigger that can bring about trances and altered states of mind.

A study done by Symmons and Morris in 1967 reported that the frequencies of such a drum beat corresponds to theta driven activities within the brain; and these also can facilitate visionary and vivid imagery, altered states of consciousness and, on occasion, paranormal experiences. American Indians were often able to reach these altered states where they reportedly could speak to spirits to gain knowledge regarding future events, medical plant use for injuries, and food sources. Members of the tribe who were able to reach these trance states were often called Shaman. While in this drum rhythm induced state the Shaman seem awake and alert, and are even able to move around between the normal and paranormal realities.

An intense study was conducted by Anette Kjellgren and Anders Eriksson from the University of Karlstad in Karlstad, Sweden. They named their study, “Altered States During Shamanic Drumming: A Phenomenological Study.” This study concluded that rhythmic drumming can and does on occasion bring on ACS in not only the drummers but also people listening to the drumming.

Altered states of consciousness, (ACS) has been defined as a mental state where a person is able to connect on a higher level than normal, everyday consciousness. ACS can be achieved by other methods as well, like meditation, intense prayer, drug use, sensory overload, distance running, etc.

Modern-day drum circles have been popular for years. Michael Harner wrote a book, “The Way of the Shaman,” in 1990 which promoted the drum circle movement. The concept is for a group of people to gather together and perform continuous, monotonous drumming to facilitate ACS. It is meant to be a physical and mental healing exercise along with being a social encounter. In many other scientific studies, drumming has been found to facilitate a mood change, visual imagery, and self-healing.

The studies don’t matter much to drum circle enthusiasts…They attend drum circle meetings because they enjoy drumming and for the social interaction. Many come away with much more than just that, however.


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    • Christine B. profile image

      Christine B. 5 years ago from Medina, Ohio

      Thanks for dropping by Ruby and Fennelseed, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope you have time to read more of my "musings."

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Drumming does a body good. A Very interesting Hub, thank you!

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 5 years ago from Australia

      I didn't know about drumming being a pathway to ACS, but I can see how this is possible. I am also fascinated by the speed, repetition and endurance a drummer displays, maybe the drummers movements becomes even more fliud in an altered state. Very intersting hub, thank you for sharing.