Drumming For Health & Well Being

Drumming affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in profoundly uplifting ways. This is why people all over the earth have drummed in some manner throughout history.

In the past few years, studies conducted in hospitals and universities (some commissioned by the U.S. Senate and the Veterans Administration!) have documented the health and healing aspects of drumming. Playing drums, whether solo or with a group of people, relieves stress, increases vitality and puts us in the transcendent state of clarity and heightened awareness that psychologist Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow, and that athletes refer to as The Zone,  Drummers call this state the Groove.

In fact, drumming is very much like athletics in that in both of these activities we practice movements over and over until they become effortless, powerful and intuitive. In drumming, these movements results in patterns of sounds, that is, rhythms. This repetitive movement and sound relaxes our conscious minds and allows the subconscious mind to guide our movements spontaneously, unencumbered by the conscious mind’s tendency to analyze and control our movements.

One result of this state is the release of stress. Our modern culture is full of many minor, and some not so minor, fears, frustrations and angers. From the inconsiderate drivers who annoy us, or put our lives at risk, on on the highway, to the possibility of being “downsized” out of a job.  We are bombarded by a constant barrage of “fight or flight” stimuli. Our evolution has provided us with the ability to deal with the major, life-threatening conflicts found in nature by putting ourselves through mental and physiological changes that give us short bursts of super-charged energy.

Unfortunately, the constant stream of stresses in today’s modern world leaves us in an almost continuous low-level state of stress. This state saps our energy and self-healing reserves and leaves us vulnerable to physical and mental unwell-being. Drumming, by putting us in an alert, relaxed and powerful state, counteracts this state of fear and anger.

Drumming also gives us physical vitality because it is also a very physical activity. It gets our hearts pounding and our blood flowing. It is a great way to use our bodies, to simply work up a sweat!  Our bodies need, and love, to be used. When we use our bodies properly (relaxing, breathing with the diaphragm, using efficient, natural movements) we are rewarded with increased stamina, strength and flexibility.

Finally, drumming is fun! It’s a great way to feel the pure joy of being alive! Drumming by ourselves allows us to go deeply into our true natures by eliminating distractions and societal constraints. Drumming with other is a universally time-honored way to create a feeling of community and trust. Drumming is simply one of life’s many great gifts!

The Four P’s Of Practicing

Practice is both a verb, to practice a skill (a musical instrument, for example), and a noun, a life-practice (such as Yoga, Meditation, Music, etc.) that reinforces positive Life Rhythms… beneficial patterns of Attitude and Action.  We reinforce both through repetition.  Of course, we want to make sure that we’re repeating the things we want to get good at!

Here are four fundamental elements to build into our life-practices, and into our practicing, to make sure we are reinforcing our positive Life Rhythms… as individuals, and as groups:

1) Purpose:  Have a clear vision of what you want to do.  What are your short-, mid-, and long-term goals?

2) Plan:  Create a routine of specific actions.  Set regular days and times to engage in the activity, and know what you will do during each session.  Your practice will become a regular part of your life, and something to look forward to!

3) Persevere:  Keep to your Purpose and to your Plan.  Every time we break a routine, it becomes easier to break it again, and to feel that we are unreliable… which makes it easier to break it again.  Every time we stay with a productive routine, we reinforce a sense that we are dependable; this makes us want to live up to our dependable nature and engage in the activity again and again!

4) Play:  Have fun… We call it “playing music” for a reason!  Make any and all Practice time into Play time.  As children, we learn by playing.  As adults, we often forget to play because we now have responsibilities, and can feel that playing is wasting time.  Keep playing to keep learning! When we are reinforcing skills, or learning knew ones, we know that we are “practicing”, but when we approach each session with an attitude of, “I’m going to play now”, we create a feeling of eager anticipation. This then reinforces a positive attitude that carries over when when play, at anything, in public or with friends.  For example, I start every day by breathing deeply several times, giving thanks for all of my many Blessings, and telling myself, “I get to PLAY today!”.  This is especially important when I know that some of my day will be spent “playing” in my office to get gigs so I can PLAY for, and with, other people!

Now go play… at something… anything!

Playing Music For Communications Skills and Healthy Brains

A recent Canadian study documented in The Journal of Neuroscience reports, “Musical activities are an engaging form of cognitive brain training.” The study concluded, ” Researchers found that musicians’ brains were able to process speech better than those who were non-musicians. This, in turn, shows that learning a musical instrument could be important for ensuring better cognitive abilities and preventing decline later in life.”

Musicians jokes aside, This is very compelling information: playing music can keep our brains healthy and enhance our ability to communicate effectively!

Communicating is one of the three foundation principles that I integrate into all of my corporate and community drumming sessions and teaching.

I break the Communicating principle into two intertwined elements: a) listening to each other with open ears, open minds and open hearts, and b) developing the skills for expressing ourselves clearly and articulately with the intention of creating a free exchange of information and ideas. This holds true for both playing music and living Life!

Hey… this isn’t Rocket Science, or even just Neuroscience! This is a very simple principle that is an integral part of both playing a musical instrument, and of reinforcing positive Life Rhythms… patterns of attitude and action: We get good at the things we practice, so we want to make sure we are practicing the things we WANT to get good at!

Drumming And The Three Core Principles Of Team Building

Team-Building-DrummingMy corporate team building programs in Silicon Valley and worldwide are built upon my worldwide drumming travels, including two years in Africa. During my drumming treks, I am again and again struck with the profoundly fundamental way in which group drumming reinforces community bonds while uplifting community members.

When I began conducting community and corporate drumming activities of my own in the early 80’s, I examined more closely how and why group drumming is such an age-old, universally-practiced community-building activity.

It became clear to me that living Life with an upbeat, can-do attitude, as individuals and as groups, is a skill that is reinforced when we play together!

I realized that purpose-driven group drumming reinforced, in a lively and enduring way, the underlying principles that all thriving communities had in common.  I call these, the Three C’s Of Community:

*Communicating *Collaborating *Celebrating

*Communicating: Focused group drumming builds listening and verbal skills. We can hear, and feel, the powerful group rhythm we create when we actively listen to each other with open ears, open minds and open hearts, and when we respond to each other (not at each other) in articulate, positive ways. This creates an active exchange of information and ideas.

*Collaborating: Effective collaboration requires committing ourselves to working together toward shared goals.  In drumming, we each play parts that fit together to create the group rhythm.  In life, we do this by creating ongoing patterns of action and attitude… life rhythms… that reinforce our willingness, and the skills we need, to engage together completely, without hesitation. The group rhythm then supports and encourages group members to take risks and to be creative.

*Celebrating:  Playing music together is a time-honored way for people to celebrate successes.  Celebrating successes in this lively and focused way reinforces the group’s processes that led to the success!  A second element of celebrating is based on the simple truth that Life is a blessings!  One of the most powerful and profound ways that we humans have ever created to acknowledge and reinforce the blessing that is Life, is to gather together with other and celebrate it!

Rhythm: The Universal Language

The young software designer from India looked across our circle of drummers at his colleague from northern Europe, grinned broadly and exclaimed, “I loved the part you were playing, so I copied it. It was so very easy for me to play!”

The other fellow looked surprised, laughed and said, “I thought I copied it from you!”

I had been brought in to do a corporate team building program for a group of software engineers from Asia, Europe, India and North America who would be working on a project together. They all spoke fluent English, however the organizers knew that the different work styles and cultural expectations among team members might slow down their creative process.

My client’s goal for me was to help the participants quickly create a spirit of teamwork and a unified group culture of communication and collaboration that transcended their deeply-ingrained cultural differences.

As we played together, I helped them to learn how to recognize and support each other’s personalities and contributions, and to create their own unique, powerful Team Groove.

Some of the revelations that they shared during our Comments & Observations discussion afterwards included:
– “If I got off the rhythm, I was able to get back on when I listened to what others were playing!”

– “I could try new things, because the group rhythm was so strong that we supported each other’s creativity!”

– “I always thought that I didn’t have any rhythm.  I wonder what else in life I keep myself from doing simply because I’ve never learned the fundamentals.”

Group drumming, when done in a focused and purposeful way, is such a great builder of communication and collaboration skills because the same core principles and skills apply to both group drumming and to all thriving communities:

– actively listening to other group members with open ears, open minds and open hearts

– expressing ourselves clearly with the intention of creating a free exchange of information and ideas

– responding to what other people contribute, not to our own inner conversations

– willingly engaging together to create solutions to our shared challenges

And, as an added benefit, drumming is a powerful, time-honored way to celebrate successes and the blessings of life with others… to play together!

Corporate Team Building Rhythms: Responding To Challenges

“Greiner has had his fair share of challenges when conducting drumming programs for corporate groups. … the versatility of drums enables him to turn them into memorable teaching moments.

‘The restaurant chain Chipotle once asked me to do a team-building, motivational program for 160 managers,’ says Greiner. The program took place in a room above an upscale hotel restaurant that was serving a late lunch. The hotel Sales & Catering manager was concerned that we might disturb the restaurant patrons with our drumming.

‘So Greiner turned to a low-volume version of his drum program, using 10-inch frame drums and maracas  (small shakers).

‘I used the low-volume requirement as a practical way to show how the Chipotle managers could train their staffs to deal with fast-paced operations while maintaining an atmosphere of tranquility for their patrons.’, stated Mr. Greiner.”

– Making Music Magazine, 2005


The fast-paced tempo of our contemporary professional lives often requires that we be able to quickly adapt to challenges, such as the understandable concern of this meeting planner. When we have solid group rhythms in place, fundamental principles and processes that we follow and reinforce on a daily basis, we are able to quickly and effectively respond to these challenges.

For example, the fundamental principles of my corporate drumming programs never change. They include the universal nature of creating and reinforcing productive group rhythms that are based on the real-world life skills of communicating, collaborating and celebrating. I then adapt these fundamentals to serve, and include, the goals and themes of each of the groups with which I work.

Successful sports teams are often described as being “in a groove” together. This Groove allows the team to instantly adapt to, and take advantage of, the fluid, quickly-changing nature of each game. This Groove does not come about by accident; it is the result of the consistent, purposeful repetition of the core principles, skills and values of the activity, and of the group, every day. This is true of any group, whether it be a corporate group any place worldwide, a village in Africa, or a family!