Rock Drumming is physically demanding. Playing the drums involves the co-ordination of four limbs (arms and legs) to create the beat of songs, with typical concerts or gigs lasting 90 minutes or more. Drummers also perform under stage lighting in crowded venues which can create a hot and humid environment. This combination of physical and environmental demands mean that the drummer can use similar amounts of energy to professional athletes during competitive competition.
Physical Activity is more than Sport - watch the drummer of your favourite band during a performance. Look closely at their breathing, movement and sweating, these are all signs that their body is working hard.
When learning a new skill or when doing two things at the same time, your brain works harder. The brain creates or strengthens the pathways between neurons (little grey cells) known as neuroplasticity. Drumming is a great example of an activity that exercises the brain through the physical demands of playing, the creative demands of music making and the emotional response to music listening and performing. By using brain scans (fMRI), we were able to observe changes to the brain structure and functions of our participants who had drumming instruction, compared to those who did not. The scans showed changes to the areas of the brain that help people mirror or copy another person’s actions. We also saw changes to the brain’s ability to control impulses.
Exercising your brain – try learning a new skill, a new dance, sport skill, words in another language or writing with your other hand. First, this will be hard, it will take time, you will make mistake, it won’t be the same as the expert, but with practice, it will get easier, you will make less mistakes, you will be quicker and your action will be closer to the expert. Your brain is making new connections and then strengthening these pathways with each repetition.
Amad, A., Seidman, J., Draper, S. B., Bruchhage, M. M., Lowry, R. G., Wheeler, J., ... & Smith, M. S. (2017). Motor learning induces plasticity in the resting brain—drumming up a connection. Cerebral Cortex, 27(3), 2010-2021.
- Bruchhage, M. M., Amad, A., Draper, S. B., Seidman, J., Lacerda, L., Laguna, P. L., ... & Williams, S. C. (2020). Drum training induces long-term plasticity in the cerebellum and connected cortical thickness. Scientific reports, 10(1), 10116.
- Cahart, M. S., Amad, A., Draper, S. B., Lowry, R. G., Marino, L., Carey, C., ... & Williams, S. C. (2022). The effect of learning to drum on behavior and brain function in autistic adolescents. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(23), e2106244119.
Social and Emotional Wellbeing
Your choice of music is often personally meaningful and therefore varies from person to person. Listening to or making music is pleasurable, it will help people to reduce stress and anxiety, manage their emotions and create social connections with others. Music is used in many aspects of life, such as aiding relaxation, sleep, concentration and even facilitating exercise routines. In our research with schools, we have been teaching pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties how to play the electronic drum kit. By teaching children and adolescents to play the drums we have been able to observe positive changes in social wellbeing such as better social communication and interaction with peers, parents and teachers. We also saw better emotional control, self-expression and attentional focus.
Music and Mood – think about the type of music that you like to listen to, how does this change when you are doing different activities or in different moods? People can change their choice of music to match their mood, or sometimes music choice can change a person’s mood.