Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twelve Things I Always Do When Recording Drum Set

 by Jim Donovan

The studio can be a wonderful place to express yourself and listen to your music come to full fruition. Other times it can become a nightmare of endless takes, inter-band squabbles and ear fatigue.

To help you make the best of your recording time I compiled list of twelve things I always do in the studio that have helped me create inventive, solid tracks that feel great.

1. Serve the song first. Only play what the song needs and nothing else.

2. Get the best take you think you can, save it, and then do one more to see if you can beat it.

3. Always record the "practice" takes.

4. Isolate and rehearse transitions and bridges 3 times as much as the verse and chorus.

5. Experiment with using different types & combinations of click tracks. Subdivide the beat beyond 1/4 notes.

6. Before the first note breathe deeply and exhale as you play the beginning of the track.

7. Breathe into and out of fills and transitions as of you were playing a wind instrument.

8. Create your fills ahead of time.

9. Plan more than one approach to a song.

10. Do a take or two that ignores your "plans". Go out on a limb, get creative and see what happens.

11. Never settle for "good enough". You'll end up regretting it in a few days.

12. Once you get in the groove of a song do multiple takes without judging or discussing. Then take a break to listen back.

Now go and make your masterpiece.
Good luck!

Do you have a few studio tips you'd like to share?
Comment below.

If you'd like to get my free Rhythm Newsletter with useful articles, updates on workshops, retreats and concerts near you, plus special members only giveaways sign-up here...

34 Easy Ways To Improve Your Drum Circle


by Jim Donovan
(Special thanks and hi-fives to all of my friends on my Blog, Twitter and Facebook for your contributions to this article!!)

If you're anything like me, you like FUN...and FUN is probably why you decided to give this drumming thing a whirl.
So let's pretend for a moment that you have your drum and you made it to the drum circle...
Now what?

Beyond the stress relief, sense of togetherness, and joy you can get from drumming with others is your ability enhance the overall quality of the drum circle experience by the way you interact with the people around you.

Here are 34 easy ideas that you can use to maximize your fun and improve your drum circles right away. Think of these tips as "drum circle etiquette".

And if you have ideas that aren't on the list, leave them below...
Happy drumming!

34 Easy Ways To Improve Your Drum Circle

1. Remove your rings if you are borrowing someones drum.

2. Turn off your cell phone...and resist the urge to text. (Your Twitter followers can wait...)

3. Listen first, play second.

4. Ask permission to use someone's drum before just picking it up.

5. Resist the urge to play louder than everyone else.

6. Get to know each other after the circle, hang out and chat after drumming.

7. Respect the drums you're borrowing.

8. Space! Leave space for others to play.

9. Make the betterment of the "group sound" be your number one priority.

10. If you are a newbie, pay attention to the more experienced drummers around you and learn from them.

11. If you are an expert, remember the newbies in the group and give them encouragement and guidance from time to time. Remember what it was like when you first started drumming!

12. Worrying about mistakes? Fuughet abahht it!
If you are a beginner, you may feel as though everyone is listening to you and your "mistakes" (even though they aren't!) Be brave and just play.

13. Unless you are facilitating, resist playing faster and louder in an attempt to speed up the group.

14. If you get lost, listen for the downbeat - the main "pulse" of the rhythm to find your way back.

15. Tired of drumming? Just dance!

16. Made a mistake during a session? Just SMILE and keep going and get back INTO the group's vibe!

17. It's okay to not drum sometimes, so that you can really listen.

18. How about some hand percussion? Try a shaker, woodblock, or bell.

19. If playing a bell, make sure there is lots of space in your rhythm. Keep the bell rhythm simple and steady.

20. Keep solos short and sweet and then come back and support the group so others can take a "solo".

21. Drum with joy. Remember how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to make music together. Have fun, you deserve it.

22. Breathe...relax...and open your heart to collective possibility..

23. Most importantly (in drumming or dance or life) drop into your heart. Move beyond the thoughts of *how* to do it, or impressing someone, etc....and into "what deep essence wishes to express through me/the drum in this now moment?"

24. Open up to the healing energy that we create when we drum.

25. Feel the group pulse, as if it were your own.

26. In the words of the late great percussionist Bill Roth:
"It's not just what you play, it's also what you don't play."
"It's not just when you play, it's also when you don't play."

27. Realize that there are many different kinds of drum circles that will lead to different kinds of experiences.  Appreciate the value of diversity and try to be conscious of the group dynamic or you may feel disappointed that "they" didn't play the way you like!

28. Bring your best self! Your energy can positively or negatively impact the circle - let go of negativity, feel the rhythm - listen - drum - dance - be

29. Leave your ego at the door! (Or even in the car...)

30. Listen, feel, listen, breathe, listen..

31. Bringing children to a circle can be a great thing, and it can also be incredibly disruptive depending on how it's approached. Etiquette would mandate that if you bring young children, spend a bit of time with them prior, so they understand what's going on.

32. Understand that some people come to the circle with a different method of "feeling" the music due to disabilities they are triumphing over.

33. Why not turn the circle into an excuse to eat as well? Have a potluck afterwards and get to know each other.

34. Relax.

If you'd like to get my free Rhythm Newsletter with useful articles, updates on workshops, retreats and concerts near you, plus special members only giveaways sign-up here... 

Are you looking for some new grooves?
Check out my play-along learning tool "World Rhythm Seeds CD".

Monday, December 14, 2009

How much of your life are you willing to GIVE away?

How much of your life are you willing to GIVE away?
by Jim Donovan
A story....
I was stuck on Interstate 80 in the middle of nowhere PA. Ice storm, jack knifed trucks, cars flipped over...what a mess. As I lay on a bed of djembes in the back of my Kia waiting for the road ice to melt I had a moment of clarity. The idea struck me that holding on to unhelpful ideas and behavior patterns is akin to giving portions of your life away. A new year is coming soon, and with it, another opportunity to start fresh. Is it possible that we can reclaim our vitality simply by revamping how we choose to invest our moments? How much of ourselves do we give away maintaining the safety of our status quo?

Imagine an apple...
The place from which the apple grows is from the core outward. Inside the core of an apple are the seeds which represent future potential. In human beings, these seeds are our beliefs and what grows from them are all of the ways in which we interact, understand and behave in the world around us.

Imagine when a parasite gets into the core of the apple- how suddenly its integrity is compromised and the decay begins from the inside out. In a similar way, unhelpful habits and beliefs are the parasites within our core that keep us from reaching our ideal potential.

Which of your beliefs help you to grow?
Which ones drain your energy?
How much of your life are you willing to GIVE away by holding onto beliefs that no longer serve your betterment?

Comments are always welcome...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

WInner of Drummers Bundle DVD/CD Package

Congratulations to Marcus Cook from San Francisco, CA!
Your Drummers Bundle DVD/CD package is on the way....

More giveaways are coming soon...Stay tuned!
Peace, Jim

Friday, December 11, 2009

Your Invited to my New Years Eve 2010 Party...

Looking for something memorable to do on New Years Eve?

Well, I am having a BIG New Years Eve bash and you are invited. Join many of our Rhythm Renewal friends as we welcome 2010 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Manassas, VA (near DC) where Drum the Ecstatic International will be performing live in concert.

So far Elie Kihonia, Mike Deaton, Harry Pepper, PJ Roduta, Bryan Fazio, Etse Nyadedzor, Brian Bromka, Dan Murphy, Kent Tonkin Brandon King, Stephanie Smith and yours truly will all be there....
How about you?

Packages for the evening include lodging, concert, gourmet snacks, a champagne toast at midnight, noisemakers, party favors, and complementary breakfast buffet.

Overnight Packages: Only $149 per couple /$99 Single or
$89 for just the concert & party.

Space is limited. First come first serve.
You can make your reservation online here,

or by calling 703-656-4511 (M-F 8-5 pm EST) to make your reservation today.

Driving Directions

The band has much new music and several surprises in store for you. I hope to see you there..
Jim Donovan

Sunday, December 6, 2009

WINNER Jim Donovan Relaxation CD Catalogue

And the winner of my relaxation collection is.....
Kimber Sternberg
from Richmond, KY .

Your discs are on the way!

If you didn't win, but still want to get the 3 CD collection, it's on sale right now for $39.97.
Order Here...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Retreat for the Soul 2010 in France

Dear Friends,

Some of you know that I teach at Saint Francis University and this coming year I will be directing a program unlike anything I’ve ever offered entitled “Retreat for the Soul : France 2010” at the university’s 11th century monastery located in the Tarn Valley in Southwestern France.

After visiting the monastery this past January, I immediately began thinking about what a great place it would be to present to you my all new multi-day workshop called Life-Design where you will have the opportunity every morning to immerse yourself in a powerfully effective process created to help you optimize every aspect of your life. Read more about it here…

You will also have the opportunity to participate in classes alongside our students from the university. Learn regional French cooking, drawing and art history, and of course… drumming!

There will be plenty of free time for you to explore the local area, as well as guided excursions throughout the French countryside. You will have the opportunity to visit ancient castles, incredible cathedrals in the nearby city of Albi, art museums, local shopping and restaurants.

You can meditate daily in the peaceful solitude of an ancient chapel (built in 1057), or at the edge of the mountain overlooking the majestic Tarn River Valley.

You can opt for an invigorating hike down the hillside past Crusade-era olive trees to the quaint village of Ambialet located at the base of the mountain below the monastery.

Though the monastery is ancient, the university recently renovated the site so that you can enjoy living in history with modern conveniences.

On-site meals will be provided during your stay and will be prepared by a local French chef. The food is exceptional and will always consist of both vegetarian and meat options. You will also be welcome to use the kitchen should you want to enjoy a quick bite.

There will be a total of 30 participants on site, 10 of these spots which I am able to make available to you.

If you would like to reserve one of the spots, just call 814.472.3012 to put down your deposit. The retreat is first come first serve to the first 10 people to respond.

I am looking forward to an outstanding time with you all!


Retreat for the Soul Website...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some Very Good News..

Dear Friends,
Some of you will remember that last year I asked all of you for your help giving a financial hand to my good friend Tom Morrow as he battled throat cancer. I just wanted to let you know that I spoke with him last night and his doctors have informed him that he is cancer free! He's even been doing a few gigs singing (though he joked about being able to do Tom Waits cover songs now since his voice is a little more gruff...).
In any case he asked me to pass along his heartfelt thanks to all of you for all of your support, good wishes and energy.

Enjoy your day, Jim

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Intention and Creating Your Desired Condition

Photo by Kaylyn Oshaben

Intention and Creating Your Desired Condition

by Jim Donovan

The power of intention is an important ally in learning to direct your energy. Intention means consciously deciding to bring about a specific circumstance. For example, you can hold an intention of creating a peaceful environment around you. In the process of creating this environment, you first have the thought, then as you hold the thought, you take action. Thought without action only moves energy in small ways. Thought coupled with action, emotion and desire allows you to manifest. The thought of the desired circumstance followed by action, is intention- which ultimately progresses towards manifestation.

As important as it is to understand your core beliefs, it's equally important to understand your intentions behind why you choose to act in a particular way. It's kind of like seeing the flower but also knowing where the root is and what causes it to grow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jim Donovan Fall 2009 Workshop/Concert Schedule....

Photo by Sean McLeod

Jim Donovan Fall 2009 Workshop/Concert Schedule....

Dear Friends,
One of the many things I love about teaching is that it keeps me on my toes. Visiting your town each year challenges me to learn and develop new material so that we both keep progressing.
I want to thank those of you who always show up. Knowing you'll be there looking for something new to learn is great motivation for me!

With that in mind, I want to let you in on a few details about all of the exciting drumming we'll be doing over the next few months. I've begun offering a full day program in several cities called the Day of Drumming where you'll have the opportunity to experience both the Rhythm Renewal and Yoga of Drum and Chant workshops. Both workshops have been revamped with much new material, exercises, concepts and songs. In Wellsville, NY and Syracuse, NY, my band Drum the Ecstatic will doing evening concerts to top off our day.

Have a look at the schedule below and join us for some great times!
I look forward to drumming with you soon.

Peace, Jim

Fall 2009 Schedule
10.2.09 West Chester, PA : Yoga of Drum and Chant
10.3.09 Skillman, NJ : The Princeton Day of Drumming
10.10.09 Saxonburg, PA : The Saxonburg Day of Drumming
10.15-10.18.09 Pittsburgh, PA : DrumTalk / World Rhythm Festival
10.24.09 Syracuse, NY : The Syracuse Day of Drumming
11.6.09 Baltimore, MD : The Yoga of Drum and Chant details coming soon
11.7.09 Lewes, DE : The Rehoboth Day of Drumming
11.14.09 Wellsville, NY : The Wellsville Day of Drumming
11.20.09 Camp Hill, PA : Yoga of Drum and Chant
11.21.09 Coopersburg, PA : the Coopersburg Day of Drumming
12.4.09 Pittsburgh, PA : Drum the Ecstatic in concert
12.5.09 Johnstown, PA : The Rhythm Renewal Workshop
12.11.09 York, PA : Yoga of Drum and Chant
12.12.09 Binghamton, NY : The Binghamton Day of Drumming

12.31.09 Manassas, VA
New Years Eve bash with Drum the Ecstatic International
Details coming soon....

Monday, September 21, 2009

WInners of the Rhythmic Ear-Training CD Giveaway 9.21.09

Let me just say that you are all winners in my book...

However, the following people are even BIGGER winners :)

Teresa Cole
Christiana P
Doris L.

Just email me at " info AT" (remember to use the @ symbol for the "at")
to give me your mailing address and I'll get your discs in the mail this week.

Stay tuned for future giveaways...this was fun.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One Step...

Taking One Small Step

by Jim Donovan

I have this crazy idea about failure...

Failure simply teaches you how NOT to do something.

When you look at it closely, it is truly nothing more than this. Failure is simply a great teacher.
Learning to overcome this fear and live in your true purpose is sure-fire way to positively transform your entire life.

But what can you do right now to overcome the fear of failing?

Here is another exercise I give to my students...maybe it will be helpful for you too..

Start here:
I'd like you to identify one thing that you know you want in your life very much.
Something that the fear of failing is holding you back from doing or having.

1. Write out what the fear is.
2. Tell me about one small step that you could do that would move you closer to what you want.
3. Take this small step.
4. Write about your experience.

Enter this in comment below if you'd like...
Feel free to comment on each others comments.
We're all here together.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CD Giveaway! Enter to win a copy of my new "Rhythmic Ear Training" audio tool

The Rhythmic Ear Training CD

is an interactive play-along audio learning tool that is designed to give you hours of drumming enjoyment while developing a solid sense of rhythm by helping you to improve your listening and musical reaction skills.These skills are some of the most important building blocks in learning to drum with others and also to creating your own exciting rhythms. This unique audio learning tool is the perfect companion for any hand-drummer, drum set player, music teacher or classroom setting.

To win one of 3 copies of this CD, simply enter a comment (one entry per person please!) below saying "I want to win Jim!" by this Sunday, (September 20th) at midnight EST. If you are posting anonymously, I need you to enter your first name and last initial. Winners will be drawn at random, and the results will be posted here next week.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

When I begin each semester at Saint Francis University, one of my favorite questions to ask students is "What is your greatest fear?". About 80% of the time their answers have something to do with being afraid of failing somehow. This fear can be so paralyzing that students will often choose a career path that is "easier" even though they really aren't passionate about it.

I am interested to know:
"Can you identify something in your life (something that you really want)
that would you do if you "knew" you could not fail?".
What is it?

Leave your comment below..

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Being "All In"

Jim Donovan playing w/ Rusted Root @ 1992 Great Blue Heron Music Festival

Being "All In"
by Jim Donovan

Sometimes strange, seemingly unrelated occurrences connect important ideas together for me.

Case in point:

I was driving home last night after a workshop, it was late and I needed something not caffeinated to help me stay awake. I stumbled onto a station cranking an 80s' metal song called "Last in Line" by Ronnie James Dio...
(Yes I am a child of the Eighties and I have the old sleeveless T shirts to prove it.)

As I listened to him sing it suddenly dawned upon me why I like his singing so much.

When he sings, Dio holds nothing back.
When he recorded that tune he was ALL IN.

As I considered my "realization", I found that all of my favorite artists as well as the people I most enjoy being around share this quality. When I'm teaching, playing drums, or playing with my kids I know from experience that the best stuff happens when I'm ALL IN.

That thought made me curious....
and so
I am interested to know who inspires you by being "ALL IN".

For neatness sake make your response(s) in this kind of format:

"When Dio sung "Last in Line" he was ALL IN."
"When Steeler wide receiver Santonio Holmes caught that touchdown pass in the Superbowl he (and his feet) were ALL IN."

Leave it to 80's hair metal to teach me something this important...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Transformation of Fear

Mandala Art by Stephanie Smith

The Transformation of Fear

by Jim Donovan

Just like all energy, your fears can be transformed and used. They can be re-focused and re-directed. You have the choice about whether you spend your energy in fear of something, or if you invest that energy into understanding, overcoming and transforming it.

Understand that the energy exists either way and it's our thoughts that charge it. The more you decide to live, act, and speak in a way that serves the highest good of all, the less afraid you will become. The more you engage in the service of others, the more you will understand our innate connection with each other, with nature, and with all that is.

It is possible to work for the betterment of yourself and enhancing the life of people around you by aligning yourself with purpose. Resist spending hours in the mundane and instead invest that time into things that feed your spirit.

Now is the time to decide to be in charge of how you frame your beliefs. Decide which of your beliefs serve your higher good and which ones hold you back. Be conscious and aware of how fear drives your day to day decision making processes.

Remember the words of Mahatama Gandhi ..."When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thoughts on Compassion

Thoughts on Compassion
by Jim Donovan

Compassion is the acceptance of how someone is without pre-conceived notions, and without judgment. It is knowing that a person is doing the best they can in that moment, and it involves a general sense of acceptance and unconditional love. Compassion gives no excuses for a person's mistakes, but instead gives them the room to grow and improve at their own pace.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for . . .

A message from our Native American Elders
-The Elders, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona -

We have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.

Now we must go back and tell the people this is the Hour.

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast

It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.

They will try to hold on to the shore.

They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.

The Elders say we must let go of the shore, and push off and into the river, keep our eyes open, and
our head above the water.

See who is in there with you and Celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.

Least of all ourselves.

For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth

and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over.

Gather yourselves!

Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner
And in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for . . .
-The Elders, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona -

Monday, August 17, 2009

As you take your next breath...

By Jim Donovan

1. As you take your next breath, resist the urge to think of anything. Just experience the breath in it's fullest form. Try this for 60 seconds. Notice how you feel after 1 minute....

2. Find something in nature, like the sky, the stars at night or a flower. Look at it without classifying it as good, bad, beautiful or anything at all. Just have the experience of taking in the sight without thinking or judging. Notice if you "see" these things any differently when you aren't thinking about them.

3. The next conversation that you have, whomever it is, just listen as if they were telling you the most important information you've ever heard and without thinking of what you'll say next. Notice if your experience of 'listening" is different when you do it this way.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What is the Summer Rhythm Renewal?

What is the Summer Rhythm Renewal?
Testimonials from last year's participants

It is a gathering of diverse people that love music in all its forms, but who have found the joy that comes from hand drumming and the benefits it brings to the body and the soul.
-Janet Keefer

a well-planned, centering, really fun event where it is easy to relax, and make new friends -- all while drumming!
-Cindy Carroll

Rejuvenation of the mind and spirit! Rhythm Renewal allows us an opportunity to participate in intriguing workshops facilitated by experienced and fabulous teachers and/or mentors; the experience encourages us to take time to explore our inner child and today's self; it is an opportunity to meet and laugh with beautiful people; but most importantly the whole experience leaves us with an enlightened and awakening sense of soul; and reflection of what and who is truly important in our lives!
-Corinna Bealer

Rhythm Renewal is a wonderful rejuvenating 4 day workshop where you are immersed in rhythms, song and dance. It gives voice to the soul of everyone in the group and the group as a whole. It teaches us all the concepts of focus, cooperation, and harmony. It is filled with fun, joy and love... It is just an indescribably amazing and awe inspiring experience ......surreal and other worldly and one that we carry back into our regular lives. The spirit there is totally uplifting and it's an oasis in time to look forward to throughout the year.
-Mary Cogley

Rhythm Renewal is all about renewing the rhythm of self. I had no idea this would be so introspective; it was great.
-Gloria Chlopik

The Rhythm Renewal is an explosion of energy, a spiritual supernova. The first year I went, I thought it was about drumming, but it's really not. Drumming is just Jim's key to the door which opens up the self.
- Andy Patton

a contained place of intention
- PJ Roduta

Rhythm Renewal is putting everything and everyone on hold from where you were and becoming alive and free to be who you are. Experiencing the rhythm of sound, rhythm of oneness, and the renewal of a spiritual connection.
- Victoria Durst

A Rhythmic Experience for your heart, mind, body and soul...
- Nino Vella

An enlightening, vibrating, opening on a mountain that allows all to come together in the love of music, in respect of all musicians and in the desire to connect with yourself and that drum!
- Patrice

A chance to leave everything else in your world behind and focus on nothing but "drumming" or whatever your musical ability may be. To allow yourself through those 4 days to refine and bring that internal rhythm of yours to the surface and just let it be.
- Mary Hinkson

A fulfilling musical/percussion learning experience/getaway in the mountains filled with lots of great music, drumming to your heart's content, seeing old friends, meeting new friends, good food ... a time you wish would never end.
- Tom Freeman & Linda Sachs

This is a fantastic "chill-out" time from my day to day work routine. It proved to be a spiritual renewal, setting in motion the possibility of re-energizing my entire being in some holistic way.
- Carole Freeman

It's designed to revitalize and re-energize the human spirit through rhythmic hand-drumming in a group of like-minded people, who work together so well that we become one sound.
- Dina Creighton

Rhythm Renewal is a gathering of spirits who find drumming a wonderful part of life...A chance for our inner child to come out and play by dance, by closing your eyes and learning that new rhythm, the one you couldn't quite get the day before or maybe the year before. We come together to learn rhythms, to dance, to laugh, to DRUM!
- Ramona

We call it "drum camp." It's a time to be away from home for some concentrated drumming and also to be introduced to new instruments and thoughts.
- Doug Patterson

It is four days focused on finding and getting in touch with your true self; the drumming is an added bonus. The Rhythm Renewal is a Family where everyone is welcome and encouraged to express themselves and their feelings... I know that it is a place that will accept me, no matter what condition I am in and it is a place where I feel loved and accepted, exactly how I am. I guess simply put, the Rhythm Renewal is the way the world should be, full of love and acceptance.
- Amy Cauldwell

It is a place of self expression without judgment. It provides motivation and encouragement to set you on your rightful path. The drumming IS an added bonus, because there is so much more to take away from the experience. Each year I attend the event, my life becomes richer.
- Stephanie Smith

Summer Rhythm Renewal : Web
Join the discussion on Facebook...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Festival Guide Drummers

Summer Festival Guide for Drummers
by Jim Donovan

Happy Summer Rhythm Family!

Here is a list of upcoming summer festivals where you can truly get your groove on!

6.20.09 Hunker, PA : Farm Festival only $10!!
This one is very low key, kid friendly and cheap! Come for the day. Eat organic food, drumming for you, drumming for the kids, Drum the Ecstatic concert in the evening...

7.2 and 7.3.09 Artemis, PA : Drum and Splash Festival
If counter-culture and creating a new vision for sustainable living is your thing then you will love Drum and Splash. Lot's of great workshops, music, nature. Swimming in the stream. Camping too.. I'll be teaching several workshops over these 2 days. Yoga of Drum and Chant, Drumming Ecstasy & Evolution, and Rhythm Renewal Workshop...

7.4.09 Sherman, NY : Great Blue Heron Music Festival
One of my personal favorites, I'll be teaching a large afternoon workshop and probably sitting in with friends here and there. There is amazing roots music, camping, food, late night zydeco dance...

7.10.09 Masontown, WV : The All Good Festival
If you're looking to see some of the best jam-bands in the country at a large exciting festival, you will love All Good. They also are committed to bringing education and environmental awareness to their festival goers..
I will be doing a Rhythm Renewal Drumming Workshop at noon and performing my 400,000 People, Carlos Santana and me...performance/story around 4pm.

7.17-18.09 Oberlin, OH : Two Days of Drumming Retreat
Join us for an invigorating and inspiring two-days. Spend the day attending a variety of drumming sessions facilitated by our professional drumming team. Sample holistic health modalities, commune with nature, enjoy your lunch out among the pines - relax, renew, rejuvenate! Yoga of Drum and Chant on Friday night, workshops all day Saturday. Drum the Ecstatic Concert Saturday night! Pick a package and register here...

7.30-8.2.09 Loretto, PA: 2009 Summer Rhythm Renewal
Along with tons of drumming, we've added more dance and even a mandala drawing workshop!
You can check it out here...

If you are on Facebook, you can become a Summer Rhythm Renewal fan here...

Lastly, I bit the bullet and decided to try out Twitter.
Follow me here...

I am so glad summer is here.

Peace, Jim

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2009 Summer Rhythm Renewal New Details

Hello Rhythm Family and Welcome Spring!

I am very pleased to announce several new experiences just added to our 2009 Summer Rhythm Renewal Retreat. If you are planning on being there this year, be sure to register early. We are on track to sell out much earlier this year.

You can register now by calling the Saint Francis University Office of Continuing Education 814-472-3012 to secure your spot.

The Renewal is $279 on or before May 15 or $299 thereafter. (plus housing).

One of the great things about the Rhythm Renewal is that all of our instructors will be bringing brand new material to share with you this summer. We pride ourselves on being able to empower beginners while challenging those with more experience.

What's new for 2009?

First of all, our family of instructors is expanding-
Let's give them a warm welcome!

Jaqui MacMillan: Jaqui is a wonderful teacher from Westminster, MD who will presenting her workshop "Drumming for Joy". She has studied under drumming masters such as Babatunde Olatunji and Mamady Keita.

We're also adding an art component this year with Renewal alum Stephanie Smith: Aside from rocking the shekere', Stephanie is a gifted artist who will be presenting her workshop titled "Mandala: An Artful Meditation". Examples of Stephanie's mandalas can be found here.

William "Whit" Whittten will present: "Djun Djuns 101"
The djun djuns are akin to the bass guitar of West African music. Usually a set of three large barrel shaped drums,the djuns are played with sticks, and can be played sitting or standing. We will learn the "village" style of playing djuns, and several traditional West African rhythms. Finally, we will experience how djembe parts interlock with djun parts for a polyrhythmic fun fest! Great for drummers at any level.

And by popular demand,
More dancing at the Renewal!

Becky Bickford will presenting West African Dance workshops more info coming soon...

Rhei C Gordon Bura will be presenting Nia Movement & Dance workshops- more info coming soon...

Elie Kihonia will do more Congolese Dance and Drumming as usual...

and more...

Renewal Vet Mike Deaton will be presenting more "all percussion" workshops this year.

Renewal Vet Jim Gagnon presents: "The Dreamtime Workshop"

Explore the possibilities of Dreamtime and Energywork through sound. This class includes beginning and advanced didgeridoo technique, Native American flute technique and vocal toning for meditation and therapy. We will experience many different realms of the awareness of sound and it's application as a healing tool. Add a touch of storytelling and humor for a fun and easy class for all ages.

Also, Renewal Vet (and wonderful Lehigh Valley facilitator/community hub) Moe Jerant will offer:
  • Women's Rhythms: A look at rhythms associated with women and their rites of passage.
  • Stick Rhythms: Unusual and somewhat trance like rhythms integrating the use of hand and stick.
  • HealthRhythms Drum Circle: An opportunity to drum for community and stress reduction.
Harry Pepper will offer another installment of shamanic journey drumming.

Tina Stroh will offer early morning yoga.

And I will offer all new Yoga of Drum and Chant Experiences as well as an all new Drumming/Ecstasy& Evolution workshop...

Whew...this will be fun!
I imagine there will be a few more good surprises as well...stay tuned.
Peace, Jim

You can register now by calling the Saint Francis University
Office of Continuing Education 814-472-3012 to secure your spot.

The Renewal is $279 on or before May 15 or $299 thereafter. (plus housing).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

5 Ways to Create A Deeper Connection with Your Music : Part 3

View Parts 1 and 2 of this series...

by Jim Donovan

5th step: Be the example. This step is all about action. It's about doing all of these things; learning the mechanics, integrating your physical body into the pattern, integrating your breath into your phrases, aligning your intent into the music you are creating and then displaying these actions. Remember, that the best way to positively influence those around you is to just "do what you do" and let them watch and potentially assimilate your actions.

Many musicians get stuck early in their learning thinking that the whole goal of being a musician is the flawless execution of technique. Once the execution becomes highly advanced, sometimes they will feel they have reached their highest potential as a musician and will stop working towards a true connection to he music.

Music is not just the notes, lyrics, chords or rhythms- it's all of those things combined with humanness. Once you begin to integrate all that you are into your music, your whole perspective will change on what it really means to play music.

You may also discover that not only are you playing music, but the music is just as much playing you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

5 Ways to Create A Deeper Connection with Your Music : Part 2

Photo by Kaylyn Oshaben

5 Ways to Create A Deeper Connection with Your Music : Part 2
by Jim Donovan

View Part 1 of this series. It contains Steps 1 and 2...

3rd step: Integrating your breath into your phrases. Learning how to integrate your inhalation and exhalations with your musical phrases.

This process involves lining up your exhalations with the downbeat. Simply breathe in a little before the beginning of the first phrase and exhale at the very beginning of the next phrase on the downbeat (also known as beat "one"). It's not necessary to do this on every phrase, but the key is to get into the habit of connecting your breath as you play as often as possible without hyperventilating. This kind of process not only keeps you relaxed, but it significantly helps you to remain focused and in the moment.

4th step: Aligning your intention with the music you are creating.

Here are a couple of ways to approach this:

1st way: If you are playing a piece of music with lyrics, and you know the meaning of those lyrics, you can hold in your mind the message or idea that the particular song is trying to convey. Bring this idea into your mind every so often as the song progresses. In this process you are aligning your own personal energy with that of the music.

2nd way: If you are not aware of the meaning in the lyrics of a particular song, or if it is an instrumental piece, it is still possible to inject intention into the music.  You can decide to hold a specific emotion or idea inside of yourself as you play.  For example; you can hold the intention of being an instrument of peace and imagine that every note you play resonates with that idea and actually helps to push that idea out into the world.

This step underlines something vital about the responsibility of a musician. Knowing that your instrument serves as an amplifier for the intentions and emotions you hold as you play.

To utilize the gift of music to it's fullest potential, it's important to take a few moments before you play to clear your mind, center yourself and reflect on your intention.  Remember your reason for playing in the first place.  Use whichever techniques you enjoy; stretching, yoga, deep breathing, going for a quick walk, meditation, etc.

Stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon...

Friday, March 27, 2009

5 Ways to Create A Deeper Connection with Your Music : Part 1

Creating a Deeper Connection to the Music You Play
by Jim Donovan

When learning to play the drums (many years ago..) I remember thinking that when I could "execute" and play a piece of music perfectly that I was "finished' with it. I thought that just executing a performance well was all there was to making music. After years of performance and watching the way an audience reacts to music I discovered that ''good execution" is only the beginning.

It was this realization that led me to figure out a way to share these ideas with people regardless of their musical ability so that they too could find ways to make their musical experiences more meaningful. What follows is part 1 in a series of a process that I use to connect with the music I play. I'll post all of the steps in future articles.

1st step: Learn the mechanics. Practice the actual physical movements on the instrument involved in the music you want to play. Continue to work on this until all of your motion is as effortless and relaxed as possible. Relaxation will allow for maximum endurance when playing something that requires a great deal of power or speed.

For example, If you sing while drumming, learn how the words fall in line with the coordination of your hands. This process is all about building muscle memory.

2nd step: Integrating your physical body into the pattern. Many times when we are making movements with our hands, all the motion and a majority of the energy ends up coming from our brains into our hands. This brain-hand coordination is only part of physically integrating a pattern.

The next part of this step is to allowing the rest of your body to participate in the pattern or phrases. Stevie Wonder is good example of someone who does this. Think about how he plays his piano. His whole upper body is moving with the rhythm of the music almost like a dance. If you were to see his feet, they would be moving around as well. His whole body is moving within the patterns he is creating.

A simple way to practice this idea is to allow your upper torso to sway back and forth ever so slightly in time with your pattern. The goal of this step is to really feel whatever your playing throughout your entire physical body. Eventually your motions will become very fluid and these motions will help to direct your musicality. This second step will help you to internalize the music and make it a part of you. Make these motions feel as natural as possible.

Stay tuned for part 2 next time...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to Breathe Consciously : 3 Easy Steps

How to Breathe Consciously
3 Easy Steps
by Jim Donovan

Imagine a pouring water through funnel. Now imagine pouring water through a wide open pipe. The smaller the opening, the longer it takes for the water to reach it's destination.

These visual metaphors describe the relationship between breathing, creativity and openness. The water represents energy and information. The funnel represents restricted breath, and the wide open pipe represents a person who is consciously breathing and relaxed. The more relaxed you become, the more you are able to open yourself to your vitality and creative inspiration.

Try this:
Take the next 30 seconds and dedicate them to yourself.

1. As you read these words, take a slow deep breath into the lowest parts of your lungs so that your belly expands completely. (Just like Santa Claus!). Once your belly is full of air, fill the top of your lungs so that you are completely filled with air.

2. Now exhale slowly and completely. Be sure to push all of the excess air out of your lungs until there is nothing left in there.

3. Now slowly do the same process again. Inhaling into the belly...slowly exhaling.

Notice how different you are feeling even after 2 conscious breaths....
Perhaps you'd like to keep breathing this way for longer than 30 seconds? Feel free!

This breathing style is called a deep abdominal breath. You can use it anytime you have encountered something that has closed you such as fear or stress.
Anytime you have become closed, for whatever reason, it is your job to find a way to reopen yourself. Breath is your ally.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Temptation and Breaking Patterns

Temptation and Breaking Patterns
by Jim Donovan

Temptation is another roadblock to evolution that comes in a million different forms. We can be tempted to overindulge, to wallow in guilt or self-pity, to gamble, or to complain, and it's such a powerful force because it ties in directly with our patterns. When we are actively trying to change a pattern within ourselves, temptation often holds a strong charge until we have been able to successfully transform the pattern in question.

When you are tempted by something, what do you do?

With something that's tempting you, try this simple approach to help you overcome giving in. When you are in the midst of, or in the fire of being tempted, tell yourself, "I'm just going to wait 10 minutes. I'm going to give myself ten minutes and see if I still feel the same way then."

During those 10 minutes, occupy your attention with something completely unrelated. Change your environment, read something inspirational, exercise, or turn on some music
. Just by giving yourself a little extra breathing room, you will often be able to resist giving in. Each time you are able to resist, you give yourself a small victory which helps to build your confidence. Eventually, after resisting the temptation repeatedly, you will break the old pattern and create a newer healthier one.

Give yourself the space to make mistakes. If you fall, get back up and spend your energy on maintaining self-discipline instead of spending it on beating yourself up. Feeling sorry for yourself is a waste of your precious energy, and it keeps you from moving forward and from experiencing growth.

Remember that balance and moderation are the keys to creating sustainable patterns.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ecstatic Desert Music : Tinariwen

This is a clip from a documentary about the Malian group "Tinariwen". They're music is some of the purest groove I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. They use the djembe in a very unique way...simple yet powerful.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Power of Intention

The Power of Intention
by Jim Donovan

The power of intention is an important ally in learning to direct your energy. Intention means consciously deciding to bring about a specific circumstance. For example, you can hold an intention of creating a peaceful environment around you. In the process of creating this environment, you first have the thought, then as you hold the thought, you take action. Thought without action only moves energy in small ways. Thought coupled with action allows you to manifest. The thought of the desired circumstance followed by action, is intention- which ultimately progresses towards manifestation.

As important as it is to understand your core beliefs, it's equally important to understand your intentions behind why you choose to act in a particular way. It's kind of like seeing the flower but also knowing where the root is and what causes it to grow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ecstatic Sufi Music

With all of the generally negative political news coming out of places like Pakistan, I thought it would be good be reminded of some it's the beauty for a change.

This video is one of my all time favorite Pakastani artists named Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The music he played is known as Qawwali, which is a genre of ecstatic devotional music of the Sufis.

Qawwali is a exciting musical tradition that is well over 700 years old. Originally Qawwali was performed mainly at Sufi shrines throughout what is now India and Pakistan, it has also gained popularity throughout the world via the music of artists like Khan.

Often listeners, and even Qawwali musicians themselves, are transported to a trance-like state called “wajad” where they feel at one with the divine. This state is generally considered to be the height of spiritual ecstasy in Sufism, which is the main goal of the practice.

Common lyrical themes in qawwali are love, devotion and longing (of man for the Divine).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Allow me to introduce "Drum the Ecstatic"

Allow me introduce "Drum the Ecstatic" by Jim Donovan

If you like to dance, have fun and listening to intense African infused drumming music. Check out my band "Drum the Ecstatic". We do an exciting combination of West and Central African music as well as many fun covers from Fela Kuti to Bob Marley to Rusted Root. I love playing with these guys, because every night we do something different and they challenge me to become a better musician.

Playing the group are mainstays such as Congolese music master Elie Kihonia on vocals, keys and drums, PJ Roduta & Bryan Fazio on congas and percussion, Brandon King on keys and percussion and myself on drum set & vocals. We often have good friends like Mike Deaton, Harry Pepper, Etse Nyadedzor, Sogbety Diomande, Bill Burke, Paul Berkobin, Bob Corson, Brian Bromka, Stephanie Smith, Moe Jerant, Jim DiSpirito and many others sitting in with us.

The cast of musicians is constantly changing which keeps it fun for us. Most times we play with no set list and just call out songs as they come up. We've been known to play shows where an hour of it are pieces we know, while other pieces we just make up on the spot. We've even been known to play an hour of disco & R&B covers if the mood strikes....

Mostly Drum the Ecstatic is all about just playing good music and enjoying each other.

If you have the urge to get your drum on, join us for our next concert on March 21 in Beaver, PA. Here are the details...

You can also check our schedule for all future dates here...

Watch Lady : Jim Donovan's Drum the Ecstatic International | View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rhythm and Drumming Together

Ngoma drum photo by Kaylyn Oshaben

Rhythm exists at the core of everything. Like a note struck on a piano, our bodies and everything around us is constantly vibrating at a specific frequency. At our core, we are both rhythm and music.

Our brainwaves pulse at a specific tempo during certain times of the day. Our heart beats, and we have the ability to speak. Spoken language depends on rhythm to exist. All notions of "I have no rhythm" are a manifestations of fear.

My responsibility as a workshop facilitator is to help create an environment where people can move past this fear and replace it with a positive experience that inspires empowerment. The group drumming experience is the great equalizer. It breaks through man-made barriers such as race, creed, sex, age, beliefs, and socio-economic status. The more people begin to experience drumming and the phenomenal power it has to heal, and bring joy, the more they want it.

Learn more about how to drum here...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Failure is Completely Necessary for Growth

Jim Donovan drumming with Carlos Santana 1997, you can see my stressed out face over Carlos' shoulder on the drum kit...
Some of you may have heard that story.. If not I'll tell you sometime...


Failure is completely necessary for growth. Not wanting to try new things is often related to fear of failure. If you are unwilling to fail, you are unwilling to progress- to grow past your current path. Failure hurts. It hurts at a profound level at your deepest core, and when it hurts you that deeply, it means that you are experiencing something in a full way- in a way that's real and not peripheral.

For example; when you are fully in love with someone you may feel an all encompassing, even overwhelming, emotion. Feeling like this on even just one occasion, you crave it- the fullness of it, the warmth and joy of it. It makes you feel *alive*. In a similar way, when you fail, even though it is painful experience, if you can consider the failure as a necessary step in growth, the failure can also bring us a fuller feeling of aliveness and eventual growth.

You can free yourself from the fear of failure if you understand that it is vital for your growth. The tricky part, is that experiencing a failure can be painful- and it can cause you to go to great lengths to make sure that the "failure" never happens again. On the other hand, you could also get inspired to overcome the challenge that the failure presents.

Anytime you allow yourself to experience emotion to its fullest extent, you feel truly alive. It's the expression of emotion that is the key to our power.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Evolution and Progression

Photo of Summer Rhythm Renewal : Congolese Dance Workshop

Evolution and Progression by Jim Donovan

The process of uncovering layers of accumulated learned behaviors and finding our true self IS evolution.  We sometimes get tricked into believing that in order to evolve, we need to become someone different than who we really are.  Evolution isn't about reaching outside ourselves, it's about moving inward and evolving through the process of de-layering- of removing bad habits and old patterns that no longer serve us or our higher good. That's how we are able to progress, transform, and ultimately evolve.   

As we move along our own paths- as we evolve, our progression affects everyone around us because these people have no choice but to witness our transformation. By consistently modeling progressive minded behavior, family, friends, and acquaintances will be affected by our actions and our ways of being. For example- when you spend time with people, it's easy to assimilate another's energies.  We can take on a persons mannerisms, their way of speaking, and if we resonate strongly with their ideas, we often assimilate those as well- eventually making those ideas our own.

The process of personal evolution is work.  It's your work.  As you face life's challenges along the path to transformation, stop and think about your last day on this planet. Think about what would be most important to you in your last hours as you reflect on the life you've lived. In times of frustration, try to take yourself to that place - the things you hold most important at the end of it all.  What things created joy in your heart? What things would you regret? Who did you lift up?

The purpose of this reflection is to remind you that you are responsible for giving yourself perspective. You are in charge of making sure that you are living the live that YOU want. We can encourage others, and we ourselves can be inspired over and over again.  But as inspiration fades, we still need to stay strong and continue to move forward.

In your heart, if you feel that there are changes to be made, that there are things to be let go of, that there are parts of you to still be transformed, now is the time to do that. Now is the time.

And now is only the beginning...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Play a monster drum kit right at your computer

Just what you need, another place to waste 10 minutes..
Well, what are you waiting for?
Go play..

Thursday, March 5, 2009


From Rhythm :: Ecstasy :: Evolution

Drumming has been used for centuries by the world's indigenous peoples, who have always drummed in ceremony at weddings, births, deaths, harvests, and rites of passage. In recent years, major articles describing the healing effects of this ancient practice have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, The Yoga Journal and Newsweek.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tips on Djembe Technique

This video clip from the Rhythmic Foundation : Interactive African Drumming for Everyone DVD gives you tips on how to start playing your djembe. In it, Jim covers how to sit, how and where to strike the drum so that you make good sound and how to keep your hands healthy.

Good technique is important and allows you to do a few things:

1. It keeps your hands from getting hurt.
2. It helps you learn to differentiate your tones so that you can begin to learn the language of the drum.
3. It gives you "efficiency of motion" so that you end up using as little energy as possible, thereby making it easier for you to play and learn.

As with anything worth doing, give yourself time with your drum and repeat the exercises often to make better gains in your playing. You'll get back whatever you put into it. Most importantly, infuse your approach to practice with the attitude of joy...

Now go grab your drum!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Help a Kid Get a Drum

I just ran across this great site that allows you to give much needed help to the teachers in our US schools.

This site, helps teachers looking for materials (like drums) to find donors to help out. You get to decide exactly what project or school you donate to.

The nice thing about it is that the site uses the crowdsourcing idea where even if you donate tiny amounts, it still helps because there are many others doing the same thing. Kind of like the "tiny streams coming together eventually becoming a great river" idea.

Of course, I found the particular part of the site where teachers are looking to get drums for their students for group drumming in the classroom. I've seen first hand, as I'm sure many of you have, the confidence, self-esteem, sense of community, and joy that drumming with others provides.

The way I see it, the more drumming we have in our schools the better :)

Help out here..

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bata Drummers

Courtesy of Awoyinfa Ifaloju

This is a short clip of some young Bata drummers, children from a long long lineage of Ayan drummers from the area to the north of Oyo town & Ogbomoso towns, which is the traditional and cultural heart of the Yoruba of Nigeria. Bata is also worshipped like any other Deity of the Yoruba people, and can speak like a human, people accustomed to the traditional Yoruba language can decipher the words that the Oni-Ilu (person drumming) is saying and will often sing along to the words of the drum, Bata is also closely related to the Orisa Sango and to Egungun society.

The highly developed artistic forms of the Yoruba people has many things to showcase to the world. These drummers are around 6-8 years of age and have been drumming several years under their mentor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Photo of Summer Rhythm Renewal participants in concert...

Learning to work well with other people is a vital skill that we need for the vast majority of jobs we do. And at the heart of working with people is the ability to communicate with them. Notice that I use the word "with." This word implies that there is more than just you in the situation. If you want to be perceived as someone who is easy to work with, someone that people like to work with, then honing your ability to communicate is vital.

Drilling down further into learning the art of communication is your ability to listen well. The very best communicators, and usually the easiest people to create things with, tend to be the best listeners. When you are truly listening to someone you are directing all of your focus and attention to the other person, fully experiencing and trying to understand what it is that this person is trying to say. This approach of listening is very different than what many of us do, which is as the other person is speaking, we are thinking about we will say next, while only hearing enough to get the gist of what is being said to us.

If you really want to know and understand what someone is trying to say to you, an effective technique that you can use is to simply re-state what the other person has just said to you and ask them, "Did I understand you correctly?" This is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to eliminate mis-communication. It's also a way to deepen your relationship with this other person because when you show this level of attention to them, it communicates the message that you truly care and that what they have to say is important to you.