Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why do I drum?

My trusty drum kit..
by Jim Donovan

I was thinking about this question today and I realized that beyond the enjoyment and energy, that I drum because it teaches and reflects to me important aspects about my life...

  • Like feeling stuck or uninspired because I feel like I am just repeating the same old rhythms...
  • Or trying to learn new challenging new rhythms where the patterns challenge, frustrate, and right out confound me...
  • And even realizing, that the rhythms in and of themselves aren't nearly as important as the intention I inject into them.

Elie Kihonia and I drumming at Riverbeat in Pittsburgh.

When I drum, it reminds me of the craving I have to be "in the groove", fully present and in joy. I feel the most alive when new ideas are flowing effortlessly and great music happens!

Drumming is one of the tools that continuously challenges me figure out a way to create that which is inspiring. Whether I break "hard" rhythms down into smaller parts, play them more slowly, or find someone to help me figure it out, drumming always gives me opportunities to grow... if I look closely...

I want to know, why do you drum?
Be a part of this article by leaving you answer in the comments below!


  1. Jim, I have played many instruments, most not very proficiently, but I always come back to drums. I have owned a rock drum kit and wish I still had it. I just got into Djembe and got your video. There is nothing spiritual about it for me, I just love a good beat and it makes me happy to get my feet tapping and start dancing. I also love how its such a good way to break the ice with people and show off different cultures.

  2. Thanks Steve, I appreciate that.
    Great comment.

  3. To tell you the truth most of the reason i drum is you. My mother purchased Cruel Sun shortly after its debut when i was only 3 and i heard it everyday for a very long time. I couldn't listen to anything else. I was completely uninterested in anything that was on the radio and demanded she turned it off and put Rusted Root in. You've been a great inspiration! Thanks a million.

  4. Wow, that's amazing Tyler. Thanks for sharing that. Cruel Sun is one of my favs...

  5. Jim,
    I drum because it serves as a vehicle for my expression of all things in the divine universe.. and...because I love to groove!
    I empathize with the reasons that you listed above.
    For me drumming has been a part of my life that is always constant. It provides stability and when I am drumming I feel aligned and in balance with my self.

  6. Jim,

    Along with drumming for about 13 years, I have found music to be a constant in my life. Over the years I experienced the very things you described; the consuming desire for consistent and precise execution of technique and performance. After so many years of playing and performing with this frame of mind, I began to grow tired of drumming and strayed away from it due to frustration with myself as a drummer.

    Most recently, I'm getting married in May and in doing so have a young neice and nephew. They play percussion (marimba) and flute/guitar respectively. Over the holidays I offered as a present to give free music lessons to my soon-to-be neice whenever we have the chance. She is such a talented young lady, only playing the marimba for about a year, but is completely inspired and consumed by the power of music.

    Through this experience I have found the inspiration to drum again, without the fear of messing up every now and again or playing the same rhythms over and over. I have become inspired by being able to share and pass on the love and knowledge of music to new generations, an experience I also hope to share with my children in the future should they choose to pursue it.


  7. Hey Jim, just got back from the river with my djembe jumped on my kit for a bit. im still new to the entire drum kit. i find it funny the way i play it. Not the traditional rock drum kit. ull find me dropping my snares off on my snare drum making it some like a tom. then from there im gone into the rhythms. totally out of dragged out of my previous state of mind forced into a natural rhythmical state of mind in which I feel I reach my highest point mental clarity and in tune spiritually once I peak off the set im doing, or make a mistake that snaps me out of this "rhymatic trance" if u will, I put my sticks down and go sit and try to collect what just happened. Im sure you have experienced something of this caliber. Something so spiritual and fine about the rhythms. now i could go take lessons from a drummer, and he would teach me finly, he could teach me about the kit, some good basic rhythms. buts thats not what im looking for. im not looking to the traditional rock drummer, or jazz. even though i do understand most of the roots for music now n days do drive from that. im looking for a more natural rhythm, more earthly, more worldly drumming. incorporating essences from every culture around the world. now you can try to tell people why you drum, you can attempt to put words on it. but unless you really reach that point, that state of mind, that purity. then people might need an explanation for why you dedicate a life style to rhythms. If you have reached that state in which you become in tune with the past, future, present, the universal language of rhythms.

    You are my biggest inspiration, and for that i do thank you. Id like to talk to you. weather its through email, or person. I attend your festival every year, over at the blue heron. Ive attempted to make it to your drum gatherings but no luck. Watched your dvd, learned from you, listen to your rhythms. You got it.

    Im still trying to learn how to harvest the sound that i want. i know so little about the actual drum kit. totally new to the kit. but not new to rhythms. as long as ive been a kid the entire world have been my drum rhythms. i remember something as simple as my mother asking me to take out the trash it woul dbe a 30 minute task because id play on the trash can and the side of the wall and a metal pipe. if theres more then 2 tones then id be making some type of funky groove no matter what. the world has been my instument for years. and now i actually was able to snab up a kit. theres so much to learn, i spend all day reading and trying to harvest the sound i want. but with limited money for resources it allows me to be limit to the sound i can produce. but i work around it and do with what i got. im going to start learning how to make my own drums so i can really get the sound that i want. but.

    Id love to talk to you. if u knew what i would give to learn from you. just the actually life style of drums. you travel and play drums everywhere. with different people. i bet you learn so much and i want that. i want to be able to teach people as you do about the drums, about rhythms, about liberation of self expression through rhythms.

    if you have some time for a person who would greatly appreciate it. shoot me an email?