Sunday, February 28, 2010

Drummers and lovers of rhythm! I'd like to interview you.


Drummers and lovers of rhythm...
You are invited to be a part of a new article based upon experiences and stories of drummers and non-drummers who have had transformational experiences with rhythm.

I am interested to hear about your most memorable/profound/exciting/powerful experience that involve drumming or rhythm in some way. This could be via playing, watching, dancing...

You can use these questions to guide you. Answer them in whatever way makes sense to you. 
  1. What was the circumstance?
  2. What made it memorable/profound/exciting/cherished/powerful?
  3. What, if anything, did you retain from the experience?
  4. Did the experience change you in any way?
Leave your answers in the comment section below.
I look forward hearing about it!
Jim Donovan

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    How To Use Sound To Feel Good

    Using sound to open and balance your energy centers. 

    Your body contains several key centers where energy is concentrated; the top of the head, forehead, throat, heart, solar plexus, navel, and at the base of your torso. There may be times when one or several of these areas become congested from things such as under use, over use, or unexpressed emotion. The good news is that you can consciously use sound as an effective, easy, and natural way to reopen and bring your body's energy centers into balance.

    Sound is essentially vibration and the very nature of vibration is movement. When you stretch or exercise you strengthen, open and release your muscles. In a similar way, you can use the vibration of sound to create movement, and thereby open the more subtle parts of your body. As you make sound you are simply bringing air from your lungs, vibrating your vocal cords and then your oral cavity. The kind of sound you make is determined both by the highness or lowness of your voice (also called pitch), and the kind of shape you make with your mouth. The specific sound and pitch that you make determines which part of your body resonates. For example higher pitches like a whistle or a piccolo flute tend to be felt more in you head, while low bass sounds, like the ones you hear in hip hop music, are felt in your belly and hips.

    What follows below are specific sounds and colors which correspond and resonate with each of your main energy centers. You will also notice a "key concept" in each section. These concepts are meant to help you further understand the possible underlying issues commonly associated with each energy center. I've also included a short list of ideas to help you experience how quickly you can begin feeling good by using sound. You deserve to feel good.

    Here are a few ways you can utilize these sounds.
    Remember to only do what your body allows you to do comfortably. Straining or overdoing it will only cause stress and further constriction.

    1. Take a deep breath into your belly, and while exhaling, make the sound using one full breath. As you make the sound, focus your attention on the specific part of your body you are working on.

    2. Take a few moments to reflect on the key concept. If there is something within you that relates to this concept, you can simply hold the idea in your mind that you are dedicating the energy of the sound to bringing this issue back into harmony.

    3. As you focus your attention on the specific body part, imagine it being washed and immersed with the corresponding color.

    4. If you have a health issue related to the part you are working with, imagine with as much detail as possible, that this part of you is radiantly healthy. Imagine that the sound goes right to this spot within you and assists in the healing process.

    5. Make each of the sounds seven times, using one full exhalation each time you make the sound.

    6. Make each of the sounds one time, using one full exhalation each time you make the sound.

    7. Focus on making just one sound, using one full exhalation each time you make the sound, for as long as it feels comfortable to so.

    Your energy centers, the sounds, colors and key concepts.

    Top of the head
    The sounds:
    1. Eee pronounced like "me",
    2. mmm

    Key concept: Clarity of thought


    The sounds:
    1. Aye pronounced like "say"
    2. Om pronounced "ohhmm"

    Key concept: Intuition
    Additional exercise: As you make these sounds, close your eyes closed and direct them slightly upwards as if you were trying to look through the center of your forehead.


    The sound:
    Eye pronounced like "I'
    Color: Blue
    Key concept: Communication and truthfulness.


    The sound:
    Ahh pronounced like "wash"
    Color: Green
    Key concept: Compassion and love.

    Solar Plexus

    The sound:
    Oh pronounced like "go"
    Color: Gold
    Key concept: Personal power


    The sounds:
    1. ooo pronounced like "you"
    2. Hu Hu Hu Hu pronounced like "you"
    Color: orange
    Key concept: Emotion


    The sound:
    Uhh pronounced like "Huh"

    Key concept: Creativity, Fear, Sexuality


    You may enjoy my CD called the Yoga of Drum and Chant which blends simple chanting with organic trance drumming. More info...

    You can experience the concepts as you drum in the "Yoga of Drum and Chant Workshop". View my workshop schedule here...

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Laughing 101


    Sometimes you just need to laugh.
    I hope these brighten your day.


    Do you have a favorite clip that makes you roll on the floor with laughter?
    Share it with us in the comment section below.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    How To Make Your Drumming More Meaningful

    Pj Roduta, Harry Pepper and Bryan Fazio of Drum the Ecstatic International.
    Photo by Kaylyn Oshaben


    by Jim Donovan

    A few years before I joined Rusted Root, I was studying at the University of Pittsburgh to become a professional classical percussionist. As I honed my musical skills, I remember thinking that when I could play a piece of music perfectly that I was "finished' with it and that somehow just executing a performance well was all there was to making good music. But after years of performing and watching the ways in which an audience reacts to and interacts with music, I discovered that ''good execution" is only the beginning. There is a vast world of experience to be had beyond just playing the patterns.

    Through this realization I was inspired to figure out a way to share these ideas so that anyone, regardless of their musical ability, could easily learn how to make their drumming as well as other musical experiences more meaningful right away. What follows is a five step process that I use to connect with the music I play. 

    1st step: Learn the mechanics of the music. This is a fancy way of suggesting that you learn the song, or rhythm or passage that you're interested in playing. Whether it is something you've created, or a traditional song, it helps immensely to train your muscles to do what your brain is asking them to do. Generally this is best achieved by slow repetition at a consistent tempo and by gradually speeding up only when you can execute the pattern or passage flawlessly. Continue to work on the mechanics until all of your motion is as effortless and relaxed as possible. Staying relaxed will allow for maximum endurance when playing something that requires a great deal of power or speed.

    2nd step: Integrate your physical body with the patterns. 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 rhythmic pattern.

    In this step you are 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 moves his body as 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. This isn't about forcing movement that feels unnatural, but rather an encouragement let yourself move with your music in whatever way feels natural to you. 

    3rd step: Integrate your breath with your phrases.
    Here you are learning a vital step in discovering how to deeply connect with the music you are making through the conscious connection of your breath to your musical phrases.

    This process involves lining up your exhalations with the downbeat or beginning of a rhythmic phrase. To do this, simply breathe in 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 to your phrases 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: Align your intention and thoughts with the music you are creating.
    This step underlines something vital about the responsibility of any musician, no matter what skill level you are. 

    Know that your instrument serves as an amplifier for the intention, energy and emotion you hold within you 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. Consider why you play music in the first place, and why you are playing in this very moment.
    Find a way to put yourself in a focused state of mind as you let go of the "outside" world. Use whichever techniques you enjoy like stretching, yoga, deep breathing, going for a quick walk, meditation, etc. 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. 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 spreading the energy of peace and imagine that every note you play expresses this idea as it sends that idea out into the world.

    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.

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

    You may also be interested in these recent posts:

    5 Steps To Using The Hidden Power Of Your Mind

    How To Create Your Ideal Condition in Under 5 Minutes

    Why do I drum?

    View Jim Donovan's upcoming workshop schedule here... 
    Get Jim's Instructional CDs and DVDs here...

    Saturday, February 6, 2010

    Weekend Update

     Photo by Ansel Adams from the National Archive Yosemite 1933

    Weekend Update from Jim 2.6.10

    Mother Nature has given me a much appreciated weekend off, and so I thought I'd share a few things with you before my wife Tracey sends me out to shovel the driveway...

    First: The 2010 Retreat For the Soul in Ambialet, France is nearly sold out... we have just 4 spots left. If you want to take a week to focus on and become inspired by your life's design, then call 814.472.3012 M-F 8:30 AM - 4 PM and register before February 28, 2010. More info...

    Second: Due to the mega-snow in PA this weekend I have rescheduled the Indiana, PA and Altoona, PA Yoga of Drum and Chant Workshops. Below is a link to an updated list of all upcoming dates. Many events have begun selling out in advance recently... (we must be doing something right! So if you are planning on attending an event, you may want to register in advance. Check out the workshop calendar for a date near you... 

    Lastly here are a few new articles for you to enjoy.
        1.    How to Create Your Ideal Condition in Under Five Minutes
        2.    Benefits of Drumming Go Beyond Music
        3.    When do you feel most alive?

    Have a great day!