Humans have been playing drums for a long time. A very, very long time. Clay drums dating back to 6000 BCE were found in Moravia in central Europe. There are 2800 year old Ethiopian cave paintings depicting animal hide drums. These are just two of many examples of ancient drums found throughout the world and across many civilizations and time periods.
Hand drums are a great way to get started playing music, since there is a low buy in so to speak. Of course there are master conga and djembe players that push the limits of what is capable on their instrument, but, unlike the oboe, violin, or even the guitar, most people can get a decent enough tone from a hand drum right away.
Drums are also an easy instrument to incorporate into group activities like a drum circle, with their well-documented mental and health benefits.
One study out of the UK introduced group drumming sessions to adults who were already receiving mental health services in London. The drumming sessions lasted 10 weeks, 90 minutes per week. Results showed a decrease in anxiety and depression at the end of the 10 weeks. Also, the mental health improvements remained with the drummers when they were checked at follow-up appointments three months after the drumming program ended.
A 12-week program focused on American 5th-graders found similar positive results. In this study, the school counselor led the drumming sessions. Results showed improvements in student “social and emotional behavior” to include depression, anxiety, and inattention when compared to the control group that didn’t drum.
And finally, adults participating in group-drumming sessions in a 2001 study in Meadville, Pennsylvania experienced several health benefits. Participants gained an increase in their DHEA to cortisol ratio which is related to “better performance under stress” and to an increase in their natural killer cell activity. On a side note, natural killer cells are fascinating. They are like the Navy SEALs of our white blood cells. They make up a small minority of our white blood cells and roam around our bodies injecting tumor cells with a toxic substance and killing them. Now ya know.
Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Offerup are all great places to find used hand drums and try out some cheap therapy. If you are in the Westminster, Maryland area check out my friends over at Coffey Music–as of this writing they have a great selection of Meinl Djembes.