Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Explore the Science Behind Rhythm and How You Learn Drumming to Achieve Total Wellness. [CF1]
"Rhythm is everyone’s first language." (Mila Tina).
Music and rhythm reverberate through time and space as nothing else can.
From the start of time itself, through ancient civilizations, and every cell of every living creature, the power of rhythm has always been apparent.
Everything in the universe is made up of varying rates of vibration because everything is made up of atoms, which consist of protons and neutrons in the center, while electrons buzz around them in rapid circles.
And vibration is energy. Therefore, everything in the universe is energy.
Drumming uses the power of vibration and sound to rejuvenate and heal one's body, mind, and spirit, helping you return to a state of harmony and balance.
Do you ever wonder why a bit of rhythm can get massive crowds to instantly get in sync and start moving and thinking like one?
It's because rhythm and music are part of us, ingrained in the most primal part of our beings. Even our hearts beat in the same rhythm, day in day out.
Babies draw comfort in the womb from the 'thud thud thud' of their mother's heart.
The word ‘rhythm’ comes from the word Hridayam, which means ‘Heart’ in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit.
This is fitting, as the heartbeat is the original rhythm imprinted in our soul.
The first thing we hear in life is the rhythm of our mother’s heartbeat and breath.
This is an experience that is shared by all human beings (and all living creatures) no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or belief system. Rhythm connects us all.
Knowing that rhythm connects each and every human being, how can you use it to improve the general quality of your life?
How can you draw upon it to enhance your health, brain activity, and productivity?
One of the oldest and best ways to tap into the power of rhythm is through drumming.
A Bit of History
Drumming is as old as humanity itself.
It has always been part of human culture. It was used when playing music, in religious ceremonies, and for communication.
Drums appeared circa. 6,000 BC and excavations show that they were used in ancient Mesopotamia as well as communities in Central America and Africa.
The Chinese invented cymbals and tom-toms, and they are also credited with making the first drums, out of alligator skins.
Around 2500 BC, drums were a fixture in ancient temples in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The power of drums was such that it was believed the gift of making them came directly from the gods themselves.
Powerful priestesses used them to summon goddesses with whom they would communicate by first inducing a trance.
In many places, women were also historically the ones who played drums during important ceremonies and celebrations, and also used drums for healing.
It is not a wonder that women have a deep and profound history in drumming.
The art lives in them from these powerful priestesses and rulers, and you will find that women drummers were the most influential throughout history.
The modern drum has evolved over thousands of years and bears as much history as any other.
Today, there are many different types of drums including drum sets, hand drums, fusion kits, congas, bongos, frame drums, and even electronic ones.
No matter what type of drum you feel most drawn to, drums are an amazing way to get in touch with yourself and the power within.
The Neuroscience of Rhythm
There is a reason why you just can't resist moving to a good rhythm: it's hardwired into your brain because of your brain functions in rhythmic pulses or waves.
Listening to and especially creating music with good rhythm can trigger the release of “happy hormones” and “feel good” neurotransmitters, giving you a kind of high and physiologically healing your body.
There are 4 main neurotransmitters and hormones that get released.
Dopamine: Also known as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. When you have achieved something that you are particularly happy about, dopamine is the chemical responsible for that airy happy feeling. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more. High dopamine levels motivate you, give you enthusiasm, and keep you happy. Dopamine also has an important role in helping a number of body systems function, such as movement, sleep, learning, mood, memory, and attention.
Serotonin: Serotonin is the hormone and neurotransmitter responsible for regulating your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory. Feeling confident, capable, respected, and important triggers the release of serotonin. Low levels of this chemical is a major cause of depression and loneliness, so most antidepressants focus on increasing the levels of serotonin production. However, a more natural alternative to taking medication is to create music in order to increase your body’s production of serotonin.
Oxytocin: Often called the “love hormone” oxytocin is responsible for empathy, intimacy, trust, and bonding in relationships. During childbirth, a lot of oxytocin is produced which helps the mother to bond with the child. Oxytocin levels generally increase with physical affection like hugging, cuddling, kissing, and sex. And oxytocin levels can be improved significantly when drumming with others because drumming together literally gets you in the same rhythm and vibrational rate as one another. This in turn releases oxytocin, which will motivate your desire to consciously build stronger, healthier, and more fulfilling relationships with those you love.
Endorphins: Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever, which your body produces in response to stress or discomfort. They are evolutionarily designed to give you a burst of energy and cause a brief euphoria that masks any pain you may feel while attempting to survive an attack or dangerous situation. They are responsible for the runner’s high, relieving pain, and reducing anxiety. Exercise and laughter have been shown to trigger the release of this neurotransmitter, and as drumming is definitely a workout, it is also an awesome way to get your endorphins flowing.
When you drum, you use movement, coordination, hearing, thinking, emotions, memories, and communication processes. That is why rather than just listening to drumming in music, playing it yourself activates all areas of the brain in some way and magnifies the feelings of pleasure experienced.
This compound effect is what makes drumming such an effective form of rhythm and music. Ancient shamans used it to get into a state of trance where, they said, they met with gods and higher powers.
Today, drumming is being used to treat individuals with emotional and mental health issues as a supplement to or even a substitute for heavy medication.
Anyone who hasn’t experienced the magical healing powers of rhythm may be skeptical upon hearing this. As it turns out, however, there is scientific backing for that as well.
The brain emits waves relative to the level of activity. Every time neurons communicate with each other, the electrical pulses generated emit waves of different bandwidths, which can be detected using sensors placed on the scalp. They are measured in hertz and are categorized depending on their frequency.
Beta waves - these are ‘action’ waves. They are released when we are alert, thinking, and engaged in problem-solving and decision making. They are further divided into lo-beta (fast idle, up 12-15Hz), Beta2 (up to 22Hz for high engagement), and hi-beta (up to 38Hz) for complex thought as well as anxiety and excitement.
Alpha waves - These are waves of 8-12Hz, released during the normal resting state, meditation, learning, calmness, and focused alertness.
Theta waves - These are waves of 3-8Hz in frequency and commonly occur in sleep and deep meditation. They are responsible for memory, learning, and intuition, and also play a part in putting out some part of external awareness. Consider theta waves some form of twilight in-between states where dreaming, imagination, nightmares, and bad memories happen.
Delta waves - These are waves released during a state of the deepest meditation or sleep. Their super-low frequency of 0.5-3Hz (cycles per second) makes them deeply penetrating - imagine a low deep bass. They are crucial for healing, regeneration, and empathy. They also suspend external awareness and focus on internal wellness.
Rhythm, and specifically drumming, can lower the brain’s engagement level to a more primal and subconscious state where you are tapping into the deepest and most powerful areas of your brain and consciousness.
In this state, the lowest frequency waves can do their penetrating work of healing and restoration.
Benefits of Drumming in Overall Wellness
The benefits of drumming are myriad and profound.
By helping us reach into and connect with the deepest parts of our being, and align ourselves with the universe and other humans, we draw on a universal unity and energy that powers everything from the stars to the cells of our bodies.
The benefits of drumming include the following, among many others:
1. Stimulates Neuroplasticity and Boosts Brainpower
Your brain is literally “plastic”.
Neuroplasticity is an amazing feature of the brain that enables it to change and grow its function and physical structure.
Every time you challenge your brain, learn a new skill or even change the way you speak and think, you are causing your brain to strengthen and rewire neural connections, and reroute neural pathways.
And this is possible to do at any point in your life, even in old age!
This amazing feature also allows people to recover from strokes, physical brain injury, brain surgery, and other types of brain damage and neurological diseases.
Drumming requires both hemispheres of the brain to work together.
The cognitive and coordination functions require fires up neurons connecting the two brain halves, synchronizing the brain's functions to be faster and more efficient.
This has been shown to improve IQ levels in both children and adults.
2. Improves Motor Skills, Like Coordination and Balance
Coordination between the two halves of the brain also leads to the advanced development of motor skills, even in adults and seniors.
To drum effectively, your brain has to coordinate visual and audible input with muscular response to get the rhythm required.
Research has also shown that when people’s brains are exposed to drumming or music with a prominent rhythm or beat, it is not just the auditory processing part of their brains that “light up”, but also the parts of the brain connected to motor function.
Getting kids to play drums helps them develop better motor function and coordination, and the use of drumming and rhythm has been used to help people with Parkinson’s to improve their balance, stride length, and gait.
With continued drumming, the body soon acquires muscle memory which is a huge step in cognitive growth.
All the mental and physical functions employed in drumming grow in response to drumming and improve overall well-being.
3. Improves Learning Capacity
It is said that adults generally find it hard to learn new things but drumming refreshes and renews their minds so that they can grasp complex concepts better and faster.
In school or at work, adults who drum regularly become much sharper and attentive.
Similarly, kids who take up drumming early reap the full benefits that it has to offer.
That is because drumming naturally stretches the mind and body to higher states of function and being.
They will be smarter, stronger, faster, and happier than their counterparts of the same group.
Children can take up drumming at a very young age.
The rhythms taught by Mila Tina’s unique learning system can help kids supercharge their learning, development, and happiness.
When children take up drumming, they learn to focus on one activity and give it their full attention.
This level of concentration is fundamental in school and in every sphere of life to foster hard work and success.
Thanks to its musical rhythm, drumming has also been shown to stimulate two parts of the brain called Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, both of which are responsible for speech development and articulation.
Studies have been done which demonstrate that the part of the brain that is used for rhythmic processing is also used for language acquisition and processing.
4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins released when drumming give one what is now known as a 'drummer's high.'
Comparable to a runner's high, it is a state where the pleasure and reward centers of the brain are chemically stimulated and release positive feelings.
These feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones directly combat stress and fear hormones, such as cortisol, and help you to relax and let go of mental, emotional, and physical anguish.
Those dealing with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other heightened levels of mental suffering and trauma will especially benefit from drumming.
Drumming and music enable recovery from mental and psychological challenges.
It improves motivation, morale, and mental strength to deal with such problems day in day out.