Facilitated 1 Hour Drum Circle Set List “Round The World”
With most groups I facilitate drum circles for, I like to use a "set list" similar to what bands use. I'm hoping some of the approach I use helps you. Also, this is a free word doc at my website drumcircles.net - Please feel free to print out any parts of it if you think it might be useful.
The first page of rhythms below is what I write up the night before, (after I've done some research on the group, org, and their objectives having a drum circle). I use this for pretty much all drum circles I facilitate. Businesses, events, elders, kids, special needs, etc. - it tends to work for me all around. Since an hour goes by so quickly, (or even two) I've found that if we spend the time making music, it achieves their goals.
My goal is for them to have the best time possible just playing drums. No activities, games, or etc. Just shut up and play. The better the music sounds, the better it feels. I want them to get the healing power of drumming in their bodies. Some people do have physical limitations as to what they can play, so I bring a couple bins of assorted percussion. I don't want anyone to be excluded.
I adjust my rhythms set list to suit whatever the group is, but I use this as a general guideline for most smaller circles. Often, it all goes out the window after the first few rhythms, because I let the group vibe and dynamic help guide me. Learning to just trust that when I started facilitating back in the 80's, took me a few years not to freak out if things didn't seem to be going right, or even if a rhythm trainwrecked. It happens. I keep things light, and add humor when I can. So if it happens, I joke about it, "opps my fault", we laugh, and move on. Make the whole experience fun. If it's all serious, it can become more like a classroom experience.
Another aspect to keep in mind, (with whatever the group is) that people are usually transitioning in, and out of the circle as rhythms are happening, so the music is constantly changing, and transitioning. Don't try to control it, just roll with it. Staying tuned in, and evolving with them keeps it in the groove, and sets the right tone.
I encourage people to join in when they feel like they want to. I don't intervene if someone is not playing. Shining a light on them isn't the right move. Even if someone is just sitting there with a scowl on their face, it doesn't necessarily mean they aren't into it, and having a good time. I've had a few of those who sat there the entire circle, came up to me afterwards, and thanked me for just letting them alone to enjoy. So anyway, here's my set list:
Warm Up Jam: Boom_Shala-Ka...Boom_shala-Ka...
Heartbeat: Boom Boom chicka chicka Boom Boom....Boom Boom chicka chicka Boom Boom tap.
Beledi: D D tkt D tkt_D D tkt D tkt_
Fanga: Dun, -, -, go, +, do, go, -, Dun, -, Gun, -, do, go, -, -
Jewish Rhythm: D t-k D t, D t-k D t,
Mother Rhythm in 6/8
Hip Hop Rhythm
Gawasi: D tkD D tkt tktk
Agilablanca: I like to eat, choc-late-cake. (Or another one I like:) Yum Yum, Tastes Like Chicken
Greek: Doum tek a tek tek-ka, Doum tek a tek tek-ka, Doum tek a tek tek-ka, Doum Doum Tek _ (pause, & repeat)
Improvisation Jam, & that's it. End it with a big rumble.
So that's an example set list I would write for most one hour drum circles I facilitate. There are certainly other ways to do this, it's just how I approach it. (More detailed notations are below.)
Once you get going, it’s surprising how fast an hour can go, so I try to keep the rhythms about 7 minutes long. One hour usually turns into 90 minutes. What can I say...I’m a softie.
I like to get a warm up jam going as quickly as possible, so if anyone has nerves, they just melt away. This is what the elders in most cultures did, they would drum first, and talk later.
Most of the rhythms are in 4/4 time (4 counts to a measure), but I like to get at least one 6/8 rhythm in the set somewhere when it feels right.
I always start with a slow basic, yet grooving default drum circle beat. It sounds like this:
Warm Up Jam: Boom_ShaLa-Ka...Boom_shala-Ka... I just start playing it & say, "Play whatever you want, just follow the beat."
After that warm up jam, I can assess the group dynamic, and skill levels, which helps me to make changes or choices from my set list.
If they are all beginners I use Queen's: "We Will Rock You" - Gun Dun go ! Gun Dun go ! Gun Dun go! baGun Dun go !
Or this beat: Bass - Bass _ tap tap tap _ Bass - Bass _ tap tap tap _ (bass on the 1 & 3, tones one the 1,2,3 after it.) The last 4 is a rest. It's a very basic rhythm, but once the group has it in solid, you can gradually bring up the tempo, and both can turn in to nifty little jams.
I facilitate from the side, and mostly through the music. I adjust my set list to fit the particular group, but for the most part, this is what I use. I like to guide them around the world in drum rhythms. Early on, I mention that the rhythm I'm playing is just a starting point. Play whatever you want, play whatever feels good to you, or whatever you feel fits. Improvise, experiment, and express yourself. After the warm up jam, I spend a couple minutes on hand technique so there are no sore hands, and volume so nobody is too uncomfortable.
When I'm suggesting a rhythm to play. I like to vocalize the first few measures before I start, or as I'm playing it, and I start it out very slowly. Then I can gradually bring it up to tempo once we have a pretty solid groove going.
The reason is the analytical side of the brain processes it faster, that frees up the creative intuitive side so they can improvise. Then people can play what they feel, rather than over-thinking it. It is after all, "a drum circle" not calculus.
Interestingly, I've found that most people can wrap their heads around it quicker if I vocalize sounds with a "K" in them.
The count is in 4/4 time on most of these: 1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
Middle Eastern style: Doum tekka-doum Tek. ( abbreviated it's D tk-d T )
Or use Babatunde Olatunji's - Gun Dun go do pa ta style,
Or, use just how it sounds: Boom chicka-boom Chick
Or, just "scat" them out jazz style any way you can. "Boom chicka boom boom" works pretty good, seriously.
Anyway, at this point, they're warmed up & totally got it. (We hope!) Then I usually choose what feels right from these rhythms in 4/4:
Heartbeat: Boom Boom Chicka Chicka Boom Boom....Boom Boom Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tap.
Variation: Boom ShaLa-Ka Boom Boom__Boom ShaLa-Ka Boom Boom__ (both are spiritual if you play slow, bring uptempo & it grooves.)
I keep the energy level up with either Beledi or Fanga about this point:
Beledi: D D tkt D tkt_D D tkt D tkt_ (I throw a bridge in there after it gets going.)
Sounds like this: Doum Doum TekKatek, Doum Tekkatek...Doum Doum TekKatek, Doum Tekkatek-(tekaka)Doum Doum Tekkatek, Doum Tekkatek...
Fanga: Dun, -, -, go, +, do, go, -, Dun, -, Gun, -, do, go, -, -
This Jewish rhythm rocks hard: D t-k D t, D t-k D t, (Basic pattern is similar to the rhythm Ayub.)
Mother Rhythm next: 6/8 time. Follow The Yellow brick Road, or cabbage and broccoli, cabbage and broccoli. You-huff-and-you-puff-and-you-blow-the-Gun-Dun-go-do-pa etc - Anything to give them the time change feel.
Hip Hop or Funk Rhythm comes next. If some of them haven't danced in the center yet, this one will make it happen.
This has kind of a hip hop feel to it. Doum Doum, kaTek-doum, kaDoum Tek_ Doum Doum, kaTek-doum, kaDoum Tek
Clave or Samba rhythm next. Remind them of the beat to the songs; "Mockingbird or Hand Jive" Or try "Jingo" by Santana.
I do an improv jam to wrap things up, and they almost all leave wanting to play more.
If there is more time, I work in one of these 2 Rhythms:
Yum Yum tastes like chic-ken. Yum_ Yum_ tastes like chic-ken. Bass_ Bass_ tone tone tone-tone
Or Agilablanca: I like to eat, piz-za-pie. I like to eat, piz-za-pie or choc-late-cake. (4 tones followed by 3 bass notes.) Anything with 3 cylinders in it works.
Then here's the deeper stage 2 list:
Gawasi: D tkD D tkt tktk
Jaark variation: D tkt-tkDDtkt-tk
Masmuudii variation: D---D---t-k-t-k-D--tktk tktk
Gunazi: Boom sha-ka Boom Boom, shakala, Slap! Boom sha-ka Boom Boom, shakala, Slap! (or some accent tone at the end)
Karsilama 3: It has a triplet at the end: D-kkT-kkD-kkT-T-T (2+2+2+3) Challenging but fun.
Kids like this one: Boom - che-boom_che-boom-a-choc_o_late__choc_o_late,
Saiidi: Doum tekka tekka doum doum tekka-Tek _ Doum tekka tekka doum doum tekka-Tek
Zaffah: (As far as I know, an Egyptian wedding processional in 4/4 time.) D-tkt-t-D-t-t-tt (repeat)
One of my favorite drum rhythms:
Doum tek a tek tek-ka, Doum tek a tek tek-ka, Doum tek a tek tek-ka, Doum Doum Tek _ (pause, & repeat)
Tabla rhythm, but try on djembe or doumbek: da-di ki na doum, da-di ki na doum doum doum.
Greek line dance in 2/4: Doum-tekkatek-tek, Doum-tekkaDoum-tek.
Good 4/4 jam: Gun Dun godo padaTa_ Gun Dun godo padaTa_ (Ta is a slap tone)
(I use "da" as a closed tone note, or as a different softer lower pitched sound between "pa" and "ta slap tones".)
Another: Gun pa go-do, Gun pa da-pa,
More: Gun Dun godo pa-ta-pa, Gun Dun godo pa-ta-pa (or) Doum Doum tekka ka-tek-ka, Doum Doum tekka ka-tek-ka
A Waltz or 6/8 rhythm Darj:
An Irish rhythm: Boom-ba-da-ba, Boom-ba-da-ba Boom,
Chifitelli variation (played slow) Doum, tek-ka tek-ka doum doum Tek _ Doum, tek-ka tek-ka doum doum Doum _ (repeat)
Cuckoo: Say & play it: Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs - Shaka-sha-lakaBoom, Shaka-sha-lakaBoom
I like to mix slow grooving rhythms along with some up-tempo ones so they have some variety. When I was a teen in HS, my first music teacher taught me it's not how many notes you can play in a measure, but it's the space between them, that really makes the music. That stayed with me. Let the bass notes breathe...it's not a race.
During the set, I try to share some back story on a few of the rhythms. Where it's from, how used, etc. Not too much, just a little here and there. Also during the set I mix in a little about the various drums, congas, djembes, doumbeks, frame drums, and etc. It makes it more interesting for them, and gives me a chance to shift gears to next rhythm. I always mention it's to the best of my knowledge, and that we should respect the other cultures, and the rhythms. I keep the set list in my gig bag, so I can glance at it if I need to. And sometimes I do.
I usually have to leave out one or two rhythms, because a few of them get in the pocket. Got to let those go longer, right? As I mentioned, if a rhythm train wrecks, I just say, "Opps, my fault." Joke about it, laugh, and start another rhythm out. Or, stall a bit, and see if someone else starts one up. (We call that noodling.)These kinds of things set a tone that's it's fun, casual, and not all serious.
Many times the vibe takes me in another direction as far as rhythms to suggest, but the list gives me a good outline. There are many different ways to facilitate drum circles, this is just how I approach them. No games, no activities, just make music. The better it sounds, the better it feels.
I hope some of this is of help to you. If you REALLY liked it, please pick up my 101 rhythms DVD or book, “A Practical Guide To Hand Drumming And Drum Circles”. $8 on Amazon Kindle. It is in the book share program, so you can share it with friends like we do with drums at drum circles. Shannon - drumcircles.net