What a wonderful time we have had this month delivering drumming team building for Timberplay in Sheffield, the Bakkavor group in Peterborough and the Specsavers branch in Chesterfield. They were such fantastic teams who were so good at listening and connecting with one another. See some of the highlights here!
Much of our content this month was presented around the theme of listening. Being good at drumming and percussion is all about good listening and to me this is exactly the same listening skill as is required when communicating with someone. Just like the kind of good listening when you can shut out the chatter in your mind and truly absorb what someone is saying, learning rhythms is about taking turning off the internal thoughts, taking a step back and giving yourself time to hear what the drum or percussion instrument is playing.
Of course the chatter will be different. If the internal chatter when talking to someone is often about thinking what we want to say after the other person has finished speaking, in drumming, the chatter is around things like 'oh my god, I can't do this' or 'I really must get this right' and 'I really hope I don't embarrass myself and mess up'. Ironically with the initial panic and pressure of 'getting it right', people frequently start copying immediately or even before the drumming instructor has finished demonstrating a part. So for this reason, I made sure at the beginning of each session that I advised everyone to give themselves time to hear and absorb the beats and listen to how they sounded against the other rhythm parts.
I will never know how well the sessions would have gone if I hadn't mentioned this. Perhaps the participants were all really good anyway! But I did notice with everyone that they took this advice on board and the results clearly spoke for themselves. With the Specsavers team, while teams would normally only manage to accomplish a rhythm with six musical parts, they managed to play a complex musical arrangement involving eight. The Timberplay team managed to create the 'swing feel' to a particularly tricky drum intro from a rhythm I've been teaching called 'Musolu'. Finally Bakkavor - part of the group managed to play a highly syncopated beat, and the other participants managed to continue playing without getting thrown out of time! Really this could only have been achieved through good listening!
So finally- it occurs to me how useful drumming is as an exercise in this fundamental skill - active listening. It is so essential in business when negotiating, managing customers and conversing with prospective clients. Yes, it is an obvious thing to say 'just listen more'. However it is incredibly easy to forget!