Playing an instrument improves brain function.

Drummers seem to alter the way the left and right sides of their brains communicate after years of practice. The wiring that connects the two hemispheres of a drummer’s brain differs greatly from that of non-musicians, per a new study.

Read More: avant-garde drummer

Drumming is a special kind of expertise. Drummers are able to concurrently do various rhythmic duties with all four of their limbs. It is impossible for someone who is not a drummer to coordinate this.

“While most individuals can perform easy motor tasks with two hands at a similar level, very few individuals can perform complex fine motor tasks with both hands equally well,” the authors of the most recent study say.

Despite drummers’ extraordinary skills, no research has examined the drummer’s brain to date.

Recently, several researchers decided to look at brain alterations related to drumming.

The study was published in the journal Brain and BehaviorTrusted Source by the authors, who are from the biopsychology research unit at Ruhr-Universit├Ąt and the Bergmannsheil University Clinic in Bochum, Germany.

The scientists enlisted 20 professional drummers who practiced for an average of 10.5 hours a week and had an average age of 17 years to conduct their investigation. Additionally, 24 control participants who did not play any musical instruments were enlisted.

The scientists measured several aspects of the structure and function of their brains using MRI scanning technology.

Previous researchStudies on different kinds of musicians have demonstrated that years of practicing an instrument causes changes and adaptations in the brain.

These research have mostly looked at alterations in the cortex gray matter, which is made up of areas in charge of speech, memory, perception, decision-making, and a lot more.

However, the authors of the most recent study concentrated on white matter, the brain’s information superhighway.

The contralateral hemisphere, or left side of the brain, usually controls right-handedness when performing tasks with the right hand. Both sides of the brain typically work together when someone uses their left hand to complete a task.

The thick band of white matter that connects the two hemispheres, the corpus callosum, is crucial to this hemisphere asymmetry.

Trunks of fibers called white matter connects remote brain regions. White matter was once thought to be little more than helpful wiring by scientists. However, they now consider it to be far more important to the regular operation of the brain.

The corpus callosum was the primary focus of the current study’s authors. Since they think that a drummer’s “remarkable ability to uncouple the motor trajectories of [their] two hands is likely related to inhibitory functions of the corpus callosum,” this is where they concentrated.

The structure of the corpus callosum varied between drummers and non-drummers, as was to be predicted.

Scientists discovered that the front, or anterior, region of a drummer’s corpus callosum had faster rates of diffusion than the controls. This shows “microstructural alterations,” as the authors clarify. What kind of structural alterations have taken place is the following query.

Higher diffusion rates in the corpus callosum are not regarded favorably clinically. It typically suggests white matter loss or injury, as in multiple sclerosis patients. All of these individuals were young and in good health, so an alternative explanation for the discovery is needed.

The anterior corpus callosum of drummers is thought to have fewer fibers than that of non-drummers, but the fibers that do exist are thicker. Because thicker fibers transmit impulses more quickly, this is significant.

In fact, researchers have previously demonstrated a correlation between mean diffusion scores and faster hemisphere-to-hemisphere transfer times.

The authors state that “the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [which is] related to decision-making during voluntary movement, as well as different areas related to motor planning and execution” are among the brain regions connected by the anterior section of the corpus callosum.

Using specialized software, the researchers assessed each participant’s drumming prowess as part of the study. The test featured a range of drum rhythms with different levels of intricacy, all based on game console technology.

The program created a score based on how well each drummer replicated a predetermined drum rhythm. As expected, the drummers outperformed the control group in terms of scoring.

The Percusionist’s Role

“Why do you want to play the drums?” For example, I ask my students on their first lesson, “What made you decide to learn how to play the drums?” Usually, the responses are something like “I like how they sound” or “they look cool.” Perhaps a family member carried them out. Sometimes the response is, “I’m really good at Guitar Hero!” I occasionally get the response, “I don’t know?” The excuse that they were influenced by the kind of music they like to listen to is almost never the case. For the sake of this article, I’ve defined “drums” and “drummers” to include percussion and percussionists.

Read More: avant-garde percussionist

When we start a hobby or learn to play an instrument, many, if not most of us do so because we first see ourselves in an ideal, flawless, or ultimate state. For example, we could buy a book because we envision ourselves reading it while cuddled up in that comfortable chair, with just the right amount of light streaming through the pages, calm music thumping along in the background, a crackling fire, and soft snow falling outside.

That may not seem all that different from the thoughts that enthusiastic children have when they choose to get a drum set. There’s a seductive romanticism about it. After hearing their reasons, I politely disprove their notions of what learning to play the drums truly requires!

The sentence that comes before this one is satirical, but it also has some truth to it. I am aware that a lot of band directors struggle to control the quantity of drummers that enlist in their ensembles. After reading this piece, perhaps all those wannabe drummers will have something to think about. By explaining these facts to my students, I hope to increase their understanding of what drummers do rather than deter potential drummers from pursuing a career in drumming.

I periodically have parents or children ask me, “When will I get to play a song?” after a few weeks of teaching. The first response on a lengthy list of mine begins, “Songs are not played by drummers.” I doubt very many people are musicians, yet there are countless numbers of people who sing. On the other hand, percussionists and drummers accompany tunes.

In short, the exercises I give the pupils range from one to four measures and are designed to improve a certain area of drumming. These activities typically target three domains of development:

Roll development using stick guidance
designs with or without taps or accents

I also provide reading assignments and fundamentals to my pupils.

Even though I’ve made it very clear what my pupils should be striving for and why, they still ask eagerly, “When will I get to play a song?” My students usually respond enthusiastically, “Yes!” when I ask whether they want to learn anything new.

Now, I will play for my students many snare drum parts for band pieces (such as a Sousa march), drum set parts for popular rock ‘n’ roll songs, and symphonic pieces (such as a classical pop tune), all of which they have probably heard at some point in their life. These sections are intentionally devoid of titles. I give them a minute to examine them and test their ability to recognize the object only by its appearance. If not, I’ll take up the position in their place. If this doesn’t give away the title, I’ll play a recording of the song. The next reaction is usually a loud “Oh!”

The main objective of this exercise is to compare these literary works with the assigned studies and etudes. Most of the time, students are unaware of the differences between the two. All together, we usually come to the conclusion that the band, symphonic, and drumset examples are quite repetitious. You’ll play a measure or two here and twenty measures there since the parts are brief. For these parts, a mature intermediate degree of experience is usually sufficient. Studies and etudes usually do not have a great deal of repetition or random playing.

The second purpose of this practice is to make the student aware of the drum sections in the music they are listening to.

Some people find snare drum exercises and etudes to be tedious, repetitive, and even uninteresting. Band and symphonic music might potentially alleviate some of the variety seen in etudes and studies, as we have previously established that they differ from the literature in this regard. Students have their sights set on learning how to play the drum set, even if it could be too early to start them. Popular rock ‘n’ roll songs that I play for the students and band and symphonic music have a lot in common, including repetition. Even though band, symphonic, and drum set music contain a lot of repetitious and boring periods, drummers nevertheless need to treat these sections with seriousness and musicality.

At this time, most students begin to comprehend their role as drummers. I remind them that focus is one of the most important skills a drummer should possess. Excellent tempo control is the most important component.

John Riley, a writer and jazz recording artist, states that “the drummer’s main job is to make the band feel comfortable.” This applies to the snare and bass drums as well as the whole percussion set. Riley’s suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg; in all of his writings, he goes into deeper detail and describes the precise tasks that drummers need to complete in order to make the band feel at ease.

Even while keeping track of time and controlling pace are important, there are other things to think about. The title of the composition is occasionally revealed by a few accents or a little tempo change when I’m playing the snare drum sections and orchestral samples to the band. Expert musicians constantly incorporate characteristics into printed pages that are just not possible to capture, such as softer accents, additional spacing between notes that defies quantification or note value explanation, or fills supplied where none is needed. These short or long sections can help the ensemble transition smoothly or better let the composition to develop or settle.

Attending live performances and listening to a diverse range of recordings in many genres are two essential ways that drummers may acquire and refine these ideas. Drummers must realize that their role is to take the lead, not to follow. The argument that “it’s hard to play this without the band” is used by a drummer does not make them worthy of the designation of drummer. Rather, it should be impossible for the band or any individual member to do their part without the drummer. In a similar vein, being a drummer who can follow his part, comprehend the “road map,” and keep an eye on the conductor to make any necessary modifications at any time requires a great deal of preparation, awareness, and sensitivity. A band director will also require organized drummers. Drummers have several instruments to play, a wide range of techniques to employ, sticks, mallets, beaters, and the ability to go from instrument to instrument without any problems. It’s not only about music and an instrument to maintain.

Drummers and percussionists will surely have their share of solo or feature moments in practically every ensemble; yet, good solos and features come from honing all these fundamental talents.

Teach aspiring students and seasoned performers the importance of concentration, focusing on continuity, tempo control, timekeeping, leading, listening, and bending time appropriately. You can also demonstrate how to follow a conductor to lighten his workload, use technical know-how and dynamic control, add a figure here and there to help with transitions, organize, improvise, and create solos. Using the right examples will yield an accurate analysis of the function of a drummer.