Why Drumming Kills a Bardic Circle

Gunnora Hallakarva gunnora at bga.com
Fri Dec 13 02:15:50 PST 1996

Britta the Red said:
<snip> Why can't drumming and bardic circles happen together?
<snip> Now, at Margrave/Vormund this year, I as one of the drummers, managed to
clear a bardic circle in less than 10 minutes. Being a raving fan of
both bardic and drumming, this bothered me tremendously.
Any comments on how to remedy this, or statements on never to try again?

OK, you asked, I'll tell (who says Gunnora never speaks her mind...)

There are several reasons why drumming kills bardic circles.

(1) Most drummers haven't a clue about the mood of the circle.  If the mood
is quiet and pensive, or if people are enjoying group singing, or beautiful
solo performances, a bunch of drummers wreck the mood.  Those who were at
the circle for more laid back and pensive stuff are driven away.

(2) Most drummers won't ever stop.  Like any other performer, the drummers
should do one or two peices and then let others take a turn.  But usually
once the drumming starts, it never goes away.  Those who want to perform
flee to go elsewhere and share their talents with others. Or worse, give it
up and go to bed disgusted.

(3) Most drummers are excruciatingly bad.  Ask Master Cynric.  Most drummers
know ONE rhythm at most.  Many only THINK they have a rhythm, and that
totally unmetrical bashing on the drum they do is maddening.  Alcohol and
drumming do not mix, as it exacerbates the lack of rhythm problem.  With
most musical instruments, including voice, you have to practice a while to
get a good sound.  With a drum, any 2 year old can elicit a huge booming
response.  Voila! One thump on the drum and you are a musician.  NOT!  Like
all other musical instruments, drums take practice.  And research, to find
out how drums were played in period.  And listening to period drum music to
find out what rhythms were used etc.  Unfortunately, the folks who do
approach drumming as another form of musicanship are rare.

(4) Belly dancers (and I use that latter word guardedly) are attracted by
the loud booming noicse, as are leering drunks.  The bad dancers won't stop
(cf, #2 on non-stop drummers, above) and rather than watch bad dancing or
drunk staggering called dancing, or novices who think that all you need is
partial nudity and loud drums, well, most flee such a circle.

(5) Even if you have good drummers, the noice also attracts every other
would-be percussionist on site.  Cf. #3, above.

(6) Why don't those banhing and whoming the drums ever let anyone sleep?
I'm a party animal, but the drums gotta stop by 2am.  Anytime after
midnight, it is loud, drunken, rhythmless and tuneless noisemaking anyway.
Maybe I should hire a bagpiper to serenade the particularly late-nite drum
fiends at about 7am the next morning (having ahd this done to me when I had
a hangover, I can vouch that said bagpiping is truly a tormet fit for the

(7) Drummers often invade a circle without asking those who organized the
circle whether they want to be invaded by drummers.  It is only polite to
inquire as to whether your services are desired and will be appreciated or not.

OK, you ask, so how can we fix the problem?  How about:

Drum seminars during the day, preferably taught by people who played drum
mundanely in the school band or who are professional musicians.  Let the
novices learn before the bardic circles, maybe they won't kill a circle as
soon as they show up and start thumping.

More classes and seminars on period drumming.  Distribution of drum music
for folks to learn from (alon with lessons, if necessary, to learn how to
read the drum scores.)  People finding and sharing tapes and albums that
have period drum technique.

Drummers need to work with bards and singers to learn how to add quiet
rhythm as an accompaniment to vocal performance rather than taking it over
and/or drowning it out.

Drummers with a clue need to help discourage drunk drummers.  Hell, everyone
in a circle needs to stand up and protest when their circle is overtaken by
commando attack drummers. Good drummers need to encourage really bad novices
to come drum with you the next day and learn better techniques.

These are just a few suggestions.  I'm sure others will have more.

Wassail and God Jul,

Gunnora Hallakarva
Ek eigi visa (th)ik hversu o(dh)lask Lofstirrlauf-Kruna
heldr hversu na Hersis-A(dh)al

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