A recent study in the Journal of Brain and Behavior found that drummer’s brains are significantly different and more efficient than non-musicians. So, let your kids drum!
That’s right, that time spent banging on paint buckets and kitchenware could lead to some powerful brain enhancement for your kids. Even better, the more often and longer they play the drums, the greater the effect. Of course, there is a little more to the study than that; so, let's look at a few of the details.
Your Brain on Drums
Drummers have thicker, but fewer, fibers that connect the two hemispheres of the brain, which allows them to exchange information more rapidly. If you are into brain research, the thickened fibers are in the front part of the corpus callosum, which is the part of the brain in charge of motor planning. The study compared twenty professional drummers (using MRI technology) to non-musicians (Schlaffke et al, 2019). Based on the study, it looks like they were all drum set players.
To better understand this, let's think about what a drummer actually does. Basically, drummers play multiple rhythms simultaneously. That is, they play different rhythms with each limb, then play them together. Do this well a drummer’s mind needs to react and connect quickly and efficiently, which takes years of focused practice to strengthen these connections in the mind.
Thinking about the many drummers I have taught, the thing that all kids and adults struggle with is playing different rhythms with each limb. But, it is a skill that requires diligence and discipline to learn. Over time, connecting the rhythms becomes easier. According to the study, this is a result of a drummer’s mind more efficiently transferring information on the brains superhighway.
The authors of the study noted that playing the drums is a distinct skill that requires complex mind to body coordination. Considering the complexity of playing multiple rhythms in different limbs simultaneously, the authors found that this task is impossible for non-drummers.
What Does this Really Mean?
There is bona fide evidence regarding the power of drumming. As the studies authors stated, “drummers can do things that are impossible for untrained people.” But, to do these things takes time and practice. The skills drummers have are learned; yet, they also take perseverance and grit.
To learn complex rhythms, an aspiring drummer has to break it down and try, then try again. In my many years of teaching, I have never seen a kid or adult just play multiple rhythms simultaneously with no effort. But, with tenacity they eventually find success.
John Owens, Ph.D. is the author of Music at Home: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Musically Insightful kids, which can be purchased on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2R0oWtb
Schlaffke, L., Friedrich, S., Tegenthoff, M., Güntürkün, O., Genç, E., Ocklenburg, S. (2019). Boom Chack Boom—A multimethod investigation of motor inhibition in professional drummers. Brain and Behavior.