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The Bass Drum is My Leadership Teacher

Shortly after finding my way to the rhythm path, I found myself drawn to playing the bass drums whenever I could. I liked the mellower, low-pitched sounds of the Brazilian surdo, the African dununs, and the larger frame drums. Usually playing with a mallet, I learned how to positively affect the music without needing fancy technique. Over time, I adopted the bass drum as my “main instrument” in ensemble play. I’ve even been called The Bass Queen.

Along the way, I discovered there’s a lot more potential — and responsibility — in playing the bass drum for a drum circle or ensemble than might first appear.  In fact, I find the role, metaphors, and subtleties of the bass drum endlessly fascinating.  Yes, I’m a real geek.

And I’m not the only one.  Science is explaining why the bass is so powerful!

Bass Drum as Leadership Teacher

Another reason I love the bass drum what it teachers me about effective leadership.

In a rhythm circle, the bass drum’s most important job is to keep the Pulse, defining the steady tempo that the group organizes around.

However, this does not mean playing on every beat, 1-2-3-4, over and over.  In fact, that can get overbearing and unpleasant, and dampen the group’s creativity.  Just like a boss who barks out orders one after another after another.

Instead, a skilled bass player establishes a spacious, interesting rhythmic pattern that sets the foundation and character of the song.  S/he plays it steadily, so the rest of the group can count on it, build on it, and express in the song.

I liken the bass pattern and melody line in a drum circle to an organization’s values, mission, and key goals.  It is leadership’s job to form the steady foundation for all organizational work by keeping that drumbeat steady, strong, and articulated underneath the layers of busy activity and waves of change.

Me playing dununs at Jamtown John Hayden’s jam at Greenlake in Seattle a few years ago.

Melody and Magic Bass Drum Workshop

In fact, I created an entire workshop to share my enthusiasm. “Beyond the Pulse: Melody and Magic on the Bass Drum” explores how bass players can tune in, support, and serve the music.

Participants learn to build their intuition and repertoire to play to what is needed at the time.  We discover how to add “simple complexity” to the groove to keep the music steady, yet flexible and breathing.

I weave these ideas into my traveling workshops, like Pulse of Positive Leadership.” And I offer the “Melody and Magic” workshop itself to drumming groups.  Want to get to the bottom of the groove with me?

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