Drum Therapy for ADHD

I started playing the drums when I was in grade six. The reason for the interest? A boy. He was blond, so cool, and came into our grade six music class to show us his drum solo. I’m sure any percussionist listening to it wouldn’t have been overly impressed, but I sure was. It was loud, unapologetic, and predictable. I was shy, sad, and a bit lost. 

So I asked my parents if I could take drum lessons. Luckily for me, I have parents who have no time for gender roles, so the answer was a resounding yes. I started with an instructor who was way out of my league, half-yelling at me to make my strokes taller and get on rhythm with the metronome at my first lesson. I switched to another teacher who was much more my style- we focused on snare drum rhythms for the first year and I got my first snare drum that Christmas. It was silver with a stand and its own zippered case. I felt pretty bad ass even though I sounded like a train that was falling apart as it flew down the tracks.

After about a year, I switched instructors again and stayed with this one until my graduating year in high school. I got my first drum kit at a pawn shop- it was a creamsicle orange Yamaha four piece and looked like Ringo Starr might have owned it in a past life. In high school, I upgraded to a five piece Yamaha Stage Custom in deep burgundy. I went to rock camp, played in several bands, had a song played on national radio, and made lifelong friends.

 

Figure 1. Cheap (and loud) therapy.

In hindsight, I think this hobby was the best thing for me as a young woman with undiagnosed ADHD. When I felt overwhelmed, I would run to the basement and crash around for fifteen minutes and feel much better when I came back to reality. Drums are also an excellent outlet for stimulation- you have to do something different with each limb, while also thinking ahead so you’re ready for what’s coming up. It’s a great way to feel connected to something greater than yourself- even if it’s just a song in your headphones. The patterns are predictable, and you feel in control to crack that snare or make that bass boom right on time. You are the master of your domain on that throne, and have the power to pull others into your world. Consistency, predictability, and creativity lead to trust by your audience, and trust makes them dance. And the best part is that you can tap into this therapeutic mindset anytime you have a radio, headphones, or stereo nearby. Once you learn the mechanics of drumming, it is a language that is universal with every song you hear.

Figure 2. Church venue walls hugging our songs with heavenly acoustics.

I don’t practice as much as I’d like to anymore, but if you’re looking for a hobby that is ADHD friendly, let me suggest this. But maybe get an electric kit… that way others won’t hate you while you find yourself.

PS. See Tom Tom Magazine for inspiration in drums, music, and feminism.

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