Sometimes, tapping your hand against something can be relaxing. People around the world have created many kinds of percussion instruments played by hitting them with the hand or a mallet. Whole groups of people come together and play percussion instruments in a drum circle.

A drum circle is an informal group of people who gather together to make music with percussion instruments. Sometimes these groups are also called rhythm circles. Usually, the participants in a drum circle sit in chairs arranged in a circle. It’s free-form, without a firm beginning or end to the music. Players in drum circles are all equal, and there are no wrong notes. They listen to what others are playing and join in. It’s not about perfection but rather participation.

Drum circles have ancient roots in cultures with strong drumming traditions, places like Asia and Africa, and among shamanistic practices of Native American cultures. All kinds of drums have developed over time, and many of them are hand-drums, played by hitting the stretched hide or skin on the drum with a part of the hand like the palm or fingers. Many drum circle participants play hand drums. Others might use small hand-held percussion instruments like bells, shakers, and rattles.

While they are informal, drum circles might have a person who serves as facilitator or coordinator to lead the group through varied rhythm explorations. Participants don’t need previous musical experience, and the action of drumming can feel good. This is why drum circles can be used in settings like counseling and therapy. When everyone is playing together, and in the groove, they’re relaxing and relieving stress.