The Human Response to Drums

Posted in Guides And Tips

When most laymen hear the sound of a drum they often react in a manner that is more energetic, aggressive, and focused than they previously were.

Essentially, that is to say, that the sound of a drum often “pumps up” a layman.


One could argue drums produce a certain texture that promotes this type of response. However, the textures of a marching snare drum and a timpani are extremely different from one another yet both are capable of promoting this response. Another could argue that the sheer volume of a drum is capable of creating this type of response. Still, when drums are heard in the distance similar responses can be prompted. Some may say that the visual motion that takes place when a drummer strikes a drum is what stimulates the layman. Yet, when shown a picture of a drummer drumming the layman may not be phased.

Perhaps it is the combination of all three that stimulates individuals. This is certainly plausible, but even if this is the case, why does it happen? Why does the sound of a drum often cause laymen to become more energetic, aggressive, and focused?

I believe it is all history – we are innately wired to respond this way after centuries of conditioning.

It is no secret that some of the earliest percussion instruments were used for communication and war.

When our ancestors were off hunting and heard the tribe chief hit the base of a tree with a large stick, they knew it was time to get back home. When they heard the sound of drums in the middle of the village as the warriors prepared for battle, they knew it was time for war. When prepared for war and the sound of foreign drums rose from the distance, they knew it was time to fight.

Later, when a European snare drum was heard in the distance, laymen knew an army was coming. In the civil war, when laymen heard a snare drum coming, they knew gunshots were about to sound.

Throughout our existence, the drum has been associated with communication and war (the latter of which being far more traumatizing and thus having a larger impact). Therefore, I believe our brains have developed an instinctive alert when the sound of drums enter our ears. This alert creates a chemical response in our body, a response that makes us more energetic, aggressive, and focused.

Why? Because we are about to go to war. And when you are about to go to war, you must be energetic, aggressive, and focused.