With all good things, there are ultimately negatives that accompany the positives, and drumming is no exception. Even though there may seem to be a clear abundance of great health benefits from the act of drumming, there are physical and mental attributes that may seem to outweigh the good. Social inhibitors of drumming can be seen mainly through famous drummers of the twentieth century, where the pressure has gotten to them. Physically, there are all kinds of injuries that can be caused from this activity, some of which are irreversible such as hearing damage. However with all these negatives, it must seem like a claim that drummers live longer healthier lives couldn’t possibly be true.
The physical results that come from drumming are the most obvious, as they are the ones that can typically be the most dangerous and threatening to the drummer’s well being and career. Hearing damage is almost heavily associated with drumming, and is the most obvious negative outcome from the activity. In addition to simply hearing loss, the “most frequent hearing disorders that affect musicians are tinnitus, a sporadic, acute phenomenon of phantom noise… and hyperacusis, an increased auditory sensitivity to loudness.” (Halevi-Katz) However this irreversible impairment is easily avoidable as long as the drummer properly protects their ears. Overuse injuries of tendons and joints are almost as common, with injuries such as tendonitis and “tennis elbow,” or lateral epicondylitis seriously affecting the ability and health of the drummer. All drummers from professional to casual are required to hit hundreds if not thousands of notes constantly, and when those notes come from constant bombardment from a stick of wood hitting several types of surfaces, injuries are bound to occur. With all these notes, as explained by Alberto Selvaettis, a Sports Medicine physician, “a cumulative microtrauma can result, leading to the mechanical fatigue of a tendon, that becomes unable to withstand further stress.” While these injuries can be clear reasons to steer clear of drumming, with proper technique it is possible to avoid these injuries, and the positive physical attributes such as the vigorous exercise counteract this negative.
The art and act of drumming, while it does help to refine the mind, can also seem to lead to some seriously detrimental mental effects. Primarily seen in performing and professional drummers, the constant stress, pressure, and responsibility that comes with being the drummer can easily overwhelm anyone. Drummers have the responsibility to hold the band together and provide structure and stability to any song being played, which can be extremely stressful for those who don’t know how to handle it. They must learn to be good leaders, as they are the heart of the band and can change the overall feel of any song just by changing the groove. As musicians that specialize in rhythm, there is constant pressure to attain rhythmic perfection, speed, and accuracy in everything that is played, and “perfectionism has been associated with higher levels of stress and burnout.” (Stoeber) Many drummers that stop playing drums quit for this exact reason. When their hobby is made into a career, many drummers feel a sense of burnout, which is also caused by this fear of not achieving rhythmic and musical perfection. “It is not striving for perfection that is associated with burnout, but negative reactions to failure to achieve perfection,” (Stoeber) and the pressure of not being perfect and not being good enough gets the better of them so it can become appealing to abandon the activity all together. Although overwhelming, these demands help force leadership skills and self discipline to be obtained, ultimately bettering them as individuals and making them stronger mentally.
The pursuit of rhythmic and musical perfection demands a lot of time and dedication, and those countless hours required can easily sweep drummers as well as other musicians away from having a healthy social life outside of music. For drummers looking to make it big or even just college drummers and musicians in general, these countless hours of practicing (when taken to the extremes) lead to social isolation to accommodate these demands. This isolation has been proven to host several “psychological, behavioral, and biological pathways by which social isolation and loneliness leads to poorer health and decreased longevity.” (Holt-Lunstad) Stepping away from college level, the travel that is required for touring drummers and the performance times required for studio drummers can also lead to this feeling of isolation. Of course, this only takes place if drummers shut themselves down to focus on achieving perfection, but for most musicians this rarely occurs and the social benefits of being a part of the community overcome this isolation. For touring musicians, many are away from home for months at a time or even a year. This time away can cause “a breakdown of personal relationships, with many musicians feeling alienated from loved ones back home.” (Britton) Outside of the music world, it is difficult for drummers to balance their social life. Although for many drummers, the music world is their only world and they wouldn’t have it any other way. This social cut off also allows musicians to meet hundreds of other people, that all love the same thing that they do. There is nothing comparable to the sense of community that comes with being a musician, and when it comes to drumming specifically, it’s like a universal family.
Like most things, drumming has its potential risks and negatives. With the physical, mental, and social benefits comes another side of the coin. To some it may seem as though the physical risks and mental demands of drumming are not worth it, and for many this may be a clear sign to avoid drumming either professionally or casually. But in the end, the benefits far outweigh the negatives and through the activity it is possible to become the healthiest version of one’s self. All negatives, whether physical injuries, mental stress, or social hindrances are easily avoidable and if approached properly can result in refinement and growth.
Britton, Luke Morgan. “Insomnia, Anxiety, Break-ups… Musicians on the dark side of touring.” The Guardian. 2015. https://bit.ly/3wGzYGy
Halevi-Katz, Dana N. “Exposure to music and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) among professional pop/rock/jazz musicians.” 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4918652/
Holt-Lunstad. “Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta- Analytic Review.” 2015. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352
Selvanetti, Alberto. “Overuse tendon injuries: Basic science and classification.” 1997. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1060-1872(97)80031-7.
Stoeber, Joachim, and Dirk Rennert. 2008. “Perfectionism in School Teachers: Relations with Stress Appraisals, Coping Styles, and Burnout.” Anxiety, Stress & Coping 21 (1): 37–53. https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=s3h&AN=27528905&site=ehost-live.
Vardonikolaki, Aikaterini. “Musicians’ Hearing Handicap Index: A New Questionnaire to Assess the Impact of Hearing Impairment in Musicians and Other Music Professionals.” 2020. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_JSLHR-19-00165