Skip to main content Accessibility help

An ABC of drumming: children's narratives about beat, rhythm and groove in a primary classroom

  • Elizabeth Mackinlay (a1)


In this paper, I use a bricolage of arts-based research and writing practices to explore narratives by Grade 4 children about their experiences in a drumming circle called ‘Bam Bam’ as represented in a text they created with me called An ABC of drumming. The term ‘narrative’ is used here in a contemporary sense to simultaneously invoke a socially and musically situated and constructed story (Chase, 2005 p. 657); as an ‘account to self and others’ (Barrett & Stauffer, 2009, p. 7) about drumming in a particular place, with a particular group of children during a particular set of events; and, to explore narratives of drumming as the ‘shared relational work’ of myself as a drummer, teacher, researcher and ‘story-teller/story-liver’ (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, p. 12) alongside the children. In synchronicity with the ABC of drumming produced by the children, the paper itself is framed and written creatively around letters of the alphabet and variously includes poetry and data or research poetry; ethnographic ‘thick descriptions’ (Geertz, 1973) of our drumming circle; and, visual and textual expressions by the children. By doing so, my aim is to move collectively from ‘narrative as a “story-presented” to narrative as a “form of meaning-making”, indeed, a form of “mind-making”’ (Barrett & Stauffer, 2009, p. 10) about the children's experience of drumming and the drumming circle itself. The central question underpinning this paper then is, what makes children's experience in a drumming circle meaningful, and how do they make sense of such meaning?



Hide All
BARNES, J. (2012) An introduction to cross-curricular learning. In Driscoll, P., Lambirth, A. & Roden, J. (Eds), The Primary Curriculum: A Creative Approach (pp. 235254). London: Sage.
BARONE, T. & EISNER, E. (2012) Arts Based Research. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
BARRETT, M. S. & STAUFFER, S. L. (2009) Narrative inquiry: From story to method. In Barrett, M. S. & Stauffer, S. L. (Eds), Narrative Inquiry In Music Education: Troubling Certainty (pp. 718). Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
BENGTSSON, S. L., EHRSSON, H. H., HASHIMOTO, T., KITO, T., ULLEN, F., NAITO, E.ET AL. (2009) Listening to rhythms activates motor and pre-motor cortices. Cortex, 45, 6271.
BLACKING, J. (1967) Venda Children's Songs: A Study in Ethnomusicological Analysis. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.
BLACKING, J. (1973) How Musical is Man? Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
BLACKING, J. (1983) The concept of identity and folk concepts of self: a Venda case study. In Jacobson-Widding, A. (Ed.), Identity: Personal and Socio-cultural (pp. 4765). Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell.
BRAKKE, K., FRAGASZY, D. M., SIMPSON, K., HOY, E. & CUMMINS-SEBREE, S. (2007) The production of bimanual-percussion in 12- to 24-month-old children. Infant Behavior and Development, 30 (1), 215.
BUNZEL, R. (1952) Chichicastenango: A Guatamalan village. New York, NY: J. J. Augustin.
CHASE, S. E. (2005) Narrative inquiry: multiple lenses, approaches, voices. In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edn (pp. 651679). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
CLAYTON, M., SAGER, R. & WILL, U. (2004) In time with the music: the concept of entrainment and its significance for ethnomusicology. European Studies in Ethnomusicology, 1, 182.
CONNELLY, M. F. & CLANDININ, J. D. (1990) Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19 (5), 214.
COOK-SATHER, A. (2006) Sound, presence, and power: “Student voice” in educational research and reform. Curriculum Inquiry, 36, 359390.
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, M. (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, M. (1997) Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Basic Books.
CUTZ, O. (2003) Bucket Music: Learning to the Beat of a Different Drum. Geulph, ON: Talking Drum Educational Resources.
DAVIS, J. (2009) Involving children. In Kay, E., Tisdall, M., Davis, J. M. & Gallagher, M. (Eds), Researching with Children and Young People: Research Design, Methods and Analysis (pp. 154167). London: Sage.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS (2005) National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government.,14515.html [Accessed 29 January 2013]
DE VRIES, P. (2010) Being a parent-researcher: reflections on this unique role. Music, Education, Research and Innovation, 14, 2331.
DEWEY, J. (1934/2005) Art as Experience. New York, NY: Perigree Books.
EDMISTON, B. (2008) Forming Ethical Identities in Early Childhood Play. London: Routledge.
ELLIS, C. & BOCHNER, A. (1996) Talking over ethnography. In Ellis, C. & Bochner, A. (Eds), Composing Ethnography: Alternative Forms of Qualitative Writing (pp. 1348). Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.
FARRELL, A. (2005) (Ed.). Ethical Research with Children. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
FAULKNER, S., WOOD, L., IVERY, P. & DONOVAN, R. (2012) It is not just music and rhythm . . . Evaluation of a drumming-based intervention to improve the social and well-being of alienated youth. Children Australia, 37, 3139.
FIELDING, M. (2004) Transformative approaches to student voice: theoretical underpinnings, recalcitrant realities. British Educational Research Journal, 30, 123141.
FLORES, K. (2011) African drumming as a medium to promote emotional and social well-being of children aged 7–12 in residential care. Unpublished DMus thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria.
GEERTZ, C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York, NY: Basic Books.
GOLD, C., VORACEK, M., & WIGRAM, T. (2004) Effects of music therapy for children and adolescents with psychopathology: a meta-analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 45, 10541063.
GREENE, M. (1995) Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts and Social Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
GREENE, M. (2009) In search of a critical pedagogy. In Darder, A., Baltodano, M. P. & Torres, R. D. (Eds), The Critical Pedagogy Reader, 2nd edn (pp. 8496). New York, NY: Routledge.
HART, M. (1990) Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.
HESS, J. (2010) The Sankofa drum and dance ensemble: motivations for student participation in a school world music ensemble. Research Studies in Music Education, 32 (2), 2342.
HO, P., TSAO, J., BLOCH, L. & ZELTZER, L. (2011) The impact of group drumming on social-emotional behaviour in low-income children. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1, 114.
HOFFMAN-DAVIS, J. (2008) Why our Schools need the Arts. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
HOOKS, B. (1994) Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.
HOOKS, B. & SCHAPPS, R. (2004) Building a teaching community: a dialogue. In Hooks, B., Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (pp. 129165). New York, NY: Routledge.
JOHNSTON, M. (1973) The social determinants of Tsonga musical behaviour. International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, 4 (1), 108130.
JONES, A. (2004) Involving children and young people as researchers. In Fraser, al. (Eds), Doing Research with Children and Young People (pp. 113130). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
KEIL, C. & FELD, S. (1994) Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
KIRSCHNER, S. & TOMASELLO, M. (2009) Joint drumming: social context facilitates synchronisation in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102, 299314.
KLEINSPEHN-AMMERLAHN, A., RIEDIGER, M., SCHMIEDEK, F., VON OERTZEN, T., LI, S. C. & LINDENBERGER, U. (2011) Dyadic drumming across the lifespan reveals a zone of proximal development in children. Developmental Psychology, 47, 632644.
LATHER, P. (1991) Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy with/in the Postmodern. New York, NY: Routledge.
MACKINLAY, E. (2006) Embodied pedagogy: reading and performing race in an Indigenous Australian women's music and dance classroom. In Rogers, V. (Ed.), The John Blacking legacy (pp. 180191). Perth, WA: CIRCME.
MACKINLAY, E. (2009) Singing our musical worlds: listening to and hearing the voices of mothers. In Mackinlay, E., Bartleet, B. & Barney, K. (Eds), Musical Islands (pp. 242262). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
MASCHI, T. & BRADLEY, C. (2010) Recreational drumming: a creative arts intervention strategy for social work teaching and practice. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 15, 5366.
MENON, V. & LEVITIN, D. (2005) The rewards of music listening: response and physiological connectivity of the mesolimbic system. Neuroimage, 28, 175184.
NKETIA, K. (1992) The Music of Africa. London: Victor Gallanz.
OVERY, K. (2008) Classroom rhythm games for literacy support. In Miles, T., Westcombe, J. & Ditchfield, D. (Eds), Music and Dyslexia: A Positive Approach (pp. 2644). Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.
OVERY, K. & MOLNAR-SZAKACS, I. (2009) Being together in time: musical experience and the mirror neuron system. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 26, 489504.
PAANANEN, P. (2006) The development of rhythm at the age of 6–11 years: non-pitch rhythmic improvisation. Music Education Research, 8, 349368.
PERKINS, A. & HALCROW, S. E. (2012) Drumming up Asian awareness in Otago primary schools: leading an educational performance to connect children and their wider community. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 27, 7481.
PHILLIPS-SILVER, J. & TRAINOR, L. J. (2005) Feeling the beat: movement influences infant rhythm perception. Science, 308 (5727), 1430.
RICHARDSON, L. (1997) Fields of Play: Constructing an Academic Life. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
RICHARDSON, L. & ST.PIERRE, E. A. (2005) Writing: a method of inquiry. In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edn (pp. 959978). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
SEBANZ, N., BEKKERING, H. & KNOBLICH, G. (2006) Joint action: bodies and minds moving together. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10 (2), 7076.
SHEHAN CAMPBELL, P. (2010) Songs in their Heads: Music and its Meaning in Children's Lives, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
SHEHAN CAMPBELL, P. & TEICHER, J. (1997) Themes and variations on the creative process: tales of three cultures. Research Studies in Music Education, 8 (1), 2941.
SILVERMAN, M. (2009) Sites of social justice: community music in New York City. Research Studies in Music Education, 31 (2), 178192.
SKEEF, E. (1999) African drumming: a perfect tool for a more open and inclusive approach to intercultural education and development. European Journal of Intercultural Studies, 10, 329338.
SLACHMUIJLDER, L. (2005) The rhythm of reconciliation: A reflection on drumming as a contribution to reconciliation processes in Burundi and South Africa [Working paper of Recasting Reconciliation through Culture and the Arts, Electronic version]. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University. [Accessed 29 January 2013].
STEVENS, C. (2003) The Art and Heart of Drum Circles. Milwaukee, MI: Hal Leonard Publishing.
STEWART, J. & MACKINLAY, E. (2003) Fostering Voice and Representation: Exploring the Use of Focus Groups with Indigenous Australian Tertiary Students. Ngulaig, 19. Brisbane: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, University of Queensland.
VEALE, A. (2005) Creative methods in participatory research with children. In Greene, S. & Hogan, D. (Eds), Researching Children's Experience: Methods and Approaches (pp. 253272). London: Sage.
WHITCOMB, R. (2010) Rhythmic characteristics of improvisational drumming among preschool children [Electronic version]. Research and Issues in Music Education, 8 (1). [Accessed 29 January 2013].
WINKELMAN, M. (2003) Complementary therapy for addiction: “drumming out drugs”. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 647651.
WOODWARD, S. (2005) Service learning opportunities for university students in a community collaborative project provided at-risk children with literacy development through African drumming. In Forrest, D. (Ed.), Celebration of Voices (pp. 298323). Parkville, VIC: Australian Society for Music Education.
YOUNG, S. (1995) Listening to the music of early childhood. British Journal of Music Education, 12 (1), 5158.
YOUNG, S. (2003) Time-space structuring in spontaneous play in educational percussion instruments among three- and four-year-olds. British Journal of Music Education, 20, 4559.
ZAPATA, M. A. (1998) The tradition of drumming in Kitase Ghana [Electronic version]. Diaspora ISPs, Paper 17. [Accessed 29 January 2013].
ZENTNER, M. & EEROLA, T. (2010) Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 107, 57685773.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

An ABC of drumming: children's narratives about beat, rhythm and groove in a primary classroom

  • Elizabeth Mackinlay (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.