Close this search box.

Finding The Right Rhythm

How does drumming support your health and wellbeing?

We asked Rich to shed some light on the Bodhrán and what drumming means to him. 


Being a musician with a specialism in healthcare and whose main instrumental focus is drums and percussion might seem like a tricky thing to reconcile; The sensitive nature of hospital spaces and the perception of percussion as loud and energetic might seem at odds, but many elements of percussive music when delivered with sensitivity and intention, can be just what’s needed in healthcare spaces.

Percussion based music can be calming and restful as well as being enlivening and celebratory. The lack of melody and harmony in drums can side step the potential pitfalls of engaging patients with music that might be associated with difficult emotions. The presence of rhythm in a space can be very grounding, lead to changes in mental and physical states and help with connection.  

The drum I choose to play in hospital is the Bodhrán. It’s a frame drum associated with traditional Irish music but increasingly played in a greater variety of settings.

A lovely aspect of the bodhrán is the variety of tones that can be got from the drum meaning that a huge range of traditional and contemporary rhythms can be played on the drum. It can be played across a range of volumes with a tipper (single stick) or played really sensitively and very quietly, finger style like a traditional middle eastern frame drum.

I play a drum made by a German maker called Christian Hedwitschak. The drum is very responsive and the sounds range from warm and deep tones to high pitched accents that are really well balanced in combination. Although the drum wasn’t especially crafted for me it has always been my instrument of choice for hospital as it has such a lovely range of warm tones.  

I’ve played drums and percussion for 32 years now and my main instrument over that time has been the conga drums or ‘tumbadoras’ as played in Cuba. The bodhrán is a much smaller, quieter and more portable drum than the congas but rhythmically equally as versatile. I often find myself translating rhythms from the congas on to the bodhrán. Both drums have a wide range of tones that can be played in combination.

For me playing and improvising around a repetitive rhythmic structure is really soothing and pleasurable. It takes me out of myself and puts my mind in a much calmer and more coherent state. Drumming also seems to connect with people in a way that I’ve not experienced with other instruments.

It is my absolute belief in the power of rhythm to change and transform us that has motivated me to develop myself as a healthcare musician and to want to share the experience of what rhythm can do for us with others. 

Rich Kensington, OPUS Healthcare Musician

Photos of rich playing the Bodhrán