We’ve all been there; struggling with whether you should practice and be a better drummer or continue watching Netflix. And, to be fair, it’s not easy to get off the couch. But why? That’s always been a burning question for me. So below I attempt to make sense of this by applying ancient Chinese principles, concerning nature’s seasonal cycle, and how these affect humans and animals alike.

This came about during my latest tour with the always awesome Tallulah Rendall. She told me that she was studying Chinese medicine, which intrigued me. I started picking her brains about it and learned that one of the governing principles of Chinese thought, culture and medicine is something called the 5 Elements Theory.

Following the tour I decided to research this a bit more in-depth and see if it could be applied help us be a better drummer. In short, the theory is a system that organises all natural phenomena into five groups. Each of these has its own meanings and implications, and include categories like seasons, climate, stages of growth and development, emotions, etc. These groups are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, and according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation (2015), they “reflect a deep understanding of natural law, the Universal order underlying all things in our world”.

The theory proposes that everything is interconnected through energy, linking us humans (our mind, body, and spirit) to something external in nature at an energetic level (TCMWF, 2015).

The elements are five fundamental energies in nature, constantly in motion and dynamic in their relationships. These relationships balance two principles:

  • Generation which nurtures and promotes growth; and

  • Control which is the restraining energy, stopping things from disproportionally developing (growing too quickly / slowly, too strong / weak)

So what on earth does this have to do with playing drums and being a better drummer? Well, each of the 5 Elements are used to describe the state in nature or season. As I’ve summarised below, each of these has implications on our behaviour as human beings. I would like to align the principle of cyclical seasonality and the natural order of human behaviour in this context to make achieving our goals as drummers easier.


What was the point of that, right? Hopefully it shows that we can align ourselves to nature’s seasonal cycle, and not just to achieve our goals of being a better drummer. Perhaps this can help us to be aware of wider concepts that can make us more effective as people. Then again, this isn’t supposed to be prescriptive; this may not work for everyone. Similarly “each one of us is a unique and characteristic blend of the influences of all the elements” (Acupuncture Online, 2015), yet it may serve as something to explore in your journey of becoming a better player – a new medicine for your medical kit.

Originally published in April 2015.