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Drum the I-Ching? Yes, you can! The following directions may seem like a lot of work, but the results are well worth the effort. Please read through all the directions first before starting.


All you need to do for this is make a copy of all 64 hexagrams laid out in order. Draw the hexagrams from the chart in your favorite I-Ching book. Lay out the hexagrams on an 8-1/2 by 14 inch sheet of 1/16th inch graph paper. If you get the kind that has non-reproducing lines, then you can make a copy of your completed sheet that will show only the hexagrams.

Place Hexagram # 1 at the lower left of the sheet, then moving up, stack Numbers 2 - 6 in a column on top of the first one. Number each hexagram below its lines. Start Number 7 at the bottom to the right of the first column. With 6 hexagrams in each column, you will end up with 10 columns of 6 and the last column with only 4 hexagrams.

With graph paper it's easy to lay out each solid and broken line. Using a sharp #2 pencil, make each solid line 6 squares in length and one square high. Place one square of space between lines. Leave 1/4 inch (2 squares) between each hexagram. Broken lines will be one oval that's 2 squares long, then a space of 2 squares, then another oval 2 squares long. You may wish to color in the lines of the 8 trigram elements later. Or you can make the lines solid black. If you make each trigram element a different color, this will help you to feel the energies of each trigram as you drum the I-Ching.

Make another sheet containing only the 8 trigrams/elements that combine to make the 64 hexagrams. Label each trigram with its element name.

Mo Maxfield chose the colors listed below, but you could choose whatever colors resonate with you. For instance, the Feng Shui people may want to use the colors associated with that system, e.g, Earth (Kun) = yellow/ochre/brown. Water (Kan) = black; Wind/Wood = green, etc.









Choose a dark blue and a gray that look different from each other. Neither should be so dark that it's hard to tell them apart.

Now you're ready to color in each element on your big sheet with all 64 hexagrams. An easy way to acomplish this is to color in all the Heaven trigrams, then all the Earth, and so on. Use magic markers with a fine tip. Now take your finished sheets to a copy place and copy them in color.


For those of you who find the above directions difficult to follow, go to the I-Ching Symphony Chart. You will be able to print this out. Then come back to this page and follow the directions for drumming.

Since the trigrams and hexagrams are traditionally constructed from the bottom up, this is how you will be reading your sheets of 'music.' So start with the bottom line of the left column and read up to the top. Then go down to the bottom of the second column to the right of the first column. If you find this confusing to keep track of, then give your sheet a turn so that its top becomes its right side. Now you can start at the new top and read from left to right, as you've been accustomed to doing.

Each solid line gets one beat; each broken line gets 2 half beats. In musical notation this translates as: each solid line equals one quarter note; each boken line equals 2 eighth notes. You can use a time notation of 3/4 or 4/4. With the former, you will drum each trigram with no break or rest in between. With the 4/4 notation you will drum the trigram on the first 3 beats, then rest for the 4th beat. You may find you prefer to use the 4/4 notation while learning.


Although you can use any type of drum for this, perhaps the easiest drum to use will be a single-headed drum with a beater stick, like the Native North Americans use.

Use the sheet with the 8 trigram/elements for this practice, to familiarize yourself with the different elements. Practice drumming each element separately, keeping its name in mind as you drum it over and over. When you feel comfortable with the first, start practicing the second, and so on.

After becoming familiar with all 8, then try drumming 2 of them over and over. Note that you're now drumming a hexagram. The time notation will be 6/4 - 6 quarter notes per 'measure,' with each measure equalling one hexagram. Please remember that you will not have a rest in the middle of each hexagram, if you've been using the 4/4 time notation. After you feel comfortable drumming each trigram separately and then combining any two of them, you are now ready to try drumming the whole I-Ching Symphony!


Position the sheet with the 64 hexagrams so you can see it easily. Start drumming the bottom line of Hexagram Number 1, moving up through the first 6 hexagrams, then without missing a beat, move down to the bottom line of the 7th and proceed up the second column. You may wish to practice drumming just these first 2 columns unti you feel comfortable jumping from the top down to the bottom without skipping a beat. If you make mistakes just continue on. When drumming the I-Ching, we are not trying for perfection! So don't judge yourself harshly. Be patient and sooner or later you'll get the hang on it - or perhaps the beat of it.

When you feel comfortable with the first two columns, try adding the third column. Proceed at you own pace until you can drum through all 64 hexagrams making only a few mistakes. Don't worry if you lose your place - this happens to most people, so just take up where you think you left off and finish.

When setting your tempo, make it slow enough so you can keep your place easily on the sheet while drumming. As you gain more experience, you'll find a tendency to speed up. This may or may not end up in disaster, so when you realize you've speeded up, just slow down a bit.

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Index ~ 2 ~ 3
I-Ching Symphony Chart

Florence W. Deems
© January, 1999, revised November, 2001; January, 2006; January, 2013
all rights reserved

ani-gif of two hands drumming