- Shamans in many cultures make use of rhythmic music, songs, chants, dances, and movements. Instruments as varied as drums, rattles, and bells are used. Claims are sometimes made that shamans always use a constant rhythm in healing and in inducing trances to facilitate journeying. However, not only are different rhythms claimed to be what Mongolian or Saami or Native American or other shamans use (3–4 or 4–7 beats per second are popular among the claimants, especially Cyberian and neo-shamans), it is not even the case that shamans always use their instruments to make a constant rhythm, pulse, or beat. Drums are often used to make noise without any discernible rhythm. While noise and rhythm may have testable effects on people, not only do these vary considerably but they are also valued differently from culture to culture. Gilbert Rouget’s study Music and Trance (1985) demonstrates that any effects of music, and especially of rhythm, operate only in the context of other influences acting on those who enter trance or ecstasy (between which he distinguishes). Other ethnomusicologists agree with this conclusion, if not with everything Rouget proposes.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.