(Dean of Research and Knowledge Exchange, Hartpury University)
In 2002 Steve completed a PhD in exercise physiology at the University of Chichester. Steve’s thesis investigated the energetics of middle distance running through the development of laboratory based techniques that focused on oxygen kinetics during exercise.
The significance of this work was that it provided a robust and valid measure of quantifying energy expenditure. Given that Steve and Marcus worked in the same Department and shared a passion for drumming a programme of work was quickly established to investigate the energy expenditure of a rock drumming.
In 2004, using a portable breath by breath gas analyser, Steve captured the first set of drumming specific data with Clem. This was the first time the estimated energy expenditure of rock drummer had been recorded.
In 2007 discussions between Clem, Steve and Marcus resulted in Clem undertaking the first drumming test to volitional exhaustion. Clem was asked to play along to a tempo set by a click track starting at 110bpm, increasing by 20bpm every 4 minutes. Volitional exhaustion was deemed to have taken place when Clem could no longer play along at the required tempo. Heart rate was recorded using a portable heart rate monitor, along with oxygen uptake via a breath by breath portable gas analyser.
Clem performing drum test to exhaustion at Manchester Apollo.
Following this test the introduction of a set drumming pattern, rather than playing along ‘freestyle’ to the set tempo, was introduced. This improved experimental control by decreasing the variability in drumming response to each set tempo.
Basic drum pattern used in CBDP drum tests
On Monday 21 July 2008 the UK media descended upon the launch of the Clem Burke Drumming Project, hosted by Steve at the University of Gloucestershire. The event became a global news story as comparisons were made between the physical demands of drumming to those experienced by a premier league football player.
In 2008 Steve presented energy expenditure data of Clem playing live at the Annual European College of Sport Science Conference in Estoril, Portugal.
At the 2009 Cheltenham Science Festival Steve worked alongside Darrin Mooney (drummer, Primal Scream) and CBDP colleagues to showcase the energy demands of drumming. The interplay between different energy systems to meet the energy requirements when playing songs of consisting of different tempos was a particular highlight.
A similar presentation was undertaken at the 2009 London International Music Show where again the energy demands of drumming were demonstrated through the drumming of Darrin Mooney (drummer, Primal Scream).
In September 2010 Steve and Marcus were invited to present research findings at a Biorhythm Live event at Dublin’s Science Gallery. Accompanied by Irish drummer Jeremy Hickey (aka RSAG, Rarely Seen Above Ground) the audience were provided with a practical demonstration of how oxygen supply helps meet the energy requirements of drumming.
In 2010 Steve was the Director of Studies for a Masters by Research project successfully completed by Simon de la Rue titled ‘Investigation in the rate if energy expenditure of rock/pop drumming’.
This work produced a scientific paper published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.
In 2011 Steve had the pleasure of giving the citation that accompanied the award of Honorary Doctorate of Music to Clem at the University of Gloucestershire. The citation not only acknowledge Clem as a world class musician but also the key role he has played in the advancement of drumming science.
In January 2015 Steve was accompanied by Robin Guy (drummer, Sham 69) as they presented a Royal Society of Chemistry lecture titled ‘The Chemistry of Drumming’ to school pupils aged 14-16 years. The event was aimed at making science more accessible and stimulating to both boys and girls. This was clearly achieved given the very positive feedback by all those who took part and witnessed this unique experience.
In 2016 the first publication of our research findings showing changes in connectivity pathways within the human brain following drumming practice appeared in the neuroscience journal ‘Cerebral Cortex’.
In 2018 Steve played a key role in the delivery of a collaborative project between the University of Chichester and Hartpury University. The research explored the potential mental and physical benefits of drumming among young adults with autism.