Friday, December 12, 2008

TGIF, Part 13 (taiko drills)

Hi there!

The time has come for the taiko staple rhythm. You all know it. We all play it. Let's practice and refine it: Don tsu ku!

Focus: Balance, Tempo
Watch for:
1. Pay attention to the tempo when starting with the right hand compared to starting with the left. Is one hand on beat with your metronome and the other not? If there's an imbalance, be sure to practice twice as much with the hand that's having trouble.
2. Watch your wrists! Make sure that they stay relaxed, but don't break the angle. Check out the videos to see what it should look like when the angle between your bachi and the drum is kept consistent.

You're here because you play taiko, so probably you already know how to play Don tsu ku, but bear with my assumption of ignorance here so I can make sure we're all on the same page.

Don tsu ku is a basic rhythm that's very common in taiko songs. The first two beats are played with the Right hand and the third is played by the Left:

RRL, RRL, RRL...

Now, let's talk about rhythm. If you're playing RLRL on an even down beat (1234) and simply skip beat 2, then you've got Don tsu ku:

1 2
3 4
don (su)
tsu ku


Now, let's play the drill! Start with your Right hand. The final two beats are emphasized and both are played with the Right hand.




1 2 3 4
don
tsu ku
don
tsu ku
don
tsu ku
don
tsu ku
don
tsu ku
don
tsu ku
don
tsu ku
don(R)
don(R)

By finishing up with the Right hand, this allows you to start the drill again at the beginning with the Left hand. Now we just loop it--15 minutes with your metronome, once a day. If you need more practice with a particular hand, just play the line twice with that hand before switching.

Check out the videos for form:

This first one is slow only.
video


This one starts slow, repeats at a faster pace, and repeats one more time (almost:)

video

Extension:

1. Don tsu ku is a very important rhythm in taiko, something to be practiced daily. The 3 hits should each be played at a different volume: don is the loudest, tsu is the quietest, ku is in the middle and leads into the following don:

don tsu ku don tsu ku don tsu ku don tsu ku

2. Remember that "tsu" is not accomplished by simply dropping the bachi to the head of the drum. "Tsu" is a very intentional, controlled hit. Really engage the 3 fingers under the bachi to snap into the drum.

3. Divide the drum into 3rds again. Play don tsu ku at the 1/3 marks and the final don don is played in the center.

Happy Weekend!
O tsukare sama deshita!





2 comments:

  1. This is the first time I've heard to make the third hit (ku) louder than the second (tsu). Personally, keeping the quieter notes even makes it much more easier to control the dynamics - two dynamics vs. three.

    Playing don doko and don tsuku fast are tricky, and the biggest mistake people make when playing don doko fast is going for volume instead of consistency. It turns "don doko" into "don tsudon" because that second hit can't keep up in volume. And to make sure don doko and don tsuku sound distinct, those last two notes should aim to be the same dynamic.

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  2. Ah--I never said I was going for ease:)

    Yes, the way "don tsu ku" is played in the US is a loud first hit, followed by two quiet hits that are equal in volume. However, I disagree that there is only one way to play "don tsu ku".

    I noticed right away when I moved to Japan a couple years ago that most groups I saw perform played this quite differently than is common in the US. Perhaps we could clarify by just changing the kuchi shoga, but this version is also called "don tsu ku" in the region where I lived. My teacher learned formally from Katsuji Sensei (former KODO), and Oedo Sukeroku, and this is the "don tsu ku" he taught to me as a result of their influence. The regions I'm referring to include Mie, Wakayama, Kyoto, and Nagano areas.

    When I listen to a song played with a more dynamic "don tsu ku" the song seems to carry itself better. Often the US version can sound simply like "don....don....",the softer hits getting lost, which gives a more driving or marching sound.

    Maybe now that I have a decent camera I should record this video with sound to give you a better idea of what I mean. It does take a lot of practice to play "don tsu ku" at high speeds with these dynamics, as you mentioned. I include at least 10-20 minutes of it (alternating hands) every time I practice.

    Anyway, it's just my preference!

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