Counting while playing taiko is not a strength of mine.
During Shippu Uchi Daiko's warm-up we often do a set of speedy paraddidles and each person solos over the pattern. Then it repeats and the solo passes to the next person. I love the challenge of a solo, but I can only seem to keep it together if I let my whole mind and body get lost in the rhythms, kind of like dancing. Unfortunately, if I don't count while I'm soloing, I inevitably overlap with the next person's solo or get stuck with an odd number of dead air beats because I didn't complete the specified number of measures.
I grew up playing the flute and singing and can read sheet music. But, I also grew up dancing which is where I was taught to understand rhythm by listening and feeling, in a less precise or technical way.
How one understands rhythm is affected heavily by the way the teacher chooses to or can explain it to them. What's the best way to understand rhythm? I say, ask lots of people how they understand it! The wider perspective you have, the deeper you can truly go with it. Reading sheet music made me a better taiko player, taiko made me a better tap dancer, and dancing helped me to understand sheet music in new ways.
So, here's today's drill from Summer Taiko Institute 2009 with On Ensemble!
Focus: Timing, Counting
The drill continues on to 2, and then 3 hits for every count. If you really want it, I can probably dig up the video somewhere--email me!
The next step with this drill is to apply it to the songs you're practicing. Take the time to go through beat, by beat, and break down the rhythms so you can really understand when the hits should occur. Then, play it at 25% the normal speed to practice counting. Try this with your whole group and notice the difference in timing!