Saturday, January 31, 2009

TGIF, Part 19 (taiko drills)

Welcome back!

If you're doing these drills in order (and you certainly don't have to), I'd like to suggest that you continue practicing the last two week's drills as you move on with this one. If you only have 10 or 15 minutes a day to devote, just divide the time up, 50/50.

Here's some background on where this drill is coming from:

Anytime the sound (tone, volume) of my right and left hands don't match (when playing a quality drum), the first thing my teacher, Ryo Shimamoto, does is check my form. Often times, once I make the correction, the sounds will match.

Two weeks ago I explained to my teacher that my arms had been hurting at certain times. Because I didn't remember any particular injury, and because they didn't hurt all the time, his response was that I needed to check my form.

Form is important, not only for the purpose of looking uniform, it can affect your body and the sound of your drumming. If you've not been taught proper form before, seek out someone who can teach you--it's important to get this right.

Okay, drill time!!

Focus: Form (upright), Strength
Watch for:
1. Look for "ichi"!
2. Take this drill much more slowly than you think. This will help get it into your body, and it'll tone your muscles a bit.

"Number one" is a popular phrase in Japan, but I will remember this for different reasons than most. After my first lesson in Japan, Ryo Sensei said, "Practice Number One." The "1" is perfectly straight from top to bottom. So, today let's focus on that.

1. Hold your bachi in ready position for upright drumming.

2. Slowly raise your right hand all the way to striking position. By slow, I mean take 10-15 seconds to get to the top.

3. Then, at the same speed, bring the hand down, as you would hit the drum.

4. Try with the other hand.

After checking out both hands in the mirror, consider these things:

1. Does your posture change as your arm is raising? (i.e., your shoulders become slanted, hips shift) Do you feel grounded?

2. Do your bachi and arm make a perfectly straight "1" both up and down?

3. Do both arms look the same?

This is a drill I come back to often, 10-30 minutes a day, any time my form seems to alter slightly. Spending a bit of time in front of the mirror with "ichi" is a great way to keep things in line.

Remember to keep breathing :) Gambatte!


  1. For all drills, especially ones like this, I recommend to others what you've been doing a lot of yourself - videotaping!

    When we use the mirror, we're effectively splitting our focus into "doing" and "watching". When we just "do" and later "watch", we can see what our true tendencies are. Watching a performance that we're in can be a very useful and very humbling experience.

  2. I agree that video taping is helpful--I use it often, obviously. However, I do find that sometimes a mirror is better at times.

    Here's an example: A few weeks ago I was playing odaiko and kept hitting my left shoulder when striking forward. Knowing my tendencies, I could determine that my elbow was starting to come forward before the drop of the bachi behind my shoulder was completed. This, too, is what a video would tell me. (and I checked)

    By practicing in this ultra-slow motion (without a drum) with a mirror, my arms can really understand how it feels different when my form is correct. Later, it's easy to transfer this adjustment to actually playing a drum.

    Thanks for the comments! Keep 'em coming:)