Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drill: Sshhh.

A lot of people, when they first see taiko, think that there's a lot of strength involved. Although strength is important when it comes to using the body, strength in striking is rarely a good thing. Overhitting often kills the sound, damages the drum, and can damage the player as well. "Wham wham wham" is a bad principle to follow...

Also, it's pretty darned easy to hit as hard as you can. Whether you do use muscle or know how to use gravity and hara and wrist snap and all those goodies, where's the skill involved? If progress involves getting incrementally better at something, where would that lead? Hitting so hard you break the skin with one hit? *shudder*. No, none of us wants that.

So here are the drills for today. Actually they're less drills and more of a challenge. How quietly can you play?
  • Drill ONE: Place your bachi close to the head of your drum and see how much you can maintain the quietest patterns you choose to play. Once you think it's quiet, make it quieter! It'll only get harder the longer you do it. This is a simple drill...on paper.
  • Drill TWO: Raise your hand far away from the drum, as if you were about to strike it normally. Begin your strike and snap the bachi down while making the quietest hit possible. Don't slow the strike! The only thing that's different should be the volume of the hit. This drill is not easy, especially if you're alternating arms and trying to be consistent.

When people think of "control" in taiko, they often think of how fast a person can play or what kinds of dense patterns someone can pull off. Having a command of your dynamics is a level of control a lot of players have trouble with.

Dynamics drills aren't "sexy", they're sometimes frustrating, and they don't have the same feeling of payoff as some of the other technical drills. But imagine playing dynamics at will, being able to shoot from loud to truly quiet with confidence, knowing that you've tackled a skill that many taiko players overlook.

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