Monday, March 4, 2013


Taiko is an art filled with passion and joy, expression and meaning.  It's really easy to put yourself into the moment no matter what group you play with or what style you enjoy.

But as with all art, it's really important to understand restraint.

Without restraint, there is excess:  A canvas overloaded with paint, dripping on the floor.  Lyrics drowned out against the scream of a guitar.  Jumping, flailing in a bright costume against a brighter backdrop.  Aside from the times when this is deliberate, to make a statement, these examples are hard to enjoy.

In taiko, watching a solo that lacks restraint is often pretty painful.  Sometimes it's in the form of over-hitting, smacking the crap out of the drums.  Sometimes the soloist never stops moving, a whirlwind of chaos that becomes unsettling in it's...perpetual-ness.  Other times there's an abundance of notes in a solo, as if the soloist is trying to create a protective barrier of rhythm around themselves.

Think of a world-class artist, musician or not.  They know when to add those extra touches, make things exciting, even how to use what's not exciting to create texture.  This is about ma, space, artistry, what-have-you.

There is another kind of restraint that's not necessarily a bad thing to give up, but this is more about ki or energy.  To really put yourself out there in your playing, to drop the barrier of self-consciousness, that's something that can be a positive thing.  It's sometimes awkward when you purposefully push yourself there - like being overly excited (and often leading to over-hitting) - but when it's genuine and you're not restraining your ki, it can be transformative to both you and the audience.

I'm not someone who will say that we should all "color inside the lines" and follow the norms and rules, but if you want to make your solo enjoyable, if you want people to get what you're playing, then restraint is a tool you need to make use of.

Add restraint to your toolbox and choose your moments.  Otherwise, you're just a dripping canvas.


  1. Thanks Adam, Last night I did not show much restraint. After looking at my play it is clear to me that it would have been better if I had. Good thoughts, I will gain from using them. Thanks!

    1. Hey Frank! You actually bring up a good point. When someone is playing with sheer joy, it's hard not to feel that joy yourself. You earned yourself that solo - and that joy - and you didn't need to hold back one whit!

      Restraint is good to consider, but ultimately when you express yourself *genuinely* in a solo, there's nothing to be ashamed of! :)

  2. Hi Adam, If I said I was playing with anything but sheer joy I would be a liar. Being on stage with you and SJT was the absolute highlight of my Taiko career. It was awesome and is am still glowing from the experience. Thanks for the positive feedback.