Monday, December 23, 2013

Odaiko solos

Today at the studio, I went for a long solo on the odaiko until my body started hurting.  I've done this a couple of times the last few years, both for a test of endurance as well as for the experience.

While playing, I experimented with patterns that wanted to come out.  Sometimes things cam out naturally, sometimes my hands "stuttered" when trying to play what was in my head, sometimes I just played a straight beat for a long period of time.  While I do love to solo, I find that soloing on odaiko is a very different thing.

It's not as easy to play a lot of notes, but even if you can, something gets lost.  The notes bleed into each other too much and the rumble muddies the patterns.  It sounds better when notes are more spaced out, with maybe some density in there for flavor.

It's hard to have too much space in between notes though, because there's not a lot of movement available to the odaiko soloist.  Maybe you can make some circles, or turn to the side and play, but mainly the arms tend to go up and back, and...that's about it.

So you're left with a limited, but powerful palette.  The best patterns aren't too dense or too light, but it's also how you play that makes it really an odaiko solo.  Since the audience can't see your face, you have to play with intention above what you might use when you're playing on any other style of taiko.  It's best done by using the entire body so that feeling "reads" to the audience.

I find that with other kinds of taiko (naname, shime, okedo, etc.) I can let my hands do a lot of the playing for me.  A pattern might come out that I wasn't planning to play and I can go with it.  On odaiko, however, I find that I need to be very much in sync with my body with what I'm going to play.

Because of that, simple patterns tend to come off the best, and the best odaiko solos I've seen usually are simple in that way.  Without the fancy patterns or movements available to other types of taiko, it's really about the connection between the player and the drum.  If the audience can feel that connection, feel purpose behind each note, and feel the odaiko in the odaiko, then you have a successful odaiko solo.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know!

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