Thursday, January 30, 2014

Imitation is the sincerest form of...skill development!

When I was new to SJT - and taiko - I would listen to taiko recordings in sickening amounts.

I listened to SJT's 15th Anniversary cassette so many times that I had to get another one years later.  I learned songs that I hadn't even seen; I learned how to play along to solos not knowing what was song and what was improvised.  I tapped on my lap while taking the bus, I tapped on the steering wheel when driving a car.  Over and over and over.

When it came time to play some of those songs, I knew them well.  Sure, there was kata to learn and some things had changed, but I knew how they felt and I knew what patterns sounded good in solos.

I did the same with media from Kodo, which at the time was two VHS and a handful of CDs.  When I got the "Live at the Acropolis" DVD, I would watch Zoku and try to play along with Ryutaro Kaneko's solo.  It blew me away and I wanted to learn to play it, even though I would never actually play Zoku or a solo like that in SJT's repertoire.  That didn't matter.  It took a while to know it well enough to start playing along, then a while longer to get some of the patterns, then longer again to get the sticking and which drums were played when.  But I did.

I also listened to one song in particular, Yu-Karak II.  This song, mostly (completely?) on katsugi okedo, has some amazing rhythmical juggling in the solos half-way into the song.  There's still a couple of bars I can't get!  Still, in trying to tap along to it, play after play after play, it shaped how I hear and how I play rhythms to this day.  I'm not going to go as far and say I can solo like a Kodo member, but the influence is there.

When you listen/watch something like that over and over, when you can replicate it to a competent degree, you are learning valuable skills.  You're learning to think of rhythms you might not normally play, opening your mind to new ideas.  You're also learning patterns that push your dexterity, even if it's just tapping them out on your lap.

Sure, it's an investment of time, but I bet you can find a song or two by a taiko group you really like that you would love to play along to.  It doesn't have to be the whole song; maybe there's a section that really grabs you.  And it doesn't even have to be a taiko song!  Drum corps, rock, techno, anything that you can play along to that challenges you is totally suitable.

I still listen to songs and play along to them.  Where it was San Jose Taiko and Kodo, now it's Heavy Metal, Videogame Music, and...well, still Kodo, haha.  The point is, it's a great way to play along with music you already like that helps you in becoming a stronger taiko player!

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