Thursday, June 19, 2014

Power control

In taiko, power is often misunderstood.  Some people think that more power = better sound, but it's actually much more about striking technique than raw power.  If it wasn't, then a boxer or power lifter would have better strikes on the drum than any of us, right?

In fact, let's look at boxing for a minute.  Whether or not you've actually watched a match, it's easy to know how a boxer looks when they're punching.  There are powerful hits due to technique and putting their whole body into their attacks, but there's something else to it - control.  Without control, a boxer would be like a brawler in a bar fight, minus the inebriation: wild swinging and balance loss.  Instead, punches follow punches in combinations and are pulled back to be used in defense or offense again.  That takes control.

I see a lot of players wail on the drum and even if the drum can "take it", that power's going to be lessened down the road due to age, injury, or just being exhausted from using so much of it!  Controlling that power means it lasts longer.  However, more control doesn't mean more tension, it means using enough power to do what you want and how to get the body ready for the next motion efficiently.

Control comes from muscle strength and dexterity.  You have to have the strength to throw a punch or strike a drum well, but also the strength to halt it or retract it - when you want to do so.  If you flail, your body has to compensate, usually awkwardly.  If you slam into the drum, all that excess force causes a really jarring sound.  But if you're able to use your torso, arms, wrists, and fingers in a complimentary motion, you can still strike pretty hard and prepare for the next strike in a way that lets you play quicker than if you're just trying to generate power.  And that's not even taking into account what your lower body can do for you.

To gain control, you'll need awareness first and foremost.  If you don't know that you lack control, how do you know that you need to develop it?  If you don't know where you lack it, where do you start?

You can search for different drills online, but here's a few starting points:
  • Start slowER.  Play a pattern or song to a metronome at a slower, very comfortable tempo.  After a long while at that tempo, increase tempo by about 3-5 beats per minute and repeat until it's no longer possible for a period of time.  Do this over the course of several days.  It's not even about getting faster over time, but learning control at different tempos.
  • Strength development.  You can use weights, but it's more about conditioning the body.  Yoga can help, or even just finding exercises that work balance.  The "superman" floor exercise is a good example of this, especially the one-legged standing version.
Don't be a "brawler" on the drums, flailing, smacking, wailing away.  Be careful that you don't slam the drum so hard that the sound comes out harsh or abrasive.  Think like a boxer or a dancer or a martial artist and know that each motion needs to be balanced and efficient, not too focused on power.  Control yourself!

No comments:

Post a Comment