Thursday, March 5, 2015


When you *really* think about it, there's a lot of factors you can analyze when playing taiko:

Feet: Is your weight on the balls of your feet or the heels?  Are you letting your feet roll onto their sides?  Are you flat-footed?  Are your toes gripping to provide you with more stability?  Are you light on your feet?  If you leave the ground, do you land heavy or springy?

Knees: Are your knees helping you put your weight into a strike?  Are they absorbing any of the shock?  Are they bent, stiff, straight, locked?  Which direction do they bend towards - the toes or at an angle?

Hips: Do your hips turn when you're playing naname?  Are they loose or tight?  Are they parallel to the ground or does one "side" stick up (left, back, etc.)?

Torso: How's your posture?  Do you keep it upright?  Do you open it up?  Too much?  Does it concave inwards?

Shoulders: Are they loose?  Are you sure?  Do you raise them first when striking?  Do you raise them at all when striking?  Is one higher than the other?

Elbows: How much do you lead with your elbows when your arms are extended?  Are they touching your torso when you play a passage of notes?  Are they away from your torso?  In front?  Outwards? Where are they pointed when you play betta?

Hands: How tight is your grip?  Which fingers are making contact?  Where is the bachi against your palm?  How much is the bachi moving as you strike?  Are you correcting for that?  Which direction are your palms facing when you strike, when you lift, when you pull back?  Is your thumb along the bachi or wrapped around?  Is your index finger along the bachi or wrapped around? How much do you choke up?  Do you let the bachi have "weight"?

Face: Where are you looking when you play?  Do you make eye contact with the audience, performers?  Are you smiling?  What's your resting face like?  Does it look like you're thinking?

Kiai: How loud are you?  Are you using hara or throat?  Are you doing it to make noise or to support?  Are you changing it up?  Are you picking your moments or just letting it go whenever?

Strike: Are you over-hitting?  Under-hitting?  Are you too close to make a good sound?  Too far away?  Where are you striking on the drum?  Is it consistent? After the strike, how much does the bachi come back? A lot?  Still touching the head?  Straight back?  Off to the side?

Ki: Are you showing intention when you play?  Is your energy the same in every song or adaptive?  Do you rely on "hamming it up" to be noticed?  Do you support others genuinely?  Does it show in your body as well as your face?

This is overwhelming!  And what's more, this is just addressing playing betta and naname; we're not even talking about odaiko, katsugi okedo, playing while kneeling or seated, playing different kinds of hand percussion, etc.  So what's a taiko player to do?

You play from the heart, you try to get better, and you recognize when you do get better.  And have fun!  That's what you do.  So don't freak out, and remember - while there will always be a hundred things you can worry about, if you're not coming from a genuine place with your taiko, none of those things matter!

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