Thursday, April 30, 2015


As taiko players, we let our instrument do our "talking".  Big loud notes and big arm movements are exciting and dynamic, quiet notes can be calming or restful, etc.

But what a lot of taiko players often forget is that because we are just as much the instrument as the taiko is, that what we look like behind the taiko often sends just as much of a message as what we play.

If I'm playing a happy, festive song - like Matsuri or the like - and my face is neutral in expression, it dampens whatever my music or motions put out there.  On the flip side, even a very simple solo can be elevated immensely when the face shows sheer joy.

If I'm playing a very intense song and my face is relaxed, unengaged, then it looks like it's all too easy.  If the audience picks up on that, instead of drawing them in, I'm helping them disconnect from the performance.  But if I show on my face that this is something that requires focus and/or effort, that "sells" it to the audience.

Of course, either extreme is a bad idea.  Over-selling it can come off as insincere, fake, and/or tiring.  It can be a bit off-putting to put that much raw ki out there, screaming and/or flailing in my solo.  Someone who only has one "look" makes me wonder if it's genuine or just a mask pasted on.  I could be a defense mechanism against being nervous, perhaps?

I often say that people should practice soloing with different moods in mind, to practice being able to express different looks - but also to think about/be aware of their face.  And this is where the skill of acting comes in, something that most taiko players have never looked much into, including myself.

When you're on stage, who are you?  How does the group you're in effect this persona?  How does it change from song to song?  How does it change when you solo?  And how does it show on your face?  I can't answer any of these questions; they are different for each person.  But being aware of what your face is doing, what your face is projecting, will help take your taiko to another level!

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