Thursday, October 15, 2015

Soloing, part 13: Imitation as a tool

Photo: Associated Press

When I was new to taiko, I listened to Kodo and San Jose Taiko a LOT.  Cassette tapes and CDs and VHS were played over and over and over again.  And then over for good measure.

I tapped along to the songs I could only hear, and would play along to the videos I had.  There were about 2-3 songs from each group that I would listen to more than the others, specifically to play along with the solos.  I liked how they sounded, I liked the challenge of the difficult parts.

I was learning new patterns and new ways to solo, but I was also learning new sensibilities that were different to my own.  When I started playing along, it wasn't easy at first, but after a while I was not just playing the patterns along with the performers but enjoying some improvising of my own OVER those same patterns.  It's something anyone can do, if they want to put the time into it.

The groups and songs you like may not be the same songs I like, but that's totally fine.  The point is to find the ones that aren't easy to do at first, that make you practice and listen and figure out what's going on in order to train your ears and your hands.  If it's a solo you can play pretty easily, then it's not really teaching you something.  It should take some time to "get", because that means it's actually training you in something new.

One thing to note, though.  DON'T PERFORM THE SOLO YOU'RE COPYING.  That's bad form, like playing someone else's song without permission.  This is about using imitation as a tool, not as a way to play new solo patterns or movements!  You have to take what you learn from this and make it your own - which is yes, more work - but it's all part of this process.

And if you think you're good enough to play it all, try this (from 0:20 on).  Good luck.  ;)

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