Monday, March 28, 2016

Wrist snap

I've been thinking about wrist snap in striking a lot more lately.  There was a picture taken from one of our rehearsals that showed my bachi pointed almost directly back at me while playing downwards.  My first thought was that it was bad form, but in studying my strike, it's really just the combination of wrist snap and my fingers allowing the bachi to go where it wants.

For over a decade I've been holding our shime bachi with the end tip nestled in the palm of my hand.  It's weird that I do this because our shime bachi are on the longer side to begin with, so I'm getting a lot of extra reach (that I probably don't need).  I know for more demanding passages, I'll choke up on the grip and have more control, but my default is no choke at all.

Holding the bachi this way means there's less ability for the fingers to help control and generate power, but much more potential to generate power through wrist snap.  It's a trade-off.

I see a lot of taiko players with stiff wrists.  I'm not sure if it's a flexibility issue or a tension issue, but it's definitely an issue.  They're playing with a stick instead of with a whip.  Don't get me wrong, you can strike loudly with a stiff wrist, but you can strike louder with a relaxed one and it'll take a lot less effort!

However, it's not just about relaxing.  The wrist and surrounding muscles need to be strong in order to prevent injury.  I recommend things like those spinning wrist balls, squeeze balls, grip trainers, even bachi twirling and spinning to keep those muscles in shape!

Wrist snap makes it possible to play loud with less movement, play longer with less strain, and gives way more control over your strike no matter what your grip.  There's no test you can do to see "how much" wrist snap you have, but it's something worth taking a look at. Video, photos, mirrors - simply spending some time focusing on it might be the start of improving it, and who doesn't like improvement?

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