Thursday, May 4, 2017

But what do you really sound like?

Kumidaiko, or ensemble drumming, is a wonderful, powerful art form.  When you're playing in it, unless you're drastically off-tempo, it sounds great to play with other people in a group.

The problem with playing in a group, especially a larger group, is that you really don't get to hear what you sound like.  This is especially true when you're all playing the same pattern/melody, but still applies when you're not playing what others are playing, like when you're soloing.

We think we're playing together, but it's a very loose version of "together".  The noise that a taiko makes (the big, booming sound) has an attack, when struck, then a decay as the sound carries.  One drum alone can be pretty loud, and then if you add several more drums on top of that, the combined attack can often sound like one note, smoothed out by the accompanying decay (also combined).

Years ago, Yurika and I were trying to hit our respective shime with a single note at the same exact time.  The difficulty was that we were in a recording studio with equipment that isolated our sound and it was painfully clear how hard it was to be exact, even with multiple tries.  It was a surprise for me at least, because I never realized how much difference could exist between two "simultaneous" strikes.

The reason for this topic today is because I think playing by yourself - for practice purposes - will tell you where your strikes are weak, where your tempo is unsettled.  If you have 5 other people playing the same pattern next to you, you cannot really tell if your notes are consistently even, because your ears just aren't that adept at picking out sounds.  Play by yourself and it's much easier to identify.

If you really want to check your technique, record yourself playing a song or solo and listen to it afterwards.  Are you steady?  Are your notes even between right and left hand volume?  It very well might be, but until you do something like this, how do you know?  And if you don't do you know what you can get better at?

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