Monday, July 31, 2017

Random truths

Over the years, I've written a lot, learned a lot, un-learned a lot, too.  Along the way I came across things that turned out to be truths, and some things that turned out to be "truths".  The former are rules that apply to all of us, any time.  The latter are things that are selective, only work in certain situations, etc.

Just wanted to share a few truths that helped me out over the years:

- Only you can make you better.  All the workshops, seminars, teachers, and playing time amounts to nothing if you aren't willing to be somewhat vulnerable, open-minded, and have a critical eye of yourself.

- Teaching is just as much an art as the art itself being taught.  The best players don't automatically make for the best teachers.  And some people can teach you a lot without being anywhere near as good as you are, if you're open to learning.

- Just because someone is good, doesn't mean they're right.  Don't let celebrity status determine who you follow.  Have your own thoughts, test out things for yourself before embracing them blindly.

- The person who struggled may be a better teacher than someone naturally gifted.  Someone really good at a skill without trying may not have felt the need to step back and break down the nuances of mechanics, while the person who struggled and tried really hard to improve might be aware of a wealth of details they had to learn to get better.

- More notes does not mean a better solo.  More notes means faster hands, but it doesn't mean musical hands, in-tempo hands, fitting-the-song hands, or varied hands.  Often, the best players are the ones who can say the most with the least amount of notes.

- If it's ensemble drumming, benefit the ensemble.  It doesn't help the song if you stand out drastically, even if you feel like you're having a blast.  Sometimes it helps to step up, sometimes it helps to cut back.

- Be authentic.  You can take movements from others, you can play songs to be like other groups, you can make decisions that make you like other organizations, but in the end, you need to know who you are and why you're doing what you're doing.

- Training in Japan is a solution, not the solution.  There are great opportunities and teachers in Japan, but don't neglect the vast resources you have access to without having to travel abroad, especially if you live in North America.

- The question "what is taiko?" is only as important as you want it to be.  This is a question that will never be fully answered.  While what matters is what taiko means to you, realize it might not mean the same thing to the next person.  Who's right?  No one.  Everyone.

- The more popular you want taiko to be, the more people will use it in ways you don't like.  Can't have it both ways.

- Playing harder doesn't mean playing better.  There's a point where you're just punishing the poor the drum as well as your own body.  Ask an expert of any physical art - you gotta relax to reach your full potential.

- Listen to your body.  If you're playing in a way/style that hurts, stop doing that.  Whether it's as easy as trying a different foot position or as difficult as leaving a group, it's your body.  You only get one and pain can last forever.

- Taiko is awesome.  Regardless of why you play, who you play with, or what you play on, realize you are creating art, not just consuming it.  We need that in our society.  You can inspire, motivate, surprise, and move people with a single hit on the drum.  Keep it up!

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