Video: Five Study Tips for Taiko Players

Eien kane photo 2018 taikothon copy.jpg

A few months ago I was asked to submit a video for the Taiko Community Alliance Taikothon 2018, a one-day online event where videos from taiko artists and groups are broadcasted for public viewing. Typically, the videos contain live performances, discussion on a topic, or even skits (I especially enjoyed the creativity and production quality of Zenshin Daiko’s submission). Two years ago, I made a video explaining my approach to the rules of rhythm by breaking down the notion of pulse and subdivisions. This year I decided to contribute my top five tips - practices which have most significantly helped my development as a taiko player. Below is the video, which covers these tips and demonstrates them in an example where I play a hip Edo Bayashi atarigane transcription along to a cool funk tune. My top five study tips for taiko players are:

  1. Think like a drumset player - good drumset players prioritize consistent timekeeping and being good accompanists. This means that we are always working on tempo control and playing with appropriate dynamic levels. Listening and flexibility are crucial ingredients for good accompanying.

  2. Transcribe music - students of jazz commonly transcribe and learn to play the solos of their favorite musicians. Not only does this practice teach you what kind of notes to play, it provides invaluable insight into why those notes are played and the phrasing (inflection) used to bring them to life.

  3. Study traditional music - there is no substitute for experiencing the depth of an art form with centuries of history. When healthy, traditional music is full of life, constantly changing due to the cycle of practitioners keeping the best parts and removing the worst parts. There is a reason for everything contained in traditional music, and this is powerful.

  4. Focus on your sound - the sound of your instrument is the most uniquely personal part of playing music. Trying to emulate your teacher’s sound or your favorite musician’s touch on the instrument is the path that will lead you to improving your sound.

  5. Take private lessons - just like the clear difference between rehearsing with your group and practicing on your own, studying privately with a good teacher will greatly accelerate your development compared to learning in classes or workshops. Private lessons should have a laser focus on your goals, and a good teacher will provide the tools for you to reach them as long as you put in the work.

How my online lessons work

I have been teaching online lessons by Skype for several years now. While most of us are accustomed to learning from our teacher in the same physical space, current technology is good enough that real-time instruction through a screen is still very effective. I feel that the person we study with is more important than the format of the lesson. There may be teachers available locally but if they don't offer what you need, online lessons can be a great alternative. They also have their own advantages beyond the fact that the two sides can be anywhere in the world (with internet).

How does it work? First, you would send me an email describing what you're interested in covering. Then we set up a meeting time that works for both of us. My policy is that payment is made before the lesson takes place, and the online check out system (Stripe) on my website is secure and works well. There are no refunds but credits are issued for emergency cancellations and rescheduling with a minimum of 48 hour notice. Most of my online lessons have been through Skype so you would need to have an account as well as a screen with a camera (desktop computer, laptop, iPad, iPhone, etc). The slight delay doesn't allow us to play at the same time, but a lot can be accomplished through demonstration and explanation. To take advantage of the format, I send web links, PDFs, and audio files relevant to the topic. Students in the past have also uploaded videos (public, unlisted, or password-protected) of their practicing or performance to get my feedback. And it's possible to record the lesson using software such as Skype Call Recorder. Beginning students, advanced players, and all levels in between are welcomed in my studio.

What do I teach? Past lessons have covered drumset, taiko, percussion, shinobue, and composition. My workshops page shows specific topics I have offered, but I am always open to requests. Perhaps you are learning a new piece and need some guidance on how to work on it. Maybe you want to learn a new instrument such as the atarigane and are looking for basic technique. It could be that you want to write a piece but don't know how to structure your ideas. Or perhaps you want to become a stronger soloist and better improviser. One topic that is requested regularly relates to exercises for improving stick control and rhythmic accuracy. Your musicianship will progress forward if you have goals to work toward, a good practicing strategy, and thoughtful feedback from an outside perspective. If you are interested, I recommend trying one lesson to see if it fits your needs. I have included a short video here so that you can see what the lesson would be like. Please contact me with any questions or to schedule a lesson.