First Line

In taiko class, the drums are arranged in two rows. More experienced students play in the front row, so students in the back row can watch and learn. Sensei decides who plays in which row.

This past month, depending on turnout, I’ve started to get more time in the front row. The first time it happened, it was a little nerve wracking. I was playing directly in front of Sensei and I really didn’t want to mess up.

Yesterday, I spent most of our 2 hour class playing in the front. I definitely worked harder on form to not look like a slacker, but mentally everything felt normal.

After class, one of the regular front row students asked, “How’d you like your extended run on the first line?”

The first line! That’s how you know you’ve made it in hockey.

I guess I’ve made it in taiko now too.

(I’m kidding. You know I’m kidding, right? It’s ridiculous how much there is to learn.)

Audibly Showy

The last couple months we’ve been working on string together all the new stuff from May and June. Collectively, we have a couple good sequences chock full of rim taps, light taps, twirly sticks, tossy sticks, showy arms, and footwork.

At the end of class last week, Sensei introduced a couple new things: over the head stick taps and sliding rim taps. I like them, it’s audibly showy, and our class is predictably hilarious trying to learn the new motions.

Sensei laughed at us, said we’d work on it next week, and closed out the class with a full set of one of the sequences we’ve been working on.

Thanks to various travel schedules, I’ll be going 3 weeks between classes. Good thing we live in the future and I can study the new sequence from our Facebook group video.

Janky Bachi Nail

I’ve spent the last couple months since my bachi strike with a bloody nail. Yesterday, I realized a new warped nail was growing in under the old nail with a layer of dried blood between the two. So basically the old top nail is at some point going to fall off, and it’s looking like this will happen before the new nail underneath reaches the tip of my finger. So after months of bloody nail, I’m going to have weeks of partial warped nail. Lovely.

This has not prevented me from don donning my heart out at class.

Speaking of class, after this week’s class, a few of the veteran students stayed behind to rehearse for an upcoming performance. When they put performance focus and energy into a song, it looks and sounds really good! Lots of energy and flair. So-re!

Don Don Driving Range

New month, new students! We rewound a bit and spent some time on basics, as well as a review of one of our core pieces.

My hands were glad. And so was I. We’d been going so fast the last few weeks I hadn’t really had a chance to pay attention to my form.

That’s one thing I’ve learned from hockey and juggling and swimming and climbing: You’re never too advanced to work on basics.

Bachi Tossing Physics

I neglected to write about the moment from this week’s taiko class when we were tossing our bachi from right hand to left hand, and one of our students wanted to know how to make the bachi not change orientation in the air.

“If you spin it (along its vertical axis), it won’t rotate,” I said.

She tried it. It worked like a charm! Wowowow.

“Inertia!” exclaimed another student.

“Physics!” I yelled.

Because science!

Callous Killer

Tonight’s taiko class did not discriminate between finger vs. palm callouses, left vs. right hand callouses, taiko vs. climbing vs. mountain bike callouses. It tried to blister them all.

Also tonight, we combined all the hitting and tapping and weight shifting and stepping and showy armsing and twirling and tossing. It was really hard and really fun.

I almost survived, until the penultimate measure of the night, when I smashed my knuckle into the edge of a taiko.

It swelled up right away, but hurts less now than the time I smashed my finger with the bachi.

Worth it. When we master this it’s gonna be awesome.

Flying Bachi

I have a new favorite taiko tape: Nexcare to the rescue! This stuff is amazing, and I was sooo glad to have it tonight, because even the climbing callouses on my fingers threatened to come off.

We continued with the multi-blister drumming and footwork. In the second half of the second hour, we added bachi twirling: inside back-to-front, outside back-to-front, clockwise helicopter, counterclockwise helicopter. One handed helicopter while the other hand strikes.

After that, we drummed and tossed the bachi, switching hands in midair.

After that, we toss twirled the bachi, a half twirl in our right hand, followed by a fully airborne twirl with the left hand while the right hand swung its now-caught bachi under it.

This is going to require some practice at home.

Dance Dance Drum Master

We had another three blister class tonight. This time, I re-blistered two callouses and gained a new blister in a spot I didn’t think would suffer from blisters. Everyone was hurting by our break after the first hour.

In the second hour, we started in on… footwork! Up until now we’ve been drumming in a wide stable stance, but now there’s steps and dons and rim taps and tsu-kus and pauses and third beats and full beats and half beats all mixed together.

It’s really fun. I had a huge grin on my face for the last few run throughs.

Three-Blister Class

We got the kitchen sink at taiko class tonight. Sensei had so much he wanted to run us through he skipped right over the usual warmup into a pattern. We did everything tonight: big hits, light taps, rim taps, showy arms, three counts, and full sequences all in one go.

Tonight was a three blister class. Record setting!

Looks like I have a new rating system for taiko class.

Flowy Taps

Wowowow, so much new stuff in taiko class today:

– rim taps
– light drum taps
– hitting a three count within each beat
– arms

The light drum taps aren’t totally new. We saw them once or twice back in February, but I didn’t know how to hold the bachi back then to do it quickly and effectively. Now that I’ve got the don grip down, I can understand shifting my grip toward my index fingers for the taps.

There’s a name for the taps, but I can’t remember it. Yet.

I had tons of fun with the don-tap and do-ko-tap combos. But then it got better! We added showy arms! All of a sudden it’s not just rhythm and form and strength, it’s finer control and some flair as well.

Things are definitely more complex now. I’m loving it!