For the last 9 months, we’ve been practicing on chu-daiko on angled stands, striking sideways from right to left, shifting our weight in a wide stance.

Yesterday, we switched to shime-daiko, smaller drums you play from a seated position the floor. It’s a totally different experience.

Instead of shifting your weight, your sit cross-legged on the ground. Instead of moving your arms diagonally, you move them straight up and down. There’s a subtle but core difference in arm extension: Instead of “flaring”, you “tuck”. The bachi are baby sized in comparison to the ones we’ve been using for chu-taiko.

Getting the new motion down is going to take some practice.

Maintaining a still and straight upper body while playing feels like a solid core workout. Also the baby bachi don’t cause blisters as easily. Double win!

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Since I started taiko drumming in February, I’ve attended two shows.

The first one was in April. My reaction? “Holy crap, they’re really good!”

The second one was last night. They’re still really good, but now I have a better appreciation of what they’re doing, what’s hard, what’s exhausting, what’s improv, and all the little tweaks they make during the course of a live performance.

It’s like how I learned to watch hockey differently over the years. Now as I watch people drum I analyze what I like about their style and try to incorporate some of it into my own.

What’s the taiko equivalent of an ice hockey lacrosse goal?

Bachi Bruises

Another week, another slew of new things to learn. We actually warmed up with something brand new. By the end of the night, we’d done so much drumming that the bony parts of my hands were starting to bruise. Kind of like when I first started playing hockey. It’s a good reminder that I’m still a taiko n00b.

On the upside, I kept up well enough to get the first line call for a final run of everything we were working on in the first half of class. I couldn’t tell if it was because Sensei wanted a solid finish going into break, or if he wanted to evaluate my drumming more closely. Either way, it was nerve wracking. Don’t mess up. DON’T MESS UP!!

I didn’t mess up.

Learned some more big movement arms in the air shifting back and forth sequences. I love those.

Doko Doko Doko Doko Doko Doko Don

Holy bachi, taiko class is really picking up! We added a few new parts to our existing songs a couple weeks ago, then this week we jumped straight into a full set of something we practiced briefly in… February or March? In the second half of class, we learned a full set of something completely new to us.

I can’t tell if this is because Sensei feels time pressure to teach us everything before our show in January, or if he thinks we’re actually good enough now. I suspect it’s the former. Yikes!

So Much Don Don

Taiko class tonight was soooo good! We learned a few new parts and resurrected a sequence from early in the year, before I knew what I was doing. It was so much easier this time around! And the new stuff was so much fun.

We had exactly as many students as drums, so we didn’t get the usual rotation rest. After the first hour we took a break. Everyone was exhausted, but we all had giant smiles on our faces.

I wonder what we’re gonna learn next week.

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!