Children's Taiko

My daughter is part of two children’s taiko groups. One is a neighborhood group; the other is a class at Asano Taiko for children. Although we are not part of these groups, (we are too old) watching the lessons can be very enlightening, particularly the Asano Taiko class. Here are two things I have learned from observing the lessons:

1. The switch to turn on the taiko – The teacher of the class at Asano began the class by asking the children (mostly between 4 and 6 years old) if they knew where the switch to turn on the taiko is. The kids had a lot of ideas, such as a certain screw on the side of the drum, or turning one of the handles in a certain way. Of course, the switch is not on the drum. After allowing them to make several guesses she told them that the switch to make the taiko play was their heart. I try to think of that now every time I pick up the sticks to play the taiko.

2. Stretching is very important – The teacher spent about half of the class (30 min) doing stretching exercises with the children. Perhaps it took a little longer than usual because it was only the second class and the children are still learning how to do the stretches. Nevertheless, she did mention at one point that it was very important to be as flexible as possible when you play the taiko. I believe she literally said, “People who are flexible when they play the taiko get an incredible sound.” Stiffness is an enemy to taiko playing, but for many beginners (myself included), it seems to be what your body “naturally” does. In fact, it is probably not natural, but unless you consciously think about relaxing, you tend to stiffen up. From playing various sports and learning various instruments, I think it is perhaps a result of nerves and having to think about many different things all at the same time, such as how to stand, how to hold your sticks, the music, etc.

As many wise people have observed, we can learn a great deal from children.

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