How Hard is it to Play Shime-Daiko

We've been practicing taiko at Asano Taiko for nearly 14 months now. Up till now we have mainly been learning to play nagado taiko and/or Odaiko. But this past Saturday, at JIGEN practice, we learned that our next song to learn would be all shime-daiko. All nine of us (possibly 11, we may get two new members) lined up on the stage playing shime taiko.
We are pretty excited because we have always wanted to learn the technique for playing shimedaiko. It is where you can show how good you really are. Why is that? Because when you play shimedaiko, every little mistake, or uneven stroke is obvious. A group that can play shimedaiko well is likely to be a good group all around. On the other hand, sometimes a group that looks to be pretty good all around is exposed to be amateurish as soon as you hear them playing shimedaiko without the larger drums accompanying them.

You see, the shimedaiko are very high pitched and do not reverberate nearly as much as the nagado or Odaiko. With the bigger drums, little inaccuracies and mistakes are covered up by the sustained sounds. But the piercing sound of the shimedaiko holds a magnifying glass to your technique and stick control. I knew this already, but it was reinforced to me at practice, as we lined up the shimedaiko, sat down and our instructor, Yamada sensei of Hono Taiko, began giving us drills to practice. We played them all together, then we played them one at a time. Playing one at a time, as expected, you can easily hear all the little mistakes and uneven sticking. Our next big performance isn't until March, but even so, at the end of practice Yamada sensei gave a sigh and said, 「道が長い」loosely meaning, "You guys have a long ways to go."

This was no suprise to any of us. After the practice, it was painfully obvious that we had a lot of work and practice to do. Knowing the difficulty of playing shimedaiko well, and having wanted to learn to play it for a long time now, I had asked my older brother (drummer for Chicago Super-Band, the Detholz!) for some practice exercises and suggestions when I was at home this past summer, which, of course, he gave me. Now that there is some added urgency to quickly learn shime technique, we are trying to find every opportunity to practice these drills even just a little bit each day.

We are lucky to have a pair of cheap shime daiko of our own. Although they may not sound as great as Asano drums, they are sufficient for practicing. On the other hand, just like almost any drum, they are pretty loud and living in attached condos makes it difficult to practice. Our downstairs neighbors have complained more than once (oops). Anyhow, we are trying to find ways to muffle the sound enough so that it doesn't bother the neighbors, while at the same time, not losing too much of the stick action. See the photo for our latest attempt.

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