Do You Videotape Your Taiko Practices?

Today, a short entry with a suggestion for any of the readers who are in taiko groups of their own. I was recently reminded of how helpful and enlightening it can be to tape (video, that is) yourself, or your group during practice, and then watching it afterwards and critiquing the performance together.

With taiko, I think that the way the performers look and move together on stage is just as important as playing the correct rhythms and playing a song musically. But knowing how you look while playing, trying to see whether everyone's movements are in unison and checking to see if you, or anyone else has any type of strange movement tendencies going on is pretty tough to accomplish while you are trying to play the song yourself. Even if one member is to step back and watch, that person cannot see everything, and sometimes, it is more effective to see what is wrong with your playing on your own, instead of having someone else tell you.

You can solve some of these problems by putting up mirrors in your practice area. It can be helpful to a certain extent, but it is still difficult to concentrate on noticing every thing that needs to be fixed, while at the same time trying to perform the song. If you set up a camera, though, you can focus on playing/performing and then watch it afterwards as many times as you want, so that you are sure to catch all of the little things. It is amazing, sometimes, what you can notice when you step back like that to watch yourself play.

This probably isn't a groundbreaking suggestion for most of you. Many of you are probably saying, "Yeah, we already do that. Thanks anyway." We have actually been doing that for awhile as well. It isn't really a new idea for us either. It's just that this past Saturday, we did it for the first time in quite a while and I was so impressed by how effective it was in letting us know where we stood and what needed to be fixed.

It was a song that we have all memorized and have been practicing since last October (2008). It is quite a difficult song and a pretty long song as well, but we felt like we had made pretty good progress and were nearing an acceptable level of performance (which was good, because our performance is only about 2 or 3 weeks away). So our teacher, Yamada sensei, said, "I'm going to tape you guys and then I want you to watch it." So we taped it and sat down to watch it. We finished, it was quiet, Yamada sensei said, "You guys thought you were further along than this, didn't you. You're going to have to work really hard these next few weeks to get this ready."

She was right. Stepping back and watching it on video was very enlightening. I didn't realize how much I was actually looking down, instead of looking forward, out into the audience. Our dynamics, which we thought were really good, were hardly noticeable. Our accents were barely stronger than the unaccented notes. At some points, the height and movement of our bachi (sticks) was all over the place.

Although there are a lot of places to fix up, most of them are pretty easy to repair. Had we not watched ourselves on video, however, we wouldn't have noticed them... Until it was TOO LATE! AHHHHHHHH! Sorry, just kidding. Anyway, we decided to tape ourselves again next practice.

So, if you don't already tape yourselves at practice, I highly suggest that you give it a try. You may be surprised at what you notice.


Anonymous said...

Brian, when is the gig going to be?
Where are you based, anyway, would love to see if not far from Tokyo.

Yes, we tape our practice, too, and it is the most helpful tools to evaluate the forms. Not so much on the rythm achievement, but that is probably more effective to evaluate through audio recording.

Raion Taiko said...

Unfortunately it is not near Tokyo. It is in Kanazawa. Matto, actually, but that is right next to Kanazawa (Ishikawa Ken). It is on Sunday, March 8 and about a 3 minute walk from the Matto train station (on the Hokuriku Hon Sen, just south of Kanazawa). Of course, if you were to make a trip out to Kanazawa, you could also visit Asano Taiko while you were here, then again, you may be interested to do that in June around the 400th anniversary festivities (about which I will send you more info by email, but not tonight, because I need to go to bed).

Joy said...

You're so right about the video taping. My group mostly only tapes performances, and even then we rarely get the chance for us all to see the tapes. But, some of us do own personal video cameras and I think that you've inspired me to see I can get a recording our rehearsal tomorrow. We've been working on refining a new piece over the last few weeks and I think it would be very useful to get a good look at how well we're matching each other.

Thanks for the reminder about this as a useful tool!

Raion Taiko said...

Glad I could help. I figured this wouldn't be a revolutionary suggestion, but I know how I can sometimes forget certain practice techniques that are useful. So I thought I would just post it in case anyone else needed reminding as well (like I did).

Nat said...

Hello! I was looking for "taiko posture" and found your blog! I am learning taiko in a small group. I love it! but I can't get the positioning right (squatting!). I have been thinking to film my teacher but I don't have video camera! I know what I need to do quickly now!
Meanwhile, I am going to read more of your blog!

Raion Taiko said...

Thanks for reading, Nat, and good luck getting the posture right. I think some of it just takes time, but video taping can really speed up the process.

I wish I spoke French, I would like to read your blog. Oh well, thanks for reading mine :)