What I learned in Super Beginner Taiko Class with my Daughter

This past Monday was the last class of Kinoshita-san's (Hono Taiko) Super Beginner Taiko Course. (Read how I ended up taking this course here.) This course is intended mainly for people with very little, or no experience with taiko so Kinoshita-san started teaching from the very beginning: How to hold the sticks, where to place your feet, how far away to stand from the drum, etc.

Last Monday marked the 8th and final week of the course. This class does not participate in the Asano recitals, but we did learn a simple song as a part of the course. At the end of the class, we gave a mini-performance. Kinoshita-san told us we could invite guests to watch if we wanted to (friends/family) but come performance time, the only "guests" were my wife, son and the son of one other classmate. The song has three parts, sometimes in unison, other times playing different parts. This was probably a mostly new concept for my daughter. In her other taiko classes, the songs she played were almost all unison. So we were impressed how well she did. She has made a lot of progress. I, on the other hand, am still not happy with my form, especially when playing long sections of eighth notes. I think part of it is making adjustments to having longer arms than most taiko players. Here is the video of our performance:

So, how was it? Can you find my daughter's favorite section? It is probably hard to see, but she has a smile on her face at the last section. She really enjoyed that part.

The course may have been called "Super Beginner" but probably the only people who are really beginners would be those who turn up their nose at this type of practice (basics) as being beneath them. Having learned music (violin) since the age of seven, and coming from a rather musical family, I am well aware of the importance of practicing those basic exercises like scales, etudes, using a metronome, etc. every day. It is the same with taiko, of course. Sometimes there can be a tendency to want to get right into practicing songs, especially if there is a performance coming up. But I think that if you spend a good part of your practice warming up and practicing/reviewing basics, your songs will also get a lot better a lot quicker. (My daughter's ballet teacher also leads her lessons in this way.)

So, let's see, I don't want to get too far off topic. To get back to the title of this post, what are the things I/we learned from this taiko course?

1. Basic practice and review are extremely important parts of practice, no matter what level you are. In addition to the comments above, I continue to hear more and more about the practice methods of professional taiko groups. They seem to spend most of their time warming up, practicing etudes, stick control, accents, etc. Then, at the end of practice, they run through their songs a couple times.

2. Stop every so often and remind yourself to relax, especially in your shoulders. During this course, every few minutes we would stop and shake out our arms and loosen up our shoulders. New players especially tend to tighten up as soon as they start playing taiko, but even experienced players can tend to tighten up. It never hurts to stop, shake out the stiffness and remind yourself to play in a relaxed and loose manner. I don't think it is possible to relax your arms and shoulders too much.

Actually, the more you think about this, the more you notice how many daily activities contribute to the stiffness. For example, right now, as I type this at the computer, I keep having to remind myself not to lean to far forward and let my shoulders stiffen up. I also noticed how often my shoulders move forward and stiffen up while I am at my desk at work and while I am driving also. These days, whenever I notice my shoulders starting to tighten up, I'll shake them out a little bit and remind myself to push them back, sit up straight and push out my chest. I have a tendency to do these shaking out movements wherever I am, and the other day some of my students noticed me doing some strange movements with my shoulders as I walked down the stairs and they ran away tittering like Japanese school girls (um, wait... they are Japanese school girls). Anyway, keep your shoulders and arms loose.

3. Learning something together with your son or daughter is a lot of fun. This class was a little past my daughter's bed time. It ran from 7:30 - 8:45. By the time we got home, she was up later than usual. So we always had a bath before we left, packed up the pajamas, which she changed into after class, then she would fall asleep on the way home. It was some extra work, but it was really enjoyable daddy-daughter time. We had 30 min in the car each way to talk, during the week, we took time sometimes to practice and review our parts together and during the class it was fun to be there and work together.

Well, today is the first Saturday I haven't had to work in more than a month, so I'm going to go and enjoy it!

No comments: