Stanford Taiko Intensive: Day 1

After much anticipation, we finally arrived today! Yuta and Kris started the morning with a quick tour of Asano Taiko US as well as recording some diagnostic videos of both naname technique and small drum rhythmic dexterity. We then spent several hours isolating fundamentals, with Kris choosing one individual to be the "keeper" of a particular point. That is, one person will become the master of the ideal grip, another focuses primarily on the angle of the elbow approaching the drum, and so on. Everybody practiced every skill, but each person has a particular technique to develop over the course of the week. To give a more detailed example, one point was to either lean towards the drum or bend the torso to the right such that the torso is more parallel with the line of the drum. Either way, the idea is for the intent behind the strike to be clearly visible; if the drum were to be taken away and the player's arms removed, an observer should still be able to visualize the imaginary drum. We also spent time working on timing, holding up-kamae until the precise moment a strike can be completed most powerfully and efficiently. Kris suggested a metronome set at 138 bpm to practice, with the strike beginning on one click and the bachi making contact on the next. We all had a chance to practice each skill, but the isolation of one skill for each person will make it easier to see relative progress at the end of the week, especially when combined with the diagnostic videos.

The afternoon workshop was then spent learning the 405 Matsuri Crashers structure. We covered the four Matsuri lines, the four Matsuri extended lines, the cue, the switch, and the jiuchi. The metronome came in handy once again; I particularly enjoyed the technique of strategically placing the metronome's accented beat. Rather than keeping the accent on the first beat of the line, we started the line such that a particular beat of interest - often one that is frequently rushed - is on the accented beat, which helps keep focus on placing the beat precisely. The idea of showing intent also came up again; during the switch, Kris emphasized that the player switching onto the drum should exude the eagerness to jump on following the first soloist. Having built a set of basic tools, we spent the rest of the afternoon developing a 16-em solo, where 1 em is the length of one line of Matsuri. Kris provided worksheets for us to assemble and arrange known phrases, and it was certainly helpful to just get patterns down on paper rather than being lost in front of a drum. We spent a significant amount of time before even starting on our own solos just rearranging the four Matsuri lines as a group and getting a feel for both the song and the creative process.

A final reminder that we're also hosting a jam session at the studio tomorrow - please feel free to drop by any time between 6:30pm and 9:30pm. We will have dinner, music, and friendships both old and new!