Taiko Drums – Japanese Percussion

Taiko drums have existed and being used in Japan over 2000 years ago. It may have come to Japan around the 5th or 6th century with the influences based on Buddhism brought from China.

taiko drum

As a percussion, is the most primitive instrument and it may have been used for communication or religiuos rituals. In feudal Japan, was often used to motivate troops,  to call out orders or announcements or to set a marching pace.

taiko drum

Taiko drums were also used in the court style music called Gagaku which was performed in the castles and shrines across ancient Japan, at the classical Noh theatre, and the very well known Kabuki theatre. Nowadays, Taiko drums are also used at festivals.

taiko drum

There are two types of taiko construction:

Byō-uchi-daiko (鋲撃ち太鼓) with the head nailed to the body, hollowed out of a single piece of wood, keyaki is prefered for its density. These type of drums can’t tuned and their size is limited by the size of the tree.

taiko drum

Shime-daiko (締め太鼓) with sewn iron rings onto them, and then laced to each other around the drum body. These drums come in a wide variety of styles and are tunable.

taiko drum

In an ensemble of taiko we often find the Odaiko (大太鼓) which is the largest drum of all taiko. The largest ō-daiko are too big to move and permanently reside inside a temple or shrine. Within any group, it refers to the largest drum in the ensemble, with around 300 mm diameter up to 3.7 m diameter. Really big! ^^

taiko drum

The most commonly used are the Chudaiko or Nagadodaiko (長胴太鼓). They are versatile, and can be played standing or put horizontally to be played by two at the same time or even mount them on stands to play at different heights.

taiko drum

Okedodaiko is not made from a single piece of wood.  It is made by connecting a many staves and skins are also added with rope to allow the drum be tuned in any desire pitches.

taiko drum

And the smallest of the taiko drums are the Shimedaiko, but is somewhat essential for time-keeping. This drum, with its high speed playing and high pitch, can create good balance with the slow and low pitch odaiko and chudaiko.

taiko drum

The sound of an ensemble of taiko drums live, with many drums hitting at different pitches and watching the performers move along with the music is such an experience! ^^

taiko drum

We can also find taiko drums being performed with other instruments such as the shamisen, the biwa and the shakuhachi to name some.

taiko drum

Taiko Drums with Shakuhachi on the right

The teaching method is more as oral tradition, as it implies specific movements and precise hitting that may be difficult to indicate on a music score, but there are methods that can guide you through if you want to give it a try, like in this pics! ^^

Taiko drums

Taiko drums

Here are some videos for you to listen and watch a taiko performance. If you have the opportunity to assist to a performance of taiko drums, don’t miss it!,  the experience to listen to it live is really different than to listen in this CD o video. ^^

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