The art of traditional Japanese drumming, known as taiko (太鼓), encompasses a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments. Its date of origin is currently unknown, although archaeologists have discovered evidence as far back as the 6th century. Taiko is not limited to the Japanese culture however; it is also prevalent in that of Korea and China. In fact, taiko may have been introduced to Japan through their influences.
Throughout history, taiko drumming has been used as a means of communication, military action, religious ceremonies, festivals, and much more. Due to its use in a wide variety of settings, taiko can extend from martial arts-style pieces such as Yamabiko to simpler warm-up patterns.
Several elements are essential to creating the distinct sound of a taiko drum, but the loud, vibrant sound originates from the first technique all drummers learn, no matter what culture: striking the drum. Taiko utilizes gravity combined with the fluid motion of a drummer’s wrist. A snap in the wrist is essential for the drum to vibrate and produce its sound; this means that a thunderous sound can easily be produced. By incorporating this basic movement, drummers can apply the motion to other parts of the drum such as “clacking” on the sides of the drum as well as performing the traditional renga: an expressive combination of crescendos and diminuendos to create a wave-like experience for listeners.
Taiko, no matter what piece is performed, is truly a spectacle to watch; the possibilities are endless.
—by Bakudan Taiko