I taught three sessions of slant-drum basics at the 2012 Intercollegiate Taiko Invitational. With the hopes of better understanding the effects of my teaching, I incorporated starting and ending videos and participant evaluations into the workshops.
Workshop 1, Saturday, May 26, 8:30am
Workshop 2 – Saturday, May 26, 1pm
Workshop 3 – Sunday, May 27, 9:30am
After a quick review of the evaluation pattern (line 1 of Matsuri), we video-recorded the participants playing the rhythm one at a time. I then taught sticking, timing, stance, body position, and strike for approximately one hour and we video-recorded Matsuri line 1 again. Each of the 27 participants was then given a strip of paper with a statement related to basic form, i.e. “Player looks confident”. For each player, we watched the starting and ending video clips and marked our evaluations. In the second and third workshops, I encouraged participants to be strict in their assessments, likely the cause of the increase in “same” assessments shown in the graphs.
Facilitator’s notes for workshop: slant_basics_cti_120526.txt
Each participant received a strip of paper with one of the following statements and assessed each players’ ending video with a score of “better”, “same”, or “worse”.
1 All three “don’s” are strong and confident.
2 The batchi look like a natural extension of the arms. (no sagging or awkward movements)
3 The hands’ grip on the batchi seems natural and relaxed.
4 The “ka’s” are played at a proper volume. (definitive but not too loud)
5 The large hits make a powerful sound.
6 The movements of the strikes seem naturally powerful. (as opposed to straining)
7 The player is “addressing the instrument”.
8 The player is hitting the center of the drum.
9 The player is using her whole body to strike the drum.
10 The player is using natural upper-body motion in the strikes.
11 The player leaves sufficient space between her body and the drum. (as opposed to looking cramped)
12 The player looks comfortable at the drum.
13 The player looks comfortable when playing.
14 The player looks “commanding” and confident.
15 The player looks confident.
16 The player looks stable and comfortable in stance.
17 The player’s arms look extended and graceful.
18 The player’s gaze seems natural.
19 The player’s head is stable. (no distracting movement)
20 The player’s “ka’s” are consistent in tone.
21 The player’s non-striking hand waits simply and naturally. (no extra movements)
22 The player’s strikes look “in control”. (as opposed to “wild” or “erratic”)
23 The right elbow bends toward the drum.
24 The strikes look efficient.
25 The strikes look independent and smooth. (rather than awkwardly connected or robotic)
26 The switch into playing position seems natural and comfortable.
27 The switch out makes adequate space for the next player.
28 The timing of the final “don” is satisfactory. (it is common to rush this hit)
29 The timing of the final “ka” is satisfactory. (it is common to rush this hit)
30 Shoulders are relaxed.
The top three graphs show the number of “better”, “same”, and “worse” assessments for each evaluation statement in workshops 1, 2, 3, respectively. The larger graph below displays the total assessments for all workshops combined.
Raw data: evaluations_final
I had a number of questions when designing this workshop.
What to teach as “basics”?
Sticking, timing, stance, upper-body movement, and strike. As a teacher I struggle with the interrelated nature of slant basics. For example, a student must understand the concepts involved in both the elbow and stance before one can focus on either. This workshop focused on providing an introduction to five critical topics — sticking, timing, stance, upper-body movement, and strike, all applied to a specific pattern (line 1 of Matsuri). Each topic was was taught in succession and reviewed with the addition of new topics (especially revisiting timing repeatedly). With the exception of upper-body rotation, I am confident these topics can be taught all at once and that doing so might be most helpful.
Is it possible to use gestures for individual feedback?
Yes. I began the long-term development of gestures for common issues. These proved useful to allow the group to continue playing as I walked around the room and provided feedback. These were useful and I will continue to teach and revise these gestures.
Should students see an immediate benefit from the workshop?
Yes. Before this experiment, I was uncertain that before/after results were viable or useful goal for a slant basics workshop. Perhaps a new concept would require time and additional practice to become comfortable, and players would initially look worse for the new changes. Generally speaking, however, I think immediate improvement is a useful goal. With sticking, timing, stance, strike, and overall confidence, it is plausible that students can make visible improvement. I am less confident about teaching upper-body rotation and head stability and producing immediate results but will continue to search for effective teaching techniques.
Is before/after useful?
Yes. I see improvement in strike confidence, especially for less-experienced players. The before/after focus was also useful during the workshop, providing an engaging goal. When incorporating evaluation, 30 participants seems to be the maximum number for a two-hour workshop, taking approximately 25 minutes of the total time.Thank you to the brave participants!
Organize and refine evaluation criteria.
During workshop, practice reaching stance from switch-in.
Mirrors would be useful for practicing elbow and head stability.
Continue to experiment with teaching methods for body-rotation.
If available, use additional time for more individual feedback.