All posts in the "Teaching" category.

Jodaiko and TaikoMotion workshop – playing slowly and confidently

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Thank you to the members of Jodaiko and TaikoMotion for a fun workshop this evening! We focused on playing slowly, and what the challenge reveals about basic form.

Thanks to Aki for the help, to Alex for the ride home… and Stephanie, I love you!

Slant drum basics before and after videos — Stockton Taiko

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Thank you for the fun and enthusiasm, Stockton Taiko!

Slant Drum Basics Before and After, Stockton Taiko, Apr 29 2013.

Slant Drum Basics Before and After Videos — Pittsburgh Taiko

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Thank you for the fun workshop, Pittsburgh Taiko! I felt really good about the workshop and hope you guys did too.

Next time, I’ll try to align the end-point questions better with what we focused on in the workshop. I’m impressed that so many people showed improvement in “strikes look efficient”, for example, even though we didn’t talk about that at all. Nice work, everyone!

Pittsburgh Taiko — Slant Basics Before and After Videos workshop

Teaching notes for next time:
Continue to show players starting point video and give each person a personalized goal for the day.
Timing corrections made most dramatic improvement.
Make all comments to someone in particular.
Try to find time to talk about upper body rotation and left arm extension.

On Ensemble Workshops: Worth Every Penny

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

(The following is a post by guest blogger, Urie. Thanks, amigo!)

As a music student in some form or another for the past decade, I’ve been exposed to a number of different teachers and teaching styles. Based on these experiences, I feel confident in saying that the members of On Ensemble are among the best educators I’ve had the pleasure of working with. The atmosphere is very laid-back, which really encourages participants to adjust their technique and try something different. I was particularly impressed by how quickly the drills helped improve our taiko group’s approach to improvisation–not an easy concept to unpack for an audience with very different experiences in music and dance.

On an individual level, I thoroughly enjoyed Kris Bergstrom’s “30 Days to a Better Shime” program. As a drummer, many of the concepts came across as a review, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’re never so good that you can’t revisit the basic. The pacing of the exercises and the explanation of the mechanics are perfectly suited to someone approaching wrist-centric drumming for the first time.

The diverse backgrounds, skills and perspectives of On Ensemble do, in fact, lead to a group without equal. If you find yourself with an opportunity to learn from these amazing individuals, do yourself a favor and take it.

Slant Drum Basics Before and After Videos — St Louis Osuwa Daiko

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Thank you, St Louis Osuwa Daiko for the fun workshop yesterday. We hope you found the concepts useful. Here are the results of our before and after videos.

Commentary on the results coming soon. St Louis members, feel free to comment below!

St Louis Osuwa Daiko – Slant Basics Before and After Videos workshop

Left-side video taken before workshop. Right-side video taken at end of workshop.
Question 1: Player hits confidently.
Question 2: No unnecessary tension.
Question 3: No unnecessary movement.
Question 4: Player looks “beautiful”.
Question 5: Player looks “strong”.
Question 6: Player looks “focused”.
Question 7: Player looks “graceful”.
Question 8: Player has “huge” stage presence.
Question 9: Right-hand hits consistently.
Question 10: All dons are consistent.
Question 11: Player hits center of drum for “don” and same spot on rim for “ka”.
Question 12: Player is “stable” (no “swaying” or “bobbing”).
Question 13: Player is maximizing distance from drum (stance).
Question 14: Tip of batchi reaches great distance from drum in preparation for strike.
Question 15: Batchi moves along “drum line”.
Question 16: Timing of hits align with metronome.

Here is my first attempt at a “direct comparison overlay” of each player with my playing of M1. Some aspects of our form are difficult to see but foot position and arm pull-up timing differences are clear.

St Louis Osuwa Daiko – direct comparison overlay Kris vs All

Slant Basics workshop results, ITI 2012

Friday, June 1st, 2012

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

Workshop Procedure

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.

1160 “better”
796 “same”
138 “worse”

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!

Future Work

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.

ETC lighted batchi experiments

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Basic strike experiments continue with the lighted batchi. Here is a series of images from a workshop I taught at Eastern Taiko Conference. The series shows each player’s right and left hand strikes at a slow tempo on betta (upright). I am at the top of the series and the workshop participants follow.

Although it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from this limited sample size, the path of the batchi seems to be somewhat different for most players’ right and left hands. The left hand also appears less consistent for most players.

I am gradually developing a sense of these shapes and can deduce from them certain strike tendencies. In this series of images, the elongated shape of player three’s strikes, for example, indicates she is using less elbow bend than average. Player four is letting the batchi bounce off the drum more than player five, for example. However, I have not yet found the ideal application for the lighted batchi in my practice or teaching. In most cases, a mirror provides much of the same information in a more immediate form. If nothing else, the lighted batchi focus attention on the path of the tip of the batchi and provide a new way to conceptualize the basic strike.

I will continue searching… If there is an experiment with lighted batchi that you would like to see, please let me know!

(click image for larger version)

Lighted batchi experiments

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Yuta was in town this week and asked me to teach a series of intensive workshops on all-things-slant-drum. As part of that series I prepared the following video to explore basic form and strike.

For the last few months, friends and I have been working on the lighted-batchi technique with the hopes it will enable more detailed comparison of one’s right and left-hand strikes, as well as comparisons of different players’ movements.

The video below is excerpts of right vs left hand comparisons and Yuta vs Kris comparisons in both betta and slant-drum position. We tried a two-camera shot, as well as more complicated moves at the end. If nothing else, they’re pretty to look at!

With practice, I hope lighted batchi will be a useful tool in our taiko exploration toolbox!

On Ensemble is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).