All posts in the "Technique/Practice" category.

Taiko Tonal Territory workshop video

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Our friend Margaret McKenty made a video from the workshop I taught at World Taiko Gathering. We had a great time exploring some of the non-standard sounds possible on the taiko.

Thank you, Margaret!

Learning Radiddlepa: Patterns – Shaga

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Learning Radiddlepa: Patterns – Shaga from Kristofer Bergstrom

(notation coming soon)

The Shaga section was the most foreign for me, as the motions of brushing and scratching the skin are more akin to playing shaker than taiko. That having been said, the hours spent touching the skin and playing so gently have really helped me bond with the instrument. I’m extremely careful about how I treat my drum’s one pristine head. In the end the techniques are not quite as esoteric as expected; I now love to use scratching motions on odaiko as well.

The independence required in this section was one of the most technically challenging parts of the piece for me, and I spent many hours going very slowly figuring out each successive sound. I practiced mainly on my my desk and on my notebook while riding the bus. Shaga is amenable to practice anywhere.

A note of caution. If your drum skin is not perfect and has cracks or flakes in the first layer of the skin (called the “gin”), you can damage the skin further by improper technique. A fingernail can easily get under a crack and flake off the gin. Watch the video closely for how I use different fingernails in different directions. Practice slowly and carefully, especially when using actual skin.

Learning Radiddlepa: Patterns – Teko

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Learning Radiddlepa: Patterns – Teko from Kristofer Bergstrom

(notation coming soon)

Teko is one of my favorite extended techniques from Radiddlepa. By simply changing the location of a “side-stick” hit (with the left hand in the video), we can get a “double strike”. The first strike is the bachi coming down flat on the skin. Because the hand is overhanging the side of the drum, the bachi pivots on the body of the shime and the butt of the bachi comes off the skin. When the wrist raises again, the butt comes into contact with the skin again, creating our second strike. The technique allows for remarkably fast and intricate rhythms.

Learning Radiddlepa: Dynamics

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Learning Radiddlepa: Dynamics from Kristofer Bergstrom

Once we’ve exhausted our practice options and patience for sticking and tones, we can focus on the challenge of accenting. I worked through each pattern of the 1eau Drill (see 30 Days page 26, previously the “1234 Drill”) over a period of a few weeks. Once I was able to play the 1eau Drill while maintaining radiddlepa sticking, I gave myself random challenge patterns of accented and and quiet/ghosted notes. I drew these patterns from “Edobayashi”-style rhythms. I’m still working on this challenge.

Learning Radiddlepa: Patterns – Outro

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Learning Radiddlepa: Patterns – Outro from Kristofer Bergstrom

(Notation coming soon)

The Outro section requires only the tonal and dynamics skills learned thus far. The left hand is accenting the “1”, alternating between the drum center and the drum body, while the right hand switches between the drum body, skin edge (“de”), drum body, and rope. The right hand is switching every three counts for an interesting relationship between the hands.

Learning Radiddlepa: Tonal Exploration

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Learning Radiddlepa: tonal exploration from Kristofer Bergstrom

Once your interest in practicing the basic sticking starts to wane, add the challenge of changing the tone of each hand. Move the left hand to a different sound and stay there until you feel settled. Then find a new tone. Then try the right hand. Then move individual hits or pairs of hits to new tones. The goal is to gradually add complexity in order to make the sticking challenging again. When your hands loose the LRRL RLLR sticking, slow down or stay on that challenge until you get it figured out again. Then search for the next glitch. I call this process “truffle hunting” and it can last for months.

Learning Radiddlepa: Sticking Basics

Monday, August 4th, 2014

The whole of the composition Radiddlepa is based on the “radiddlepa” rudiment, a variation of the paradiddle. I lead with the left hand, so the fundamental sticking for almost every pattern of the piece is simply:


A logical starting point for learning the piece is to practice this sticking until it can be played at about 120bpm. Eventually we’ll need to play at about 150 for the Outro, so going further is great if possible. In my experience, however, my speed increased as I added the subsequent layers of complication (tone, dynamics, etc), so as soon as boredom with the basic sticking sinks in, move on!

Learning Radiddlepa: Overview

Monday, August 4th, 2014

A few players have approached me about wanting to learn Radiddlepa. Here is a first attempt at breaking it down into manageable chunks. Please know that I can’t yet play it perfectly myself, and this will be my first time teaching Radiddlepa, so take everything with a grain of salt. Let me know if there’s anything more I can do to help!

Radiddlepa structure

  • Shaga
  • TeTake
  • Scales
  • HiTaHi
  • Mallet
  • Teko
  • Outro

Skill hierarchy

The most complicated rhythms have multiple layers of complexity. Although my own path was less orderly than this, I think it makes sense to focus on building the foundational skills as much as possible before tackling the high-level rhythms. I organize these into the following “skill hierarchy”.

  1. sticking (LRRL RLLR)
  2. tones
  3. dynamics
  4. special techniques
  5. patterns

I encourage students of Radiddlepa to focus on becoming as confident as possible with the first layer before moving to the next. I’ll provide skill tests that will let you evaluate your confidence at each level. You should push yourself to be patient and creative about finding ways to solidify the current level before moving to the next.

That having been said, progress is not quite as simple as “master sticking, now master tones”. No matter how much you practice the sticking (step 1), adding the challenge of tonality (step 2) will cause you to make sticking mistakes. This is fine and good, as long as you remember the sticking is higher on the list of priorities and you take your time to get the sticking back.

Suggested order of study

  1. sticking basics
  2. tonal exploration
  3. dynamics (1eau accents, Eddlebayashi)
  4. Outro
  5. Teko
  6. Shaga
  7. TeTake
  8. Scales
  9. HiTaHi
  10. Mallet

The first four steps are preparatory for learning actual Radiddlepa patterns. I’m guessing that for a moderately experienced player, practicing three times a week, these first four steps might take three months or so. They’ll provide a toe-hold in the fundamentals for when you add the complexity of the rhythms.

In the coming weeks I’ll provide detailed instructions and videos for each of these steps, along with notation for the piece itself.

Happy practicing!

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