Some notes taken during rehearsal on Thursday, March 8th
In basic dance room - mirros on two walls
10 members present
First part of practice consists of stretching in a circle; variety of full body stretching, count to 10 in Japanese for each different stretch
Beginning of playing, play 3 "kiodotay" (?); 3 slow, 3 fast
2 people to a drum, 3 drums total. On the middle drum, partners are facing same direction, on the two side drums, players are playing in opposite direction
One member sitting in the middle, playing a smaller drum by himself, the drum rests on wooden supports that angle the drum facing towards him
3 members are not playing an instrument, practice on the side without the drum itself
One main leader of the group not playing, male, giving directions on order of pieces, when people get solos, the tempo, etc., standing facing the members
Everyone starts off sitting, except the 3 members practicing on the side without instruments, then rise as the piece begins
Everyone dressed in athletic wear: shorts, leggings, sweatpants, t-shirts
The one person sitting with the small drum in the center starts off with one main beat, others come in with movement of rising and raising theirs arms/sticks up in the air before playing
Only 2 distinct tambres; the small drum in the middle and the 3 larger drums. The smaller drum is higher and less dense in pitch
Mallets are large wooden, solid cylinders
The member on the smaller drum is responsible for setting the tempo; speeding up and/or slowing down during the piece
People give different chants or shouts during the piece
Players play in spread leg standing position. They often switch leaning towards and away from the instrument as they play, and I noticed they lean in the direction that indicates the arm they will use to strike the drum
They were playing barefoot - I don't know if this was because it was rehearsal and it was meant to help them not slip on the dance hardwood floor, or if they generally play barefoot.
I must say I was surprised that so many of the members were not Japanese. I had made the stereotypical assumption that because Taiko originated in Japan, the Taiko club here would consist of Japanese students - and I was absolutely wrong. There were people of all different races involved, and I really appreciated the fact that students didn't shy away from joining the group because of not being Japanese themselves.
I was also very impressed by the discipline of rehearsals. When the leader is speaking, everyone listens to what he has to say. People were very focused during rehearsal and asked questions and even continued to practice on their own during breaks, even though they had already been working so hard and were out of breath. Taiko is a surprisingly taxing activity and requires a lot of strength and conditioning. It is also very serious and structured - but I think that ads a lot to the performance and strong beat of the drums. They reminded me of warriors, going into battle.