What Is Taiko?

The moment we think of “Taiko”, we start imagining big fat drums that are used for creating music! Taiko is a Japanese drumming instrument that uses thick sticks, which are called as Bachi Sticks. Taikos are extremely huge drums that can weigh as much as three tons. In Japan, they are usually made up of hollowed out tree trunks, whereas in the US they are commonly made from wine barrels. As these drums have large heads, the sound is much deeper as compared to the smaller drums.

What is Taiko Drumming?
Drums are the most commonly used instruments in the percussion family. We usually tend to use any surface to drum on, but the true essence or the heartbeat of the drum lies in the drummer and the type of drums he plays. Taiko drumming is a traditional Japanese art form that makes use of drums that are of various sizes. The largest drums in size and sound are known as the odaiko drums. These drums are very large with some of them measuring to almost eight feet in diameter. Once they are positioned in a particular place, they can be hardly moved from there.

Traditional Uses of Taiko Drums:
As the Taiko drums are massive; their sound can be heard over great distances. Hundreds of years ago, these drums were used as means of communication. They were used to signal distant villages to warn them of an approach of a disaster or caution them about the beginning of a war. It was also used as an easy method to signal troops on the battlefield.

Modern Uses of Taiko Drums:
With the change in customs in present-day Japan, the Taiko drums are heard only at the time of village festivals or religious ceremonies. There are few Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Japan that have Taiko drums at the entrance, and they use it during celebrations. They are used in both Japanese folk and classical musical traditions. It also plays a major role in Japanese festivals wherein it is accompanied by a flute and Tsutsumi. Tsutsumi is a small hand drum that was traditionally used in Noh and Kabuki dramas. Moreover, Taiko is still used in Kabuki theatre to accompany actors and singers.

Four Principles of Taiko:
The Taiko drumming requires that the drummers develop an awareness of their body movement as well as their interaction with other drummers. So, they try to achieve the four principles of Taiko. These principles are attitude, musical technique, energy and form. Once these principles are achieved, they get the feeling of satisfaction as they have achieved the ultimate expression of Taiko.

Photo by Chris Lewis

Taiko is an influential and physically demanding discipline of collective drumming. It is famous across the world, and some of its popular groups include the San Francisco Taiko Dojo from the US and the KODO from Japan. The people of Japan have always enjoyed dancing to the beats of the Taiko drums. The local festivals and religious ceremonies of Japan offer their unique Taiko performances that are still mesmerizing the people around the world.

The History of Taiko!

Taiko is a sacred practice in Japan. However, one may not know that it was originally introduced to Japan from China. The practice was initiated in the fifth and the sixth century during the Yamato period. Taiko is a Japanese drumming instrument that was used in classical and folk musical traditions. Ancient people in the Jyomon Era used the Taiko drums as a tool for communication or for celebrating religious rituals. Then, the Taiko drums were started to be used in warfare. They were used to gather the soldiers, frighten the enemies, and issue important commands to them.

Later on, these instruments were used to send messages between villages, inform villagers about an unpleasant incidence that could happen, ward off animals during hunting, etc. The Buddhist monasteries used the Taiko drums as a ritual instrument to communicate with the God. The popularity of Taiko began during Japan’s feudal era. At this time, the Buddhist monasteries used to support actors that gave rise to the Noh Theatre. The performances of Noh Theatre were escorted with Taiko drums that made their acts popular.

Daihachi Oguchi is considered to be the father of modern Taiko. Earlier around 4000 years ago, Taiko was used to provide signals to the villages. Some villagers believed that the boundaries of the village could only extend up to the area where Taiko drums could be heard. So, the head of a big village used to have large drums.

There were different meanings of each beat that was produced in the village. The villagers were aware that simple beats meant that the hunters were setting out. Or, it also meant that a storm could arrive any moment, and the villagers were required to keep their fruits and vegetables safely in a covered area. The beats of the drums were very important to the villagers as it made their life easier.

Some of them were so content with the Taiko drums that they had started to believe that it was inhabited by a God. As time passed, the belief started becoming stronger and stronger. So, the villagers provided the chance of beating the drums to few learned men. There were few men that were authorized by the priests to play the Taiko on special occasions. In this way, there were some popular religions developed in Japan which included the Shinto and the Buddhist.

At present, Taikos are used in religious ceremonies and local festivals of Japan. Some of these drums can be found in the Shinto shrines and the Buddhist temples. It is one of the major instruments that are played at Bon Dances. The dynamic sounds of the drums have amazed most of the people worldwide.

The Japanese immigrants have spread the beautiful sounds of these drums across the globe. During the late nineteenth century, the immigrants of Japan took the art form of Taiko to North America. Even now, North America continues to practice this amazing Japanese originated rhythms and styles. Taiko has now become a universal musical language that is trying to make the world closer.

Is Taiko Performance In A Japanese Style Wedding A Good Idea?

Yes, yes and a big yes! A Taiko Performance in a Japanese Style wedding will be an awesome idea. You can probably have some Taiko drummers perform at the reception to honor the Japanese culture. Or, you can let them perform at the time of exchanging rings! This will make the wedding look like a traditional ceremony, and most of your guests will certainly enjoy it. As Taiko performances have reduced considerably, having one on your wedding will certainly make your special day a unique one. Moreover, not to forget the pride you will have to make this expensive tradition as a part of your wedding!

Here are some videos of Taiko performance in weddings:

The Four Principles of Taiko Performance

During the Taiko performance, drummers do not merely use the Taiko as an instrument. Their main aim is to form a connection between the drum and themselves. They believe that if the below mentioned four principles are conquered then they have achieved success:

  • Musical technique: It refers to the way the drums are to be played. It makes the drummers learn how hard or soft they need to hit the drums. Or, how fast or slow they need to play.
  • Attitude: This refers to having respect for one’s self, other drummers, and the numerous instruments. This principle brings about a discipline of the body and the mind.
  • Energy (Ki): It is the energy that flows through every drummer. They put their entire energy in playing the drums.
  • Form (Kata): This is where they learn how to stand and how to move. This principle is important to show the strength and grace of the drummer.

These principles make the drummers achieve the ultimate expression of Taiko.

Traditional Japanese Wedding

A traditional Japanese wedding involves numerous ceremonies and traditions, but most of these have now disappeared. However, the rituals that are still found in the modern weddings are the bride wearing a shiromuku and the guests dressing up formally. A traditional Japanese wedding dress is called as shiromuku, which is made of silk and usually woven in intricate patterns. The dress is white colored and is very heavy. Here are some tips to follow while attending a Japanese wedding:

  • If you receive a wedding invitation card for a Japanese wedding reception, then you are supposed to reply back with a thank you card while informing them whether you will be able to attend the wedding or not.
  • The only gift that you are expected to present the bride and the groom is cash. You can put the money in a fancy envelope, which is known as shugi-bukuro. The amount depends on the relationship that you have with the couple.
  • You will even be given an opportunity to say a wedding speech or sing a song for the couple, so ensure that you are well-prepared with it. All family members and friends stand up at one point or the other to wish the couple happiness forever.

So, once you are invited for a Japanese Wedding, and if the couple is extremely close to you, then you can even plan for few Taiko drummers to perform at the wedding reception and make it a memorable event.

Best Places To Take Taiko Classes In The UK

Taiko is a dynamic art form that appeals to many people. It is not confined to Japan but has gained a lot of popularity across the globe. If you are residing in the UK, then here are the top five classes where you could learn the amazing Taiko art:

Mugen Taiko Dojo, Scotland

Mugen Taiko Dojo is a Taiko training centre that is based in Scotland. They run training programs, residential workshops, and also outreach to schools across the UK. The students that get qualified from their training centre, and wish to become full-time professional drummers can join their groups for performing at concerts. These groups are popularly known as the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers. They have performed at a range of shows and concerts. Moreover, they have also released few CDs and DVDs, where you can check the latest performances by their groups.
Visit their website…

Kagemusha Taiko, England

The Kagemusha Taiko runs regular Taiko workshop and courses at the Taiko Centre. This centre is located at Seale Hayne; a rural area in the south-west of England. The Taiko Centre is a large studio with lots of drums of various sizes. There are workshops for beginners, training programs by experienced teachers, as well as family fun sessions held on a regular basis. They also host running workshops where some of the famous international Taiko players visit and participate. All of this has a great impact on the UK Taiko community as a whole.
Visit their website…

Planet Drum, London

Since ten years, Planet Drum has been offering classes to one-on-one drummers or for a group across the towns of London. They teach students for each level i.e. beginners to experts. They even hold group workshops for new students so that they get attracted to the art form of Taiko. Planet Drum has also hosted numerous drumming concerts and educational events for several music venues.
Visit their website…

Elephant Drums, London

Located in South London, Elephant Drums is a specialist drum teaching studio that offers drum courses and lessons for numerous students. They also organize community drumming events and band workshops. They teach all drumming styles, from beginners to advanced levels. If you are unable to attend their ongoing courses due to time constraints, then don’t forget to inquire about the flexible courses that they offer to suit everyone’s schedule and budget.
Visit their website…

Taiko Meantime, Greenwich

Founded in the year 2001, Taiko Meantime teaches the traditional Japanese rhythms and techniques to their students. They also teach some of the complex art form of the Gagakki and Okedo. Mostly, they hold their classes outside London, but if there is a lot of demand for their course, then they humble accept teaching those curious students. They have also performed at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, thus earned a lot of reputation and popularity.
Visit their website…
The basic Taiko drumming is suitable for all ages, skill levels, and fitness levels. It is not as hard as you might think to get started. So, don’t let anything stop you from learning this amazing art form of music and dance.

How to Play Taiko Drums?

Taiko drumming is a thrilling experience as it is a combination of movement, energy and rhythm. Drummers enjoy every bit of this experience as it is fun to play and a good exercise too. It also helps in developing coordination and rhythm in your body.
There is no single way to play the Taiko drums because there are plenty of styles. While learning to play the Taiko drums it is important that everyone learns the basics by understanding the Bachi drumstick grip, to using the “ki” energy while playing them. This article will teach you the step-by-step process of a single form of playing the Taiko drums.

  1. Holding the Bachi drumstick in the right manner is very important. The grip should neither be too loose nor too firm. It should be in such a manner that the Bachi can move easily. So, start your session with laying the drumsticks on the ground.

  2. Then pick up the Bachi drumstick with your fingers while wrapping them around the Bachi. The first finger should be a little higher up the stick so that you have formed a perfect grip on it. Also, your first finger and thumb should form a ‘V’ shape. Make sure that the grip is not very tight as in that case you will not be able to play the drums for a long time. The grip should be just tight enough that the Bachi drumstick does not fall out of your hand.
  3. The position in which you stand is important so stand with your feet slightly wider. Your knees should be bent, and your back should be straight. Shoulders should be relaxed, and the movement of your body should be smooth.
  4. Your arms should be in the ready position, and your entire body should be relaxed. You should stand at a comfortable distance from the drums, and the Bachi drumstick should be just able to reach the middle of the drums.
  5. It’s time to strike on the drums! You don’t have to put in a lot of pressure while drumming as it will make you tired. Just relax and play, so that you can enjoy the entire process of Taiko drumming. Your elbow should only go up and down and not forwards and backwards. There should be a circular movement coming from the forearm.
  6. You should not force the Bachi drumstick down, but let the gravity do the work. Use very less energy so that you can drum for a longer period. Also, ensure that you do not leave the tip of the Bachi on the drum skin after hitting as this will kill the sound. And, you obviously won’t want that to happen!

With a little patience, hard work, and dedication you will be able to learn the art of Taiko drumming. Keep practicing and you will get perfect very soon! Even an experienced percussionist enjoys playing Taiko drums. It is an art that everyone loves to do, so keep drumming and you will surely end up learning the different styles of playing Taiko drums.

Review Of Taiko Drum Master Online Game!

The Taiko Drum Master is an amazing online game created by Namco that gives you the feel of playing the traditional Japanese Taiko drums with sticks. So, with the help of an online game, the Japanese culture and traditions are kept alive across the world. The game invites players to learn Taiko drumming by using a miniature Taiko controller that can be attached to the PlayStation console.

Once the players clear new stages or levels, they earn points. These new stages can be completed when they correctly tap to the rhythm of the selected song with the help of the Taiko Controller. The game has gained such a lot of popularity in Japan that it was released in the US too. Later on, the US shipped back their version of Taiko Drum Master by adding numerous English songs and music from around the world.

The game also involves three mini-games, which can be played solo or against a friend. These games are the Fireworks Festival, Reach the Helicopter and the Watermelon Eating Contest of which the lengthiest one is Reach the Helicopter. All these mini-games are great fun for all age groups. It is the best game to be enjoyed in short meal breaks or while having a tiny break from work. The game is perfect for those who enjoy listening to music or love playing the drums.

To make the game all the more easier and interesting, Namco has created the game in such a way that some of the important aspects can be edited as per the requirements of the player:

  • Instead of the traditional Taiko drum, players can select an alternative instrument to play.
  • The speeds of the notes can be increased, reversed, or randomized as per the player’s choice.
  • The song can be ended early or as soon as one note is missed by them.
  • To reach new levels quickly, they can have the note chart played automatically.

So, with these gaming options, the players can certainly make a lot of changes in the game. It is not necessary that the person who is good in the game is good at the traditional art form of Taiko. Even though it is a fun game to learn the basic dos and don’ts, but it certainly requires a lot of practice to master the art. After all, an online game is not going to teach the traditional forms or techniques of the real art.

So, if you like the Taiko Drum Master online game then you can try your hands on the traditional art form of dance and music. Taiko drumming will surely entice you and may become your favorite pastime. Moreover, it will even provide immense knowledge about the Japanese cultures and rituals. All you need to do is look out for the perfect Taiko learning classes near your residence. Probably, you will be able to learn and experience the combination of energy and rhythm, and start enjoying the game to the fullest. Until then, you always have your favorite Taiko Drum Master online game to entertain you.

Should I Go To Japan To Learn Taiko?

It depends on how ‘deep’ your thoughts are for learning Taiko! If you think you will be able to leave your family and friends, probably a job, just for the sake of learning Taiko, then you must book your tickets for Japan right away. Moreover, once you reach Japan, ensure that you hunt for a Taiko guru and learn the art form by wholeheartedly devoting yourself and mastering it.

No doubt about the fact that learning Taiko in Japan is inspiring, captivating, as well as adventurous. Also, there is nothing much better than finding the most experienced guru who will introduce you to the true origins of the art form. Taiko has always been the pride of Japan. It was used in ancient Japan over 2000 years ago. At that time, the drums were used as an instrument for religious rituals, to scare off animals, or as a communication tool among villagers.


The groups that perform Taiko are referred as ‘kumi-daiko.’ One thing common to them is their passion for hitting the drums with sticks (Bachi). There are some groups that got attracted to Taiko because of the beautiful Japanese traditions and cultures while some were amazed with the dynamic sound of the drums. Taiko drumming does not merely consist of the performers using the drum and the drum stick (Bachi). The drummers aim for forming a connection between the drum and themselves through the four principles of Taiko i.e. attitude, kata, ki, and musical technique.

However, if you are not that interested in learning Taiko and just want to learn for some fun, then there is no need to travel all the way to Japan. Kodo, the Japanese Taiko group has helped in popularizing the amazing form of art across the world. It is estimated that there are over 1000 Taiko groups in the US. The Taiko boom has spread throughout America, Europe, and Australia. So, in whichever part of the world you reside, you will probably find Taiko classes somewhere nearby.

All you need is some patience, hard work, and dedication to finding the right classes for yourself. You can also try searching for some Taiko groups in your local area and aim to get involved with them. It would be fun to have a large group practicing Taiko together! The movement of the body, the sound of the drums, and the feeling of being connected with the group is a lifetime experience.

Just in case, all these options are not available in your area then you can always learn the art from the Internet. There are numerous eBooks and videos available online that will introduce you to this beautiful art. Moreover, it is very easy to master the art of Taiko. Kids can too learn it quickly as age has never been a deterrent for learning Taiko. So, don’t let anything stop you from learning the amazing art form of Taiko. The Internet has made this art form turn into a universal musical language, thus making people closer to the world.