Recording studio: “Taiko” in general is often used to mean the relatively modern art of Japanese drum performances (kumi-daiko), but the word actually refers to the recording studio taiko drums themselves. Literally, taiko means “big/fat drum,” although there are many shapes and sizes of taiko. People are sometimes confused by the frequent usage of the word “daiko”, which is a suffix used to indicate a type of drum, a taiko group, or a style of taiko playing in a compound word. When used in a compound word, the “T” sound in “taiko” changes to a “D” sound. Thus, a taiko in the nagado style is a nagado-daiko, for example.
Recording Studio: Taiko the beat of Japan
Although traditionally, taiko have been used in very specific ways and in certain combinations of instruments, modern kumi-daiko groups do not suffer such restrictions. Taiko selection is based on the style of taiko music you are playing as well as personal style. However, the nagado-daiko is overwhelmingly the most common style of taiko used. Most taiko groups will also have one or more shime-daiko as well. Other taiko styles such as hira-daiko, oke-daiko are also freely used.
Recording Studio: Taiko complement instruments
A variety of other instruments are also used in kumi-daiko to fill out the sound. Small hand cymbols (called chappa or tebyoushi), small hand held gongs (call atarigane or chanchiki), flutes (fue or shakuhachi), gongs, and various clappers and rattles are all used to wonderful effect. The high, bright sounds of these instruments add great contrast to the sound and are easily heard above the roar of the big drums.
Recording Studio: Taiko sticks
As a general rule, all taiko are struck with some sort of stick called bachi. The only hand drums in Japan seems to be the kotsuzumi and ootsuzumi used in Japanese classical music. All other taiko are hit with bachi, and there is a tremendous variety of bachi to choose from. Hard oak bachi are typically used for nagado-daiko. Larger bachi made of softwood are used for odaiko, and smaller, lighter bachi are used for shime-daiko. Beyond that, there are bachi made from bamboo, bachi with shiny decorations and tassels, and bachi with jingles and rattles. The proper selection of bachi can add great aural and visual interest to a performance.
Most taiko are measured in the traditional Japanese measure of shaku and sun. One shaku is 30.3 cm (about twelve inches), and is divided into ten sun. Usually only the diameter of the head is measured.
Recording Studio: Taiko Types
There are many kinds of Taiko drums in Japan, but they can be broadly divided into two categories: Taiko with a nailed head (byou-daiko), and Taiko with heads stretched over a hoop and tensioned with ropes (shime-daiko).