--Photo by Mike Tigas
The biggest obstacle in starting a drum group is getting the drums themselves. If you're in Japan, this is a little easier, but for the many of us who aren't, you may want to consider several of these options:
1. If you got the $$$, go professional
If you do have the budget, buy them- from a good maker. This is the safest choice if you're looking for long-lasting quality. A good quality drum can last many years, even decades, with minimal maintenance and little loss of sound.
Asano-Daiko is one of the premier drum makers in Japan. They produce a very wide range of taiko drums, as wells as sticks, stands, cases and other taiko-related instruments such as bells and cymbals. See their website for price lists (the prices listed on their English site are in yen- don't worry, not dollars!). Miyamoto-Unosuke is another excellent drum maker in Japan.
If you're in the United States, Mark Miyoshi's Miyoshi Daiko is a highly regarded choice for quality drums. There are also quality drums offered by Kato Taiko and through the Rolling Thunder website.
2. Rent and Borrow
Now, for if you're a college taiko group, or a group/individual with a casual interest in taiko, seeing these prices of professional-grade drums may very well scare you off. More so when you realize you need multiple drums to have an effective playing ensemble.
If that's the case, you may want to consider renting or borrowing. This too, of course, costs money, but if you've got makeshift drums to use in practice, you may only need real ones for performances or special occasions.
Asano Taiko mentioned before rent out their excellent drums. I'm not sure if other drum-makers do, but it's worth a try contacting some of the makers mentioned before.
If professional rentals are still a little expensive, try contacting Japanese community centers and schools. If you're in an area with a decent-sized Japanese population, this is a very realistic option. Schools and centers with seldom-used taiko may be very willing to lend out their equipment if you ask politely. I've done this before and it can work out very well.
Yes, E-bay does have taiko drums. They won't always be posted, but check regularly and you are sure to find some. They're usually second-hand, so they're offered at much more affordable prices, and because of the relative lack of interest in them, the bidding process is much less intimidating and time consuming as say a brand-new, unopened iphone.
Even better is Yahoo Auction in Japan. They always have taiko drums up for grabs- and of various types. Payment and shipping is a little easier if you're in Japan, but some sellers do offer to ship overseas as well. Do check.
4. Do it yourself!
It'll always come down to making drums yourself if you really want to own taiko at a minimal cost. And, it's extraordinarily satisfying if you pull it off. Regardless of how your end-product turns out, making a drum yourself is an invaluable learning experience.
It will indeed, be quite a project, and you'll need time, space and access to equipment in order to carry it out. The reason why taiko are so expensive is in large part due to the time that's put into making them. Raw materials do cost money, but you will still save thousands of dollars if you invest your own time.
There's basically two parts to a taiko drum- a body, and a head.
If you want to go all out, then you'll need to buy a tree trunk from the lumber yard, and cow-skin from the butcher shop.
If that's a little crazy for you, you can buy wine-barrels from the vineyard, and skins from a tanning shop.
If that's still a little advanced, you can buy tubing from Home Depot, and duct tape from the stationary store.
Combinations of the above options also work. To explain all of this in detail, however, takes a little explaining, so...find the post you're looking for on the 'Featured Posts' on the side! If you can't find the info need, post a comment and I'll write what I know!