--Photo by Looking Glass
The single biggest issue for any taiko group is the lack of drums. A lack of drums means not all members can practice together. And if you can’t practice together, you can’t perform together. There’s simply never enough taiko drums you can have for a group, and unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time and money to invest in more drums.
To overcome this problem, many taiko players will make ‘practice’ or ‘make-shift’ drums- essentially any surface you can hit with sticks that allows you to practice your beats and movements. Here are two of the simplest options:
1. The single easiest thing you could possibly do is to throw a gym mat, futon or other thick, padded surface on a chair. It isn’t going to look or sound good, but it’ll take a beating, and it’s better than hitting nothing at all. Prevent the whole thing from sliding by propping it up against a wall, or add some rubber padding to the legs of the chairs.
2. If you’re looking for something a little more ‘drum-like’, then tire drums are a great option. Wrap up a tire in tape (Gendo Taiko at Brown University has pictures of the process) and you’ll have a perfect surface to practice on. When wrapped tightly, tape provides great rebound and even some decent sound. Use box sealing tape or duct tape to do this. They’re strong (especially when layered), so you won’t have to worry about tearing when you hit them with sticks. An additional benefit of ‘tire’ drums is that you can prop them onto stands to mimic the various playing styles of real taiko drums.
These are literally two of the simplest and quickest things you can do if you’re in a bind for some extra practice surfaces. They’re by no means elegant, but they’re cheap and quick to put together, plus they produce minimal sound if you want to practice without bothering neighbors.
If you’re looking for something that has a little more semblance to a real taiko, don’t worry, there are several other options. I’ll talk about them soon in another post.