Taiko Drum Lesson

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"Ji-uchi" Examples

In most taiko arrangements there are 2 components to the drum rhythms: a basic beat called the "Ji-uchi;" and a main theme called the "O-uchi." In the section below 3 examples of commonly used "Ji-uchi" parts shown. The examples are given in both standard western musical notation, and in "Kuchi Showa" - the traditional method used in teaching taiko.

1. The "bounce" Ji-uchi. Commonly played on shimedaiko, taiko, and atarigane.

Played RLRLRLRLR... with a sharp bounce feel, like a jazz ride cymbal beat. Or, think of Gene Krupa playing "Sing, Sing, Sing."

The Kuchi Showa for this beat would be -

Taiko: dogo dogo dogo dogo..., or doko doko doko doko...
Shimedaiko: tege tege tege tege..., or teke teke teke teke...

I prefer to use "dogo" or "tege" as the kuchi showa for the bounce Ji-uchi, since "doko" and "teke" are used as the kuchi showa for the "straight" 1/8 note Ji-uchi. It can be confusing to students if you use the same kuchi showa sound for more than one rhythm.

2. The "galloping horse" Ji-uchi. Commonly played on shimedaiko, atarigane, and okedo.

Played R_RL R_RL R_RL R_RL... sometimes the "1" is accented. Or, you can accent each beat of the pulse (the 1/4 note on the bottom line).

The Kuchi Showa for this beat would be -

Taiko: don_doko don_doko don_doko don_doko...
Shimedaiko: ten_teke ten_teke ten_teke ten_teke...

3. The "Matsuri" Ji-uchi, from "Matsuri Daiko." Commonly played on shimedaiko, taiko, and atarigane.

Played R_RL R L R_RL R L... the "1" the "& of 2" the "3" and the "& of 4" are accented.

The Kuchi Showa for this beat would be -

Taiko: don_doko don kon don_doko don kon...
Shimedaiko: ten_teke ten ten ten_teke ten ten...


When arranging a taiko song, typically the "Ji-uchi" is played in what feels like double time of the phrasing of the song part (the "O-uchi"). So, the count for this example -

The "bounce ji-uchi" (top) would be:

"1..e2..e3..e4..e5..e6..e7..e8 e.." (the sticking is RLRL...)

While the soloist (bottom) might play:

"1...2..e3...4.&.5...6...7...8e&." (the sticking is R...L..LR...L.R.R...L...R...LLR.)

Since the "O-uchi" phrasing has a feel of 8 counts to the bar, rather than 4, the "Ji-uchi" feels more natural when counted in 8. Which would make the meter 8/4 or 8/8, rather than 4/4. A lot of taiko phrasing seems more natural when thought of in 8 beats, and the sticking and syncopation become more interesting as well.

Kakegoe (or Ki-ai)

Use in Taiko
Taiko, along with other traditional Japanese music, uses shouts and verbal cues called "kakegoe" or "ki-ai." While those terms can be used somewhat interchangeably, "kakegoe" is generally a more orchestrated use of a sound or expression, where as "ki-ai" seems to be more like a spontaneous shout. Using these verbal cues is an important part of any taiko performance. They may set the mood of the song, or indicate a change in rhythm, or the beginning or end of a section of music. Sometimes they are used as a "call" or "answer" to a beat on the taiko, or used to hold a rest. Regardless of how they are being used, a taiko performance would be much less lively and energetic without them.

Use in Minyo
Many Japanese folk songs (Minyo) include extra stress on certain syllables, as well as pitched shouts (kakegoe). Kakegoe are generally shouts of cheer, but in music such as minyo they are often included as parts of choruses. There are many kakegoe, though they vary from region to region. In Okinawa Minyo, for example, one will hear "ha iya sasa!" In mainland Japan, however, one will be more likely to hear "yoisho!," "sate!," or "sore!" Other common kakegoe are "donto koi!," and "dokoisho!"

Common kakegoe used in taiko
Dokkoi sho
Donto koi
Sei sei
Yoi sho

Use in Noh
To western ears, the "kakegoe" calls used in "Noh" might sound comical at first. Of course, the actors and drummers are not employing the use of these sounds for laughs. In noh, there is very little needless movement or action by the performers. The drummers exhibit the same economy of movement and stylized form which is characteristic of the actor-dancers. Stylization extends into the drum calls and the kakegoe, these are very important in setting the tone of the play or expressing changes of emotions throughout the play.

In all noh plays there are either two or three drummers. The stylized kakegoe which go with each drum vary slightly but can be divided into four basic types: yo, ho, iya and yoi. The yo and ho are the most common, both creating and seemingly riding the underlying pulse to a musical section. Yoi usually signals the coming of the end of a section, while iya is used at the end of a section and beginning of a new section, or otherwise to accent certain words or phrases.

These calls are themselves meaningless syllables. But they serve as important signals among the drummers or between the drummers and the chorus and actors. Since there is no conductor in a noh performance, the kakegoe keep all the performers together and aware of where they are in terms of the fundamental eight-beat structure of the music. They also can be lengthened, shortened or timed to give elasticity to the rhythm (called "ma"). One of the reasons why it is nearly impossible for the uninitiated to count out the eight-beat rhythm.

Most noh drummers would agree that the kakegoe are a more important part of the rhythmic texture than the actual hitting of the taiko. Noh instructors say that the kakegoe calls are actually the main focus of drumming. Needless to say, the quality of the kakegoe, their strength and intensity, make them a very important musical element in noh - as well as taiko drumming.

Taiko Rudiments

Many students have asked if there is any published material with music, rhythms, or exercises for learning taiko. Something like snare drum rudiments for western drummers, or scales for pianists & guitarists. Unfortunately, at the present time translated material is in rather short supply, so first-hand information from Japan is difficult to obtain. Also, because taiko is very much a folk art form, until recently most of the music was never written in western notation.

As a result, I am going to use this web site in an attempt to create some "Taiko Rudiments" for use by taiko students around the world. If anyone visiting this site would like to add to the list, please email tatsumaki@email.com with your suggestions.

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7/14/06 by Tatsumaki Taiko