TAIKO FAQGeneral Question

What kinds of taiko drums are there?

There are many kinds of taiko drums, but they are roughly divided into two types. One is taiko with nailed heads, called byo uchi daiko. The other is taiko with heads stretched over steel ring and tensioned by ropes or bolts, called shime daiko. byo uchi daiko includes the most famous Nagado daiko (also called miya daiko) and Hira daiko, which has a shorter body. Usually, the word shime daiko refers to shime daiko that has a short body, used for accompaniment. shime daiko with a long body is especially called okedo daiko.

Tell me how to make the body of Nagado daiko.

traditionally, it's hollowed out of a log, which is cut in proper length. Craftsmen used to use chisels to hollow it in the old time, but now they use machines to hollow, whittle and polish the body.

What kind of wood is suitable for the body of Nagado daiko?

Zelkova is the best. It's very hard and is hardly scratched. Its grain is beautiful. Moreover, once studs to fasten taiko heads are driven into the Zelkova body, they hardly come loose. Sen, Camphor and Tamo are also popular woods for taiko. However, it's getting difficult to get logs of those woods, which is big enough to become a taiko body in Japan. Thus, imported alternative woods are often used to make a large taiko such as 3 shaku odaiko.

What is the taiko head made of?

It's usually cowhide.The cowhide of a three-year-old female Japanese cow is said to be the best material because of its yieldingness. Horsehide is often used for the head of katsugi oke daiko. Okinawan percussion Paranku, which is used in eisa dance, has a hoghide head. A skin of water buffalo is often used for the head of a larger taiko.

What is the weight of taiko?

The weight of taiko varies according to the kind, the size, and the material. Taiko is made of wood. So, the weight may be different even if there are taiko of the same size or the same material.

Which size of taiko would fit me?

Since a makeup differs depending on individuals, the size of taiko is mostly up to your makeup. Regarding Nagado daiko, you should use the following way to find one which suites you;

  • (1) Set the Nagado daiko in vertical-playing-position.
  • (2) Stand at it.
  • (3) Bend your knees a little bit. Be careful not to stoop over.
  • (4) Hold bachi and put the tips of them on the center of head. If your arms are comfortable at this moment, the taiko should be good for you.

In modern taiko groups, 1 shaku 4 sun, 1 shaku 5 sun and 1 shaku 6 sun size Nagado are mostly used. If you want to beat one Nagado daiko with other players at the same time, we recommend you to use 1 shaku 5 sun or larger Nagado daiko.

Which part of taiko should I measure to know its size?

For Nagado daiko, hirado daiko, okedo daiko, and eisa daiko,
For Nagado daiko, hirado daiko, okedo daiko, and eisa daiko, diameter of head represents the size. Shaku and sun , Japanese traditional measures, are used for measuring the size of taiko. 1 shaku is about 30cm (about 11.8in) and 1 sun is about 3cm (about 1.18in). For example, Nagado daiko 1 shaku 5 sun means Nagado daiko with about 45cm (about 17.7in) heads in diameter. Height of Nagado daiko is generally calculated by multiplying diameter of head by 1.25.

For shime daiko,
For shime daiko, a thickness of the edge of heads represents the size. A measure of cho-gake is used like 1 cho-gake (it is usually called namitsuke), 2 cho-gake, and 3 cho-gake. Generally, 1 cho-gake (namitsuke) has about 11mm (about 0.43in), 2 cho-gake has about 19mm (about 0.75in), 3 cho-gake has about 23mm (about 0.91in), 4 cho-gake has about 26mm (about 1.02in), and 5 cho-gake has about 29mm (about 1.14in) in thickness.

What are shaku and sun?

Shaku and sun Shaku and sun are units of measure used for taiko drums. These units are not generally used in Japan anymore. The metric system of measures using the meter, centimeter and so on are the current standard in Japan now. However, taiko makers use shaku and sun when they make taiko drums. Shaku is pronounced as sha-ku. Sun is pronounced as su-ng.

1 shaku is 10 sun.
1 shaku 1 sun is 1.1 shaku.

For users of meter and centimeter
1 shaku is about 30 cm (10/33 meters).
1 sun is about 3 cm (100/33 centimeters).

Example (1 shaku to 1 shaku 9 sun)
1 shaku is about 30 cm
1 shaku 1 sun is about 33 cm.
1 shaku 2 sun is about 36 cm.
1 shaku 3 sun is about 39 cm.
1 shaku 4 sun is about 42 cm.
1 shaku 5 sun is about 45 cm.
1 shaku 6 sun is about 48 cm.
1 shaku 7 sun is about 51 cm.
1 shaku 8 sun is about 54 cm.
1 shaku 9 sun is about 57 cm.

For users of foot and inch
1 shaku is about 1 ft (about 0.9942 ft).
1 shaku is about 12 in (about 11.93 in).
1 sun is about 0.1 ft. (about 0.09942 ft)
1 sun is about 1.2 in. (about 1.193 in)
1 cm is about 0.39 in. (about 0.3937 in)

Example (1 shaku to 1 shaku 9 sun)
1 shaku is about 1 ft (about 12 in).
1 shaku 1 sun is about 1.1 ft (about 13 in).
1 shaku 2 sun is about 1.2 ft (about 14 in).
1 shaku 3 sun is about 1.3 ft (about 16 in).
1 shaku 4 sun is about 1.4 ft (about 17 in).
1 shaku 5 sun is about 1.5 ft (about 18 in).
1 shaku 6 sun is about 1.6 ft (about 19 in).
1 shaku 7 sun is about 1.7 ft (about 20 in).
1 shaku 8 sun is about 1.8 ft (about 21 in).
1 shaku 9 sun is about 1.9 ft (about 23 in).

I've heard there are some inexpensive taiko on the market. Why are theyso cheap?

Generally, the taiko with a one-piece body that is hollowed out from a single log is very expensive. Because of the reduction of natural woods in Japan, taiko makers nowadays hardly get logs, which are large enough to be a body of taiko. That's why taiko is expensive. On the other hand, some taiko makers try to reduce the cost by using a stave-construction body or synthetic fiber body in substitution for the expensive one-log body. The stave -construction -body taikos manufactured by Japanese taiko makers are usually much more durable than a hand-made barrel taiko and their sound is much better than the barrel taiko's. The synthetic-fiber-body taiko is really cheap, and sadly its sound is also cheap. However, a cheap taiko could be a good starter kit for beginners. If your taiko group needs more taikos and the budget is limited, buying those cheap taikos would be worth considering.

What kinds of shime daiko are there?

There are broadly two types of shime daiko; one is shime daiko for noh play, nagauta music, and Japanese hayashi festival music,and the other is so-called tsuke-shime daiko. tsuke-shime daikois usually in demand among modern taiko group. Now when we say shime daiko,tsuke-shime daiko is mostly implied. There are two types of tsuke-shime daiko;one has heads fastened and tensioned to its body by a rope, and the otheruses bolts to do it. The rope tensioned shime daiko is traditional. Thebolt-tensioned one is more convenient because it is tuned more easily,and it is loosened up quicker before storing. tsuke-shime daikos are sorteddepending on the thickness of its head. namitsuke means regulargauge head. 2 cho-gake is thicker than namitsuke. cho-gakeis a measure expressing the thickness of head. The more number increases,the thicker a head is. Usually, the thicker shime daiko's heads get, thedeeper its body becomes to produce a louder sound. * Height of body andthe number of holes on head vary depending on regions and makers.

There are two types of hide, a cowhide and a horsehide, used for katsugi oke daiko's head. What's difference?

The most obvious difference is sound. The horsehide head is generally said to produces a brighter sound than cowhide. Cowhide is more durable than horsehide. The both are used commonly. taiko players seem to choose one matching their need.

How can I know the quality of head?

Taiko heads are made of cowhide tanned by craftsmen with their secret technique. The cowhide is cut in proper size and is stretched over the top of a taiko body using special equipment. Normally, taiko heads made of cowhide have some brown spots. Nowadays some taiko makers bleach them for sightly sake, sacrificing their durability.

What's difference between mimi-tsuki and mimi-nashi ?

Mimi literally means Ear in Japanese. In taiko terminology, it means the hem of head produced after studding. (It's also called En.) Usually, the cowhide is stretched over the top of body with ropes, which are laced through holes of the hem. Mimi used to be cut off after studding, but nowadays people leave it intentionally. When the head gets loose after using for years, it can be tightened up again if the Mimi remains, instead of replacing the whole head.

I found an antique taiko in treasure house. Can I play it?

It depends on condition of the taiko, but mostly an antique taiko is playable. If there is any crack on its body, it needs to be restored. If its heads have been loose, they need to be stretched properly again or replaced to new ones. Antique taikos are not rare in Japan. Some of them produced hundreds years ago and have been used until now. Taiko Center can restore an antique taiko. Please inquire of us.

We want to form a taiko group but our budget is limited. What kinds of taiko should we buy first?

A couple of Nagado daikos and a shime daiko will be needed at least. Inmodern taiko ensemble, shime daiko has an important role to keep Ji-uchi(basic rhythm). A large Nagado daiko such as 1 shaku 5 sun or 1 shaku 6 suncan be played by 3 players at once. If the budget is low, it will be verydifficult to buy enough Nagado daikos. That is why many taiko groups inthe U.S. make their taikos from wine barrels by themselves. A substitutionmade of old tire is often used for practice. Some taiko makers includingTaiko Center provide a special stand for such a substitution. hirado daikoand okedo daiko are relatively less expensive than Nagado daiko. Some taikogroups compose their ensembles with only hirado and Okedo by reason of thelimited budget. That's not wrong, however, the sounds of them are quitedifferent from one of Nagado daiko and it's not recommendable to form anensemble without Nagado daiko. Without Nagado , usually a taiko ensembleloses its low resonance.

We want to form a taiko group with children. What kinds of taiko should we use?

A couple of Nagado daikos and a shime daiko will be needed at least. A large Nagado daiko such as 1 shaku 5 sun or 1 shaku 6sun can be played by 3 players at once. If the taiko is too tall for children to play, it should be set on blanket instead of a taiko stand.