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Taiko Terms

The words listed below are commonly used by those involved in taiko and is offered here for all those who want to increase their knowledge of this art form. It is by no means a comprehensive glossary of terms and will be continually changing and growing as the Shumei Taiko Ensemble's web page develops. So please check back occasionally for new listings.

Note: many of the names for the drums and other instrumentation used in taiko are found in the "Drums" section of the Shumei Taiko Ensemble's web site.

Bachi: AAny of a large variety of wooden drumsticks used in taiko, made from a variety of hard and soft woods. "Bachi" also means the picks used to play Japanese string instruments.

Byoouchi-daiko: Any drums that have their skins attached to their bodies by a row of nails around the drum's rim.

Byou-daiko: A term used to designate a large category of drums that are carved from a single piece of wood. (Please see the Shumei Taiko "Drums" section for more information.)

Chu-daiko: A term used for most medium sized drums.

Dai: A drum stand. There are several types of "dai", so it is usually used as a suffix to designate a particular type of drum stand, such as "Miyake-dai."

Daiko: A variant of "taiko" or drum, used as the suffix of a conjunction of words (such as "Byoouchi-daiko" or "Chu-daiko") to designate a particular type of drum.

Do: The body of a drum.

Fuchi Uchi: The rapping of the drum's rim with a drumstick during taiko performances.

Fuchi: A drum's rim.

Fue: Any of a number of wind instruments. The term's most common reference is to bamboo flutes of various lengths and pitches that have six or seven holes and are played horizontally.

Hachimaki: Japanese headbands often worn by taiko players.

Hanten and Happi: Two types of short coats often worn by taiko players.

Hara: center of the drumhead. Hara literally means "belly."

Haramaki: The cloth band that wraps around a drummer's midsection or "hara."

Himo: A cord.

Hira-daiko: A term used to describe a type of drum that is wider than it is long. (Please see the Shumei Taiko "Drums" section for more information.)

Oke-daiko: A term for all shime-daiko that are made with stave construction as opposed to being carved out of a single block of wood. (Please see the Shumei Taiko "Drums" section for more information.)

Hon-jime: The tuning of a "shime-daiko," which are drums that can be tuned by tensing cords attached to their drumheads. Alternately, two drummers pull at the tension cords while hitting them with a stick.

Ji: A background rhythm usually consisting of a simple double beat.

Jikata: A member of the taiko group that plays the "ji."

Jika-tabi: A Japanese split-toed stocking with ankle clasps and rubber soles that are usually the taiko performer's footwear of choice.

Kakegoe: Shouts by members of a taiko group to encourage fellow players, accent the music, and cue rhythm changes.

Kamae: A stylized pose or stance used by taiko players during performance.

Kanagu: A handle composed of a ring and plate found on the midsection of a drum that has its skin nailed to its rim.

Kashu: A singer.

Kata: Meaning "form." In taiko the word is used to denote a manner of movement and pose proper to the style of music played.

Kawa: The animal skin used to make drumheads.

Keyaki: A species of Japanese elm from which one of the finest woods for making drums is produced. The wood is famed for both its hardness and the beauty of its grain pattern.

Kumi-daiko: A grouping of drums that can be simultaneously played by one drummer. Its origins are modern and many believe that Kumi-daiko's introduction into taiko was directly influenced by Jazz drum sets.

Kuri-nuki-daiko: Any drum with a body carved from a single log.

Meari: Literally means "with grain." Generally used as a term for woods used to make a taiko drum that are not "Keyaki."

Men: Traditional Japanese masks made of paper or wood, often depicting demons, animals, and people. They are used in certain styles of taiko playing.

Mimi: The area of the drumhead skin below the nails on the drum's rim. It is usually a good idea not to trim this portion of the hide, as it is needed when re-stretching the skin to add tension to the drumhead.

Momohiki: The style of slacks often worn by members of some taiko groups during performances.

Nagado-daiko: Perhaps the most familiar style of taiko drum used in modern taiko. Made from a single log, they have a barrel-shaped appearance with a fixed drumhead at each end. (Please see the Shumei Taiko "Drums" section for more information.)

Narimono: Any small, handheld percussion instruments.

Nawa: Rope.

Obi: The sash used to keep a coat or kimono closed.

Oke: A cylindrical barrel constructed of straight, narrow staves from which some taiko drums are made in Japan. They differ in shape and construction from the wine and whiskey barrels that commonly are used to make taiko instruments in North America. (Please see "Taiko: Myth and History" for more on the connection between the taiko and liquor barrels.)

Shaku: Traditional Japanese unit of measurement which is used to determine a drum's size. The exact length of a shaku varies according to the geographical area and trade in which it is used, but when applied to taiko it is about 30 cm or roughly one foot in length.

Shime-daiko: A broad category of drums that have their drumheads pulled taut over a hoop by a lace of tension cords. These cords can be adjusted to alter the drum's tone. Please see the Shumei Taiko "Drums" section for more information.)

Suzu: A pellet or crotal bell. These small metallic rattles are used both in musical instruments (such as the Kagura-suzu) and as costume ornamentation. Traditionally, these bells or rattles were worn by children to ward off evil spirits.

Taiko: Taiko is simply the Japanese word for "big drum." Generally, it is used to refer to all drums used in classical Japanese music, whether big or small.

Taru: A wooden barrel with a bulging, tapered body, constructed of wide staves. The word is used to refer to the wine and whiskey barrels from which some taiko drums are made of in North America. (Please see "Taiko: Myth and History" for more on the connection between the taiko and liquor barrels.)

Tekkou: The wristbands often worn by taiko artists.

Tenugui: A simple cotton hand towel used as an improvised headband.

Tomoe: A traditional design motif of the yin-yang family. It is used extensively on drumheads and occasionally on the apparel of taiko performers.

Uchite: A taiko artist.

Urushi: The traditional lacquer used to finish taiko bodies. It comes in a wide range of hues and shades and its application requires a great deal of skill.

Uta: Means both singing and song.

Waraji: Rice straw sandals.

Zori: Japanese thong sandals, known in America as "flip flops."