Soon after joining Odaiko New England, I was handed a piece of paper with a few instructions on it and a couple hand-drawn diagrams. This was my introduction to making drums.
I like to joke that the first thing Elaine Fong said to me when I first introduced myself at one of ONE’s festival performances was, “Do you have any construction experience?” (In fact, I think that was the SECOND thing she said…)
Pretty much from the time that I was learning to play taiko, I was also learning how to make taiko. And most of that learning was painstaking trial and error (emphasis on “error”). Now that I have many years behind me and 60+ drums under my belt, I’d like to share some of my process with you, partially as therapy and partially to help those who are looking to do the same thing.
There are MANY resources for making drums and many MUCH BETTER drum-makers than I. Therefore, I choose to write this from the perspective of someone who has made considerable mistakes and does NOT claim to be an expert in anything. You don’t need (or really want) me to tell you how to make taiko. Instead, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about how NOT to make taiko – along with a few tips that may save you time and frustration.
And if you learn nothing from this, at least you will know that anyone with marginal skills in building, a father with an engineering degree and a 65-gallon, American oak whiskey barrel FULL of stubbornness can build taiko. Decent taiko.
I intend to be very candid with my approach to drum-making and want to be clear that I mean absolutely NO disrespect for those out there making beautiful taiko for decades. I will always aspire to build at their level but don’t ever expect to. Mark Miyoshi, I am NOT!
I also apologize in advance for forgetting credit where due but I honestly will try to cite where each piece of knowledge and inspiration comes from because I strongly believe in acknowledgement.
And with that, here begins my adventure…