Taiko Games: Whack-a-Don

Fun for students of all ages and easily adapted to different experience levels, Whack-a-Don is one of my favorite ways to energize/warm-up a group while practicing internalizing the pulse, good strike technique, and balancing group and individual attention.

I originally created this game for 8 people, but you can play with any number. It’s most successful if you play 8 or 16 don total. If you have a number other than 8 or 16, put people in teams of 2, or assign the drums more than one number.

The challenge is that each player must play their don exactly when it should happen no matter what. For example, the person at Drum #4 should their don exactly on the fourth beat even if the person at Drum #3 played late, or missed their don entirely.

The video shows the basic game and all variations. (Shout out to Taiko SOBA for appearing in the video!)

WHACK-A-DON, Basic version

  1. Arrange the drums in a row.

  2. Assign each drum a number, 1-8.

  3. Have players play 8 don in unison.

  4. Have them play 8 don again, but this time, each person only plays the number that corresponds to their drum. For example, the person at Drum #1 plays the first don, but none of the others. The person at Drum #2 plays the second don, but none of the others.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as long as you like.


After Step 4 above, count an “Ichi-ni-so-re.” Players rotate drums during this count. The person at Drum #1 moves to Drum #2; the person at Drum #2 moves to Drum #3, etc. The person at Drum #8 moves to Drum #1. At the end of your count, repeat the 8 unison don and the 8 individual don, each person playing their new number.


Rather than arranging the drums in a row, spread them around the room. Have players change drums during “Ichi-ni-so-re.” In this variation, players keep the same number when they move. Doing this at a brisk tempo is a fun challenge for more advanced players.

You can see it on the faces of the SOBA members at the end of the video- this game is FUN! Let me know if you try it. Happy teaching!