Just like younger students, adults can be intimidated by the idea of soloing, which requires awareness of and ability to play on the beat (pulse), internalized phrasing so you play a solo of the correct length (if length is set), form and strike, and competency with basic beats. Improvising adds a level of complexity that true beginners* generally aren’t ready for, and I don’t recommend having students improvise right out the gate.
Here’s my method for helping adult beginners start soloing. For this approach, choose a song that the students already know that includes soloing as well as unison playing. Sanae Swing would work, as would Matsuri, as would literally hundreds of other songs.
Give each student a kuchishoka deck to build a solo. Set the length of the solo at 8 beats (2 measures, 8 cards).
Give the students 15-20 minutes to create their solos and practice them on their drums.
Add a jiuchi so students can practice their solos with a back beat, but don’t make everyone start and stop at the same time.
Move to everyone starting and stopping at the same time (aka chaos soloing).
Have students play their solos one at a time.
Build their solos into the song arrangement.
For some students, this is still pretty intimidating, and I let those students choose to work in teams.
Out of ideas for your taiko classes? I can help! I’ve been teaching taiko in school and community settings for over a decade. Drop me a line, and happy teaching!
*True beginners = people coming to taiko without previous music or dance experience. I find that taiko attracts a lot of true beginners.