The Critical First Day: Taiko Fundamentals Gr 4-5

With older students, the taiko fundamental I start with is staying together as an ensemble on a shared pulse. Again, it’s easier to scaffold this using voices and bodies before drums. Two music vocabulary words come up in this activity: ostinato (a repeating pattern) and polyrhythm (combining two or more different rhythms simultaneously).

My current 4/5 residency is 8 weeks of 30 minute classes - only 4 hours of instructional time! - so I move through things FAST. Here’s what I did on the first day to get them started on this skill:

  1. Have students clap and sing the alphabet with you. Clap on every syllable.

  2. Clap without singing.

  3. Teach the ostinato.

  4. Define ostinato.

  5. Split them into two groups and have each group do one of the parts.

  6. Define polyrhythm.

The students in the video speed up, which is pretty normal. In the second class, we return to this activity and I add a straight beat jiuchi to help them keep a steady tempo. The week after that, students translate the beats to drums. They play “don” instead of clapping the alphabet and the ostinato becomes “don don ka su.” Students learn kuchishoka in Week 4,  use the kuchishoka deck to create solos or duets (their choice) in Week 5, learn a song structure in Week 6 and voilà- a polyrhythmic taiko song with solos, all from the clapping alphabet! I first got this activity from my Orff training and have adapted it over the years.

Questions? Hit me up. Until next time, happy teaching!