Yama Taiko


Video Demos

First Mix & Recordings

Yama Taiko PDF

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Corona Matsuri Project

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Shangö Taiko Player Kurt Griffith is interested in cultivating more local Taiko players. More players, more fun, more DON! Please contact us if you are interested in workshops or regular classes.

Rescheduled! – We are resecheduling our Intoduction to Taiko Workshop on June 29, 6:30 PM in Berkley Springs. Stay tuned, or drop us an email for more information or to get a head's up! Don Don Doko DON! - Find out more here!

An Original Taiko Experiment

Recording Yama Taiko at my home studio. Challenging!

Yama Taiko - “Mountain Drums”

Watashitachi no yamanoie, hotondo tengoku, sekai no doramu ga sakende imasu!
Drums of the world are shouting, almost heaven, our mountain home!

Shangö Taiko Player Kurt Griffith's idea for “Mountain Taiko” was for a somewhat formal, feeling of a march, but reflecting the flavor of the hills of West Virginia where he has now made his home. Inspiration is drawn from the structure of Matsuri Taiko, Renshu, and the African, Middle Eastern, and World rhythms studied and performed by Shangö Percussion. A full arrangement would include some of those world percussion instruments as well for a heady mix. A further exploration of the work we've been doing incorporating the single chudaiko into Shangös jams.

The main Yama Taiko rhythms hint at root rythmns and share rhythmic shapes with classic World Rhythms Kuku and Beladi. The main line patterns have plenty of room to layer, improvise and explore, by design. An arranged piece should start with a stately, almost formal measured tone, and ramp up into a festive and affectionate celebration.

My first adventures in recording a version of Yama Taiko was challenging, but a lot of fun. Recording a multipart Taiko arrangement when you have to play all the parts yourself is feindishly complicated. But I certainly got in some rehearsal time trying to figure this all out and get some decent takes.

Yama Taiko has at least as much world Percussion as wadaiko drumming going on. Which is fitting as I am, for the moment, the Takio player in Shangö Percussion. But let's get everybody in on this jam to play! Listen to the results of the first experiments below.


Yama Taiko Kuchishoga


1 - 2 - 3 - 4 -
don tsuku don tsuku don tsuku don tsuku

Can be played on any high or medium pitched drum.
Shimedaiko. Djembe, Doubmbek,, etc..

Main Rhythm Patterns

The empty end space is important. ( virtual “su” ) –V
  1 2 3 4
1 DON su DON kara Ka Ra kara
1a DON kara kara Ka Ka Ra kara
2. DON doko DON kara Ka Ra kara
3. DON doko Don Don Ka Ra kara
4. DON doko doko Don Ka Ra kara
5. DON DON doko Don Ka Ra kara
6. Doro doro DON DON Ka Ra kara
7. Doro tsuku doko DON Ka Ra kara
8. DON doko DON doko Don Don kara

The main lines for the taiko/s. Lines 1 and 1a can be played as lead in or breaks with just the DONs, leaving out the rim hits. Note the different intensities of the Dons (big hit in the hara/center) in the different lines, DON vs Don. Doro and doko are less strong. Tsuku is even quieter, played lighter near the edge of the drum. Doro is played "tighter" than Doko. This gives the rhythm some bounce and texture.

It's important that the end space at the 4-and point is left empty on the main line, this provides structure and pulse combined with strong first notes. Lines 2-8 cycle throgh increasing complexity to Line 8, which is nearly filled to contrast with the lean and formal line 1/1a. All the main lines end with ... Ka Ra kara (just ... kara for Line 8 ), then the virtual su (rest) at the end provides an anchor.

Lines 1 and 1a are repeated alternating for lead-ins, ( similar to the 2/4 and 2/4 Alt pattern) and for other instruments to solo and improvise. When soloing Yama Taiko, mantain the structure with the empty end note.

Djembe / Doumbek

Baseline (syncs with Jiuchi)
  1 2 3 4
(1) B t  t B t  t B t  t B t  t
Layer One (syncs with Taiko Main Patterns 1 & 1a )
2 B B t  t S T t  t
2a B t  t t  t T S S t  t

In addition to the rthyms above, Kuku or Beladi or any basic 2/4 can, and should, be played into Yama Taiko for a rich percussive mix. Try other rhythms, explore, have fun! We've added a recording of these pattens below.

Djun Djun

  1 2 3 4
1 D D
2 D s s s  s

Djun Djun or other Low/bass drum can play the above, or mirror the Taiko lines.

The Whispering Mountains, West Virginia.


Start with lines 1 and 1a alternating with just the DONs, intoduce the jiuchi, then other instruments in stages along with fully realized lines 1/1a Play through the lines 1-8 a couple of times. Ramp up the tempo.

After a run of the main lines, fall back to altenating lnes 1./1a. while other drums improvise and solo, then solo on the taiko. Have fun with it, express your love for the mountains and our homes!

Some solo lines: – (see downloadable Yama Taiko PDF for more ideas)
DON  DON  DON  su  Don  Don  kara  –
Ko-Don   Ko-Don   DON  DON  DON  –
kara  kara  Don  Don  su  DON  DON  –

If you're up for it, ramp up the tempo again and run it out. To make it more interesting, switch out the supporting rhythms on the other drums. Sync everybody up for a big thundering finish!

Yame (finish)

  1 2 3 4
  DON su DON su DON su DON su
  DON su DON su DON su DON su
  don Don Don DON DON DON DON su - KO-DON!


Video Demos

Demo New!Yama-Taiko: Rhythms the basic parts of the Yama-Taiko - or ”Mountain Drums.” experiment . We have the Baseline or Jiuchi. The Main Line for Hand Drums, which is also the first double length line of the full eight line Yama-Taiko Pattern. The arrangement is designed to have all kinds of drums interacting with Taiko, and celebrate Shangö Percussion’s Mountain Home here in West Virginia. Check out some recordings and a downloadable PDF of the rhythms and arrangements below.

Yama Taiko Recordings

An rhythm experiment blending Taiko and World Percussion.

Yama Taiko - The First Experimental Mix

My first take at an arranged recording, a first mix with all the parts. The Solos were a lot of fun! Played with a number of rhythms on Djembe, Doumbek, Bell, and pow pow drum acting as DjunDjun, and bamboo flute. The jiuchi track is taken from the clever resource Taiko Drum Machine. Headphones or subwoofer reccomended to get the bass notes - always a challence to record.
Download 5.6 MB

Taiko Main Lines and Jiuchi Clip

The main taiko lines over the jiuchi (TDM @ 80bpm) to give a sense of the shape and pulse.
Download 620k

Taiko Main Lines Only

The main taiko lines.
Download 1 MB

Don Tsuku Jiuchi - Three Tempos

The Don tsuku Jiuchi (baseline) at the same three tempos and timing as the Yama Taiko Mix. For your practicing and jammin’ pleasure.
Download 5.6 MB

Yama Taiko Baseline & Layer One Accompaniment

The Baseline and Layer One for Djembe and Doumbek tha accompanies Yama Taiko. These patterns mirror the Jiuchi and Line 1 & 1a of the Taiko parts. Added - 11/12/19
Download 4.4 MB

Yama Taiko Baseline, Taiko, Bell, & Voice Tracks

New – Tracks from the First Yama-Taiko Mix to play over – The Baseline/Jiuchi, Taiko Main Part & Solo, Bell, and Vocal Cues with the Flute & Clave intro. You can use this track to parctice playing other rhythms with Yama-Taiko. Added - 3/23.20
Download 4.4 MB


Yama Taiko Kuchishoga & Arrangement

Downoadable Drum patterns and experiemntal arrangement for Yama Taiko. A work In progress [ Updated 10.24.19 ] Expect updates and revisions cpariciously.
Download/View PDF


Page updated: 3.27.20

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