30 Days to Better Shime

30 Days to Better Shime

[Originally posted at OnEnsemble.org]

Update (161002)

Shime-daiko is the most accessible taiko form.  It can be practiced at home with a simple practice pad and bachi.  The rhythm and dexterity challenges can provide a lifetime of practice material.  Compare this to odaiko, which requires a massive, expensive instrument and suitable sound-proof space.

Despite the accessibility of shime, however, I estimate that only a few dozen of the hundreds of people who have used the 30 Days to Better Shime program complete the program.  This is partly due to design failings in the program -- it focused on "inspiring" practice but could also include the skills related to making time to practice and dealing with setbacks.  But even this improved version would be hard to finish due to the fundamental challenge of daily practice.  I now see the 30 Days program's greatest value in challenging our practice skills.

Whether you make it three days or thirty, happy practicing practice!

Original post (081216)

Welcome to the 30 Days to Better Shime program!  This free program provides one month of daily exercises for small drum practice.  You simply download the workbook and companion CD, get out your practice pad and batchi, and follow the daily instructions!

Originally created for the 2008 Collegiate Taiko Invitational, over 600 taiko players in 14 different countries have now used the program.

Download the workbook and audio files

All the materials necessary for participating in the program are below, released under the Free Art License 1.3.   You are free to make copies and share the program with others.  Read more about the license here [link updated].

  1. Download the 30 Days to Better Shime workbook [see file below]
  2. Download the 30 Days to Better Shime MP3 or OGG audio files [see files below] (the .zip files contain all 46 tracks of the program, and are large files. Downloading may take a while. You can also download the individual files below.)
  3. Unzip the audio files (on most computers you can simply double-click the icon)
  4. Burn the audio files to CD (if you don't have CD-burning software on Windows, try the Free Software program, Infra Recorder)
  5. Start practicing!

How to order a printed set [sold out]

To order a printed set (workbook, CD, Bubble Calendar, and support), contact Kris at kris (at) OnEnsemble (dot) org or 310-350-8825. Sets are $30 and checks are made payable to "Kristofer Bergstrom". Please send checks to the following address.

Kristofer Bergstrom
2000 W 162nd St Apt 100 [out of date]
Torrance CA 90504

Source files

The PDF workbook was generated by the LaTeX typesetting system, with graphics created using the Inkscape vector graphics program.  The source files for the 30 Days to Better Shime workbook are provided below so that you can change the program to improve it and to suit your needs.  All modifications must be made under the terms of the Free Art License 1.3.  More information about sharing and modifying is available here.

Workbook in LaTeX format [see file]

Illustrations in Inkscape (SVG) format [see file]

Program testimonials and stories

OMG, this program is the sh33t!  Seriously though, there's nothing else like this anywhere!  Thank you!

Mark

Hi Kris,
Thank you so so very much for your shime program.  Going through your program made me realize how little I practice during the week.  There were some days I just didn't feel like picking up the bachi.  I have to admit that I didn't practice every day.  Before, it was once a week or every two weeks.  But because you made it accessible, I was practicing at least 4 times a week.  The drills worked particularly well for me as I needed improvements in areas such as timing, hand coordination, speed and working with the metronome--I have always been afraid of the metronome, thinking that I won't be able to keep up with it or be in the pocket.  It's not too bad now but I could use more practice with the metronome.  I found the pacing of your program very manageable but the difficulty for me was sitting in front of the computer for an extended amount of time listening to the audio.  I am
not a computer savvy person but maybe it's already built in.  Is it possible for me to put the audio onto a cd so that I can listen to it in the car, exercising or walking or actually practicing the audio on a drum.
Thank you again for making it possible for me to improve and progress.

Chris

Hi Kristofer,
I wanted to say "thank you" for creating the shime drills and practices for us.  I wasn't able to complete all 30 of them, but saved all your emails so that I can go back to it and work on it.  I have taken shime lessons with Kenny Endo Sensei in the past and your drills will definitely help me to refine my techniques and skills.
Thank you again for a wonderful month!  I enjoyed it a lot!
Sincerely, Laureen

Hi, Kris

I have absolutely no criticism.  The lessons were well thought out and very helpful.  They were not overly difficult but challenging.

I think I religiously completed each assignment through Day 13 or so, but I looked at your assignments every day after that and did the exercises to the 30th day.  I stopped doing the call and answer even earlier because I didn't find it that challenging.

But I absolutely love the exercises.  I've always done the basic 1234 exercises and knew some of the variations from taking some of your previous workshops, but you gave me even more examples of how to improvise and change them.

The diminishing click exercise is excellent.

I use the 1234 exercises when teaching, so now I have more variations I can use in classes.

Thanks again, Kris.  You never cease to amaze me.

Judi

Hi Kris,

Thank you so much for doing this! I only made it about 10 days and then my other drumming practices and life got sooo busy... but I plan to download/print everything to continue using until I finish the course...and after that too, as they are valuable drills for ongoing...I'll put my feedback below; bummed i couldn't keep up with it but so glad to have the resource to keep on using, thank you thank you.

i think if i could have figured out better/earlier the appropriate tempos to maximize learning for where i'm at and therefore figured out how to do the daily drills in a shorter time it might have helped... working at the slow tempos and then gradually speeding up for each drill ended up with the days practice being about 45 min to an hour..which i would love to do daily but when i got busy that didn't happen, and since in my mind that's what it would take i didn't do it at all instead of figuring out how to just shorten it to get some practice in. i know the test at the beginning was supposed to help figure that out but the numbers didn't match my actual abilities once we were in the drills, most i could do much faster than the test indicated (at least the first ten days) so i never really knew where to start on the metronome and spent alot of time  building up.. i think knowing where to start and then finding the edge more quickly would help me ( i still need to figure that out to keep working with the drills)

have always liked to do left hand practice but your system of starting all drills with the left hand was great; i feel like it somehow really helped to initiate everything left then right instead of vice verse. I really liked all the drills so far, 16s, hand coord, iceskater et al...the listening and repeating drills were really good too for me as i am weak in the listening and catching it quickly area and even in the first 10 days i could see i was getting better
thanks Kris!! for your devotion and generosity.

Debbie

Hey Kris,
Just thought I'd relate an interesting experience (mostly) about the 30 Days program that I noticed after today's diagnostic.  As I was doing the tests, I admit that I was a little bit disappointed with the speed numbers, just because they're slightly lower than I expected them to be.  I guess in terms of pure hand speed, I've regressed slightly since the first 30 Days program (when I was playing more taiko overall), but...as you say, that leaves plenty of room for improvement, so I'm excited about that part!  The cool part, though, is when I looked at the numbers, they were surprisingly even.  L and R lead SSRs were both at 160, and LH TTK was at 144, while RH TTK was at 176, which averages to...160.  =)
It's for sure that since the first 30 Days program, I realized the importance of balancing (or even over-emphasizing) the left hand in my drills, so I've been striving since then to create drills for myself that have those characteristics, or to at least make sure that I do drills leading with both hands if they don't take care of the problem for me.  So between the actual 30 Days program itself and one of the main things I took away from it, it seems that my hands ARE beginning to bridge the gap in coordination.  Cool, huh?
Anyway, I was excited to get -- or at least to realize -- such positive results on the first day of the program.  Looking forward to the rest!
Cheers, David

Frequently Asked Questions

Q - I am little afraid that I can't keep up with the schedule... should I start now or later, when I'm less busy?
A - Definitely start now!  It's no big deal if you take longer than 30 days to complete the program.  But get day 1 out of the way today!

Q - What is the CD player for?
A - The program includes listening and call and response drills.

Q - Can I use my iPod?
A - Yes!  Although I can't provide iPod-specific support, the iPod should work very well for the course.  You can download the MP3 audio files above and load them onto the iPod (through the iTunes application, I assume).  If you have the audio files on CD, you should be able to import them to iTunes similarly, and from there, transfer them to the iPod.

Q - What is OGG and why do you offer it in addition to MP3?
A - I want users of the 30 Days to Better Shime program to be able to participate with entirely Free Software.  The mp3 format is not technically free.  Please see my blog post about ogg for more information.

Q - I downloaded the ogg files but they don't work.  What do I do?
A - Thank you for trying to use the ogg format.  I have written a howto to help users enable ogg support.  If after reading that you still are not able to use the ogg files, you might want to stick to the mp3 files for now.  I can help others using the gnu/linux operating system but I'm not much help with Windows or MacOS.

Q - Where do I sign up?
A - To join the upcoming Group Practice Session (Jan 1, 2011), visit this page [mailing list no longer in use] to sign up!  Note, however that you do not have to sign up to do the program at your own pace.  Simply download the workbook and audio files, and begin!  You can also purchase the printed workbook/CD set, or contact me directly (kris at OnEnesmble dot org).

Q - You really should charge money for this.  Why is it free?
A - Please feel free to make a donation to me or another cause of your choosing.  I make the program free because I do not want finances to be a barrier to participation.  There are taiko players in countries whose currency is far, far weaker than the US dollar.  And even for the rest of us, it's hard enough to practice already without having to worry about paying for it!

Q - My track numbers don't match the workbook numbers...
A - In v2 of the program, I removed track 3.  If you have the original versions of the tracks, track 4 is now track 3, track 5 is track 4, etc.  I made minor changes to track 3 and all of the call and answer tracks, so it might be worthwhile to download the new versions above.

Q - Do you sell shime batchi?
A - I have a number of extra pairs that I brought back from Japan for my personal use.  I will be happy to sell you a pair if you promise to put them to use.  Contact me at kris at OnEnsemble dot org.

Q - Can you explain the words, "ten", "tekke", "ka", "tsu", and "ku"?
A - Japanese music is generally taught orally and uses words for each of the sounds that the instruments make, a system we call kuchishouka.  For the shime-daiko, "ten" represents a strong hit to the center of the drum, "ka" is a hit to the rim, and "tsu" is a quiet hit.  When we combine multiple hits of the same type, we often change the pronunciation slightly to make it easier to say; so "ten, ten" might be "tekke" or "tere", "ka, ka" might be "kara", "tsu, tsu" becomes "tsuku".

Q - I did about half of version 1 of the program.  Should I continue with version 1 or download version 3?
A - The meat of the drills and listening challenges is essentially the same in versions 1, 2, and 3 - so if you've already printed the workbook and burned the CD, stick with that.  In version 3, the information is presented more clearly and many of the drills have been polished. The PDF format should also be much easier to print, so if you haven't printed yet, get the newest version.

Q - Is there a 'way' to be listening to the patterns in order to retain them?  For instance, I have listened to the ka's in the whole pattern to try and retain the pattern,  then I've listened to the ten or tsuku (dons)......but I still struggle ( I know there's a few of us over 50, hence the memory issue - haha).  I've also just listened to the pattern as a whole and tried to just relax with it and replicate it...... Is there a concept or strategy that would help with that section of the lessons?

A - To be honest, I don't know the answer.  I don't remember any conceptual breakthroughs I had along the way, but for what it's worth, when I hear a rhythm and am able to remember it now, it's because I'm able to translate the rhythm into to the sense of actually playing it (splitting it between right and left hands where it makes sense) while I'm listening to it.  To a large degree, I think the ability to remember a rhythm you've just heard comes with familiarity with that rhythm's basic parts.  As I understand it, the brain is able to remember a certain number of "chunks" of information (perhaps 7 chunks at a time?)  If we're comfortable with "don kara ka ka", for example, that becomes one chunk, as opposed to 5 or more chunks in the brain of someone new to the rhythm.
If you happen to find a "way" that helps you, I'll be very interested in trying it!  Until then, I think one's ability to remember a rhythm is determined mainly by their comfort level with a wide variety of patterns.  My hope with the call and answer exercises is to expose participants to a wide range of rhythms so that by the end of the course, there is noticeable improvement.

Q - What should I practice on if I don't have (or can't use) an actual shime?

A - I'd definitely get or make a practice pad.  You need something bouncy.  You can buy a practice pad at a music shop or on eBay for very little money.  Or you can make one yourself.  If you have a bit of rubber (perhaps from an old mouse pad or something), you can glue that to a plywood or solid wood base of some sort and you're done.  Drum pad makers will try and convince you that they have some sort of magic, proprietary substance "that perfectly mimics the feel of a real drum!", but it's bogus.  Any firm, rubbery material glued to a solid base works great!

Q - How do I hold my batchi?  Do you have any pointers on the basic strike?

A - I use a "German" or "matched" grip for most of my shime playing.  My goal when practicing is to be relaxed, in control, and to be training my hands to know where the sticks are at all times.  I try to maintain a loose grip with all my fingers touching the whole time, without letting the batchi slide around.  I try to train my wrists and fingers to move properly so that my grip can be relaxed and light.  Basic technique is best explained in person so if you're ever in the LA/Torrance area, please come over for a lesson or joint practice session!  kris at OnEnsemble dot org