Taiko drumming has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. It was typically relegated to stage plays until the 1950s, when a jazz musician developed an ensemble style of drumming called kumi-daiko, which became a long-standing hobby for over a million people in Japan. However, the drums can be very large and very loud. To help drummers practice at home, electronic instrument company Roland partnered with Kodo, an acclaimed taiko performing arts group. The resulting TAIKO-1 lets you play in near silence, and helps you perfect your rhythm with built-in practice modules and accompaniments.
The TAIKO-1 uses a mesh surface rather than hard rubber to recreate the flexible feel of a drum's skin without the loud noises. Each side of the drum has two zones that trigger different sounds -- the center produces deep staccato hits while the edges create long, higher-pitched notes. And as with most electronic drums, the velocity of a hit determines the volume and pitch of the resulting sound. A sample library of traditional taiko drums comes with the TAIKO-1, but you can add your own lossless audio samples, too. The drum will help you tighten up your rhythm with plenty of on-board backing accompaniments and timing practice tracks.
The TAIKO-1 will be out in July and will cost $1,500. That sounds like a lot, but a traditional taiko drum of the same size and style -- even when made and shipped from within the US -- can cost more than double that. For those who don't play taiko, the instrument could seem like a one-trick-pony. But for enthusiasts, this digital version of the traditional instrument is probably an exciting proposition.