At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I absolutely love and recommend Kristofer Bergstrom of On Ensemble’s program 30 Days to Better Shime. I first heard about the course while attending this year’s North American Taiko Conference in Los Angeles, California. Not being one to often play the shime (a small, high-pitched drum often used to lead a taiko ensemble), I almost passed the program by without a thought. Luckily, I realized the very fact that I didn’t play the shime very much was exactly why I should sign up. 28 days in, I can safely say that in my 10-odd years of studying music, this course is one of the most singularly helpful and beneficial tools I have ever encountered.
If I had to find fault with the program, it would be that the title does not imply nearly the full scope of what it has to teach. The exercises and drills that Mr. Bergstrom has put together often focus on musical skills far more fundamental than technique for just this specific drum. The exercises in coordination, tempo control, ear training, and basic practice skills (to name a few) are so well constructed as to serve as training tools for fundamental rhythmic ability and overall musicianship. They’re broken down to their very basic forms, allowing them to easily be applied to other taiko, drum kit, percussion in general, and I’ve even used some of them in my guitar playing.
30 Days is ultimately as simple to use and to complete as it is useful. The entirety of the course can be completed with a single pair of drum sticks and a practice pad, and if you’re willing to practice in front of the computer, all of the materials can be downloaded for free. After a few weeks of practicing 15-20 minutes a day, I’ve already noticed a considerable improvement in my timing, technique, and consistency, and I would strongly recommend this program to any musician, percussionist or otherwise.