Shumoku for Regular Playing
Even if you are not interested in purchasing, feel free to try them out when you have a chance. Feedbacks are greatly appreciated.
I have used deer antler to make the heads. To be honest, the natural curvature makes producing shumoku very wasteful. Quality antlers are also not cheap.
Lately, I discovered two kinds of giant plant seeds that are dense enough to be material for heads. They are naturally round, hence slightly easier to carve by hand. The white one is Tagua Nut. I don’t know the English name of the other nut, let’s call it “Polka Dot”.
In terms of sound color, I could not tell the difference.
The Handle Determines Control
Handle are made from used kendo shinai (bamboo sword). They are recommended by Kenny Endo sensei as the ideal bamboo for shumoku handle, as they are treated to be tough to begin with.
I carved them all by hand, and have experimented with various shapes and thickness. While the bamboo’s own flexibility is unpredictable, shape and thickness hugely affect the tactility. For example, if the handle is too flexible, you will not be able to make firm hits, because it absorbs so much power and might even shake your whole hand. If the handle is too stiff, the shumoku will rebounce so quickly that you’d be hitting double-hit all the time.
As a result, a well shaped handle is critical, as it determines degrees of control, handling, and power. In fact, many of these nice looking handles are unusable.
New Head Design
The conventional head shape is a long cylinder shape on both horizontal and vertical orientation (yoko, tate). While the taiko scene in US has encouraged innovation, we seldom question this head shape. With this shape, you’d archive a wide spectrum of high frequencies on “chan”.
Think of it from another angle, similar strike distance can be achieved by making a tate head that is short and fat. This recreates similar strike distance, yet completely different kind of contact surfaces and mass. Hence the concept of my new shumoku design.
The new tate version can be played with same technique, and has a very focused “chan”. Overall it produces a “cleaner” sound quality, less bright and piercing than the conventional yoko head. I am not criticizing the conventional head. However, it is particularly exciting to be able to find another distinguish sound from such loud, seemingly homogenous sounding instrument.