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Monday, January 16, 2012

Feature: Deathstream 101

Okay class, quiet please! Quiet.

My name is Pikaby, but you may address me as Instructor P. This class deals with an advanced technique to play Taiko no Tatsujin, and that is being able to comprehend and clear long chains of notes called 'deathstreams'.

What is a deathstream? There's no hard and fast definition to it, but a deathstream is any long chain of notes in a song that isn't intuitively readable or playable on the first go and looks extremely messed up. Until of course, you see the notes while they're not moving, then break 'em apart, and plan a strategy to hit everything in it. This works wonders for many different streams, though there's also the old-fashioned way of playing the song frequently enough to get a good look at each note in the stream, then formulate your action plan.

Long streams like those in Yawaraka Sensha Ura are not exactly deathstreams no matter how terrifyingly long they are because the patterns are simple and can be done easily provided the player has sufficient stamina and coordination to finish it. But like I said, there's no rule to what can be considered a deathstream and what can't be.

Today's lesson covered six common trip-ups encounters by players. If you wish to see more being used as lesson material, don't hesitate to ask for them after class is over, because there will be another session on these things. Deathstreams are integral to a complete mastery of Taiko no Tatsujin.

1. Taiko Time (Ura)

First-time players will find this crazy thing scrolling at them at the end of the song without any prior warning. The high BPM and the space right before this deathstream being filled by exhausting note clusters with no breaks in between don't help, making this quite a difficult stream to read on first sight. Fortunately, it's actually not a haphazard arrangement. Together with most of the other deathstreams I'm covering today, Taiko Time Ura's combo killer is a repeating pattern.

Break it apart and it becomes obvious. The stream starts with two red notes, followed by three clusters of six notes 'blue blue red red blue red', then two clusters of four notes 'blue blue blue red'. All the breakups are even numbers so there's no handswitching involved despite the complicated nature of this stream.

You can start the stream comfortably with your dominant hand (the hand you use to write with is usually the one used to start hitting clusters in Taiko, but some people reverse the order), but since most players want their dominant hand to start clusters with red and non-dominant starts with blue (not true for some players but this is the general trend from my observation), you'll want your writing hand to get used to hitting blue first for this stream.

2. Shimedore 2000

Not the longest stream by any stretch, Shimedore presents little new challenges to the player who's already mastered Kita Saitama and Hataraku and their nightmare ending streams. However for players who are stilll well on their journey to expertness, the junction between Yokuderu and Taberuna presents a potential problem, as Yokuderu's stream itself can be quite hard to read.

The two reds and three reds being close to one another in the stream is an optical illusion of sorts; it makes you think that hand-switching is involved however there's actually none of that. This property is brought over to Shimedore where it becomes a significant combobreaker, especially when combined with the latter half of Taberuna's own 2-by-2 stream, and because both songs have a large difference in BPM, the second half of this deathstream scrolls slower than the first, which is disorientating.

So, slow it to a halt, break it into bits and digest them. There's no handswitching, after the first two red notes, each section of the Yokuderu part can be divided perfectly into fours, blue blue red red then blue red red red, with, once again, your dominant hand starting on blue at every section. The Taberuna part of the stream is a relatively easier seven-note blue blue red red blue blue red, but watch out for the decrease in speed.

3. Joubutsu 2000

Joubutsu 2000 needs no explanation; it's the toughest song in all of Taiko and there are more than one problem streams in the song, not counting the ones in the middle that resemble Kita Saitama's offerings. So much that there will only be one stream from this song in this feature, the rest will have to wait for later.

The greatest obstacles in Joubutsu are the two combination 1/3,1/4 and 1/6 streams in the first half of the song, and the stream above is the first and arguably easier of the two. Although it's no slack either; because of Joubutsu's high BPM the 1/6 clusters are the densest ever and require a lightning-quick hand to hit. Once you've got the speed issue down you can work on reading the stream.

You might want to start the 5-note red red red red blue with your dominant hand so the three blue notes in front should start from your non-dominant. Once both 1/4s are done the red note immediately after should land on your dominant hand, which means the first 1/6 red red red cluster is dominant as well, making things easy for you if you already know how to keep up.

However the problem starts with the second 1/6 cluster, where every set piece in the stream begins with your non-dominant including the 1/3 at the end. If you're fast enough you can cheat a little and start the second 1/6 cluster with your dominant, making the rest of the deathstream pretty straightforward to handle.

4. Rotter Tarmination (Ura)

Another god-tier Taiko song which is more exhausting than complicated, relying on its high BPM and unrelenting clusters to tire the player out instead of overly complicated streams with lots of hand-switching. Even this final gauntlet is no exception; it's actually a very simple stream made unmanageable by the x2 to x4 scrolling speed. Looking at it right now above you, it doesn't seem all that nightmarish, does it?

Anyway, slow it down and break it apart as usual. Clearing this stream doesn't rely heavily on dexterity, but you need adequate stamina going into it. It's a simple mix of 4-by-4 reds and blues at the beginning. The next part is red blue red blue then red red red blue, repeated once. Right after this the rest of the stream scrolls at x4, and is similar to the previous portion except reflected and reversed. The last portion starts with one red note and then 15 blue notes. Remember that red note; don't miscount and start hitting all blue when you get to the last part. All you have to do when looking at it is divide into equal portions of four and Rotter Tarmination Ura is yours to handle.

5. Etude Op.10-4 (Ura)

Although shorter than your average deathstream, this is one of the most dreaded things players face upon reaching the midpoint of this classic song, which is infamous for being full of aggravating handswitch streams and clusters. The regular Oni difficulty has another hard to manage stream but that's for another day.

The reason why this is such a frustrating stream? You can't break it into equal parts of four despite it being a repeating pattern, and you have to handswitch a total of four times in a short period. The only way you can break it up is the first four, followed by three parts of seven notes each, and one handswitch is needed for every portion. And you have to do it twice in a row too, there are two identical deathstreams in the middle of Etude Op.10-4 Ura.

The easiest way to do this is to change your mindset about the switches. Don't think of the stream as a split of 4 then 3 then 4 notes, it makes things extremely confusing. Unlike Hataraku 2000 where you're forced to think in terms of alternating 5s and 4s, there's an option here. Think of the stream as clusters of seven. Imagine hitting red blue blue blue red blue blue and practice this cluster starting with your dominant hand and your non-dominant hand, then alternate between them simultaneously to clear the stream. After you can do this seven-note cluster with both hands, it doesn't matter which hand you start on for this deathstream.

6. Black Rose Apostle (Ura)

This is another stream that involves a confusing array of grouped notes that don't adhere to the eight-note regular pattern seen in streams like Rotter Tarmination and there is more than one way to split the stream up, depending on your own style of play. This is my own method, although personally I have not cleared it yet, but still trying to.

Before the long chains of red notes, split everything into fours regardless of the note color, so every section starts from your dominant hand and makes it easier for you to think about it. Hence, you get red red blue blue, red blue blue blue, blue red red red, blue red red blue. Using this method, the third section is the toughest to get used to because of the continuous string of blue notes being broken up, and also because dominant starts with blue when it started with red in the previous two sections.

Keep in mind that even if you've got a strategy planned for this stream, Black Rose Apostle Ura is not going to make it easy for you. At 200 BPM and above, any handswitch automatically becomes a nightmare, let alone 3 in a row, and this is the first long stream of notes you encounter in the song, with all prior notes being made up of 1/2s and a short stream at the beginning, so no time to warm up to the speed at all. This is similar to Ryougen no Mai and its demonic 1/6 stream. This stream requires more dedication and practice than the others, just keep at it and do well.

And that ends our lecture today. Have you been taking notes? I sure hope you have. This will all be covered in next week's exam you know!


  1. Instructor-P sounds like a Vocaloid alias. lol

  2. Pikaby-senpai thank you for teaching~

  3. Sensei! XD

    (for the songs I like to play) I've pretty much memorized the deathstreams. But my hands mess up no matter how many times I play. (or in the case of RT ura, I'd be so tired I could care less about the last stream already) To the point of trauma. TRAUMA MAN

    dkkdkkkdkkdkkkd kind of streams @@

  4. Actually, this is quite subjective because everyone has different ways to separate the long notes, for me, I prefer to break the long notes into several 4 notes, so just choose yourself a way which suits you. (Though the examples above can be references, thank you because this is really a problem for beginners)

  5. What I usually do is just look at the streams in terms of odds or evens. Lets say one pattern has ddkkkdd, since the dd is two and the kkk is odd, I handswitch before the last pair of dd's. It doesn't always apply, like with 1-3-1 streams, but it gets much easier with experience and becomes second nature very quickly, at least for me.

    At a certain point, just looking at how long each chunk appears kind of clues you in to how many notes it really is.

  6. @Jia Yi Yes, everyone has different ways to separate the streams (I separate the streams differently from pikaby's as well) but it's interesting to see how others do so. Sometimes it works better than your own method...

    @Ian I usually have to repeat the song to plan what hand to hit which notes. The problem with this is forcing your non-dominant hand to hit the note. (right hand why u won't follow my instructions when I tell you to hit that kat note aaarrggghhh)

    1. Practice 3-3-3 streams, or maybe 1-2-1-2 streams. Those are the best in training you to handswitch to your non-dominant hand.

  7. Quiz time: Hataraku2000 and Hikari no Kanata He (Ura) ? :D?

    1. Former I can do later on, latter is pretty simple to figure out if you've played regular Ura

    2. Kanata Ura is very easy. Hataraku on the other hand...


  8. By 'quiz' I mean you pose it as a challenge to everyone without giving the pointers you stated here lol

  9. so whats the next deathstream 101 gonna feature?

    1. The next lecture will begin at a later date with some surprises. Until then revise your current notes :)

      -Instructor P

  10. Replies
    1. That's an easy stream to read, it's just fast as shit

  11. Replies
    1. Again, quite an easy stream to read, just difficult to actually do.