Musicians & Bands

Rising Stars – Japanese Musicians: Senri Kawaguchi (川口 千里)

Drummers don’t get the love they deserve. When most people think of drums, they either imagine loud obnoxious noise, or it’s an easy instrument to learn.

As an above-average drummer, I can tell you that it isn’t. I started learning drums about 7 years ago, and while learning I also spent hours listening to drummers.

One day when I was browsing through YouTube, I came across a drummer that opened my eyes to how amazing drumming was.

It was girl playing a drum cover of a popular Japanese song from the anime K-ON; her name was Senri Kawaguchi.

Fast forward to 2019, and Senri Kawaguchi has gained a decent following. With her jazz fusion style, she is one of the most unique drummers in the music world.

This is Japanese Musician: Senri Kawaguchi – One of the top 500 drummers in the world.

Early Life

Senri Kawaguchi was born in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture but moved to Yokkaichi in Mie Prefecture. Neither of her parents played any instruments; However, Kawaguchi’s father loved tinkering with electronics.

One day he bought a drum set to play around with the components but ended up giving it to Senri at age 5.

From that day, she became infatuated with the drums and her journey to a drumming pro began.

As she progressed, Senri entered a sponsored drum contest and came in 2nd place in 2006 and 2007.

She continued to gain popularity, but it wasn’t until she uploaded a drum cover of “Don’t Say Lazy”, a song from the anime K-On solidifying her popularity to a wider audience.

Rising Career of Senri Kawaguchi

In 2010, she was featured in Drummerworld, and was listed as one of the top 500 drummers at the age of 13, making her one of the youngest drummers to make the list.

Additionally, she is the second Japanese drummer after Akira Jimbo to be featured.

On January 13th, she released her first solo CD “A la Mode”. The CD consisted of her being accompanied by Japanese musicians.  

Later that year, she traveled to China to perform at the Hua Hin Jazz Festival, where she performed with fusion Jazz Band T-Square and Kay-Ta Matsuno.

In 2014, Senri went to Los Angeles, to record her second CD, “Buena Vista”, also meeting French smooth jazz and new-age music multi-instrumentalist player, Philippe Saisse.

She was also invited to be a judge for the Hit Like a Girl drum competition and now appears as a regular judge. 

Expanding further to mainstream audiences, she joined the Japanese Idol group “E-Girls” as a support drummer, and performed at Tokyo Budokan and made her first appearance at the Tokyo Jazz Festival.

In 2015, after graduating from high school, she moved to Tokyo to attend Waseda University where she studied social science.  

In the following years, she released her 3rd CD, “KKK Core” and continued performing at multiple concerts and festivals, notably the Super Mario 30th Anniversary Concert in Tokyo.

What makes Senri Kawaguchi So Amazing?

If you enjoy jazz, fusion, or just drums in general, the number one point that makes Senri Kawaguchi amazing is her technique.

It might be difficult to understand for the inexperienced listener, so let me explain in simpler terms.

Scenario One

Imagine that you are listening to a drumroll. The drummer is playing super fast, but the drumroll is lacking rhythm. There isn’t any depth.

This is not bad, considering the average person can’t keep a steady speed or rhythm of a drum roll. Most people will be impressed just by the speed of the player.

Scenario Two

Drummer two comes along and starts the drumroll, and at this moment you notice something is drastically different.

Now the drummer is playing the same speed with rhythm, but there’s an additional element; it sounds “clearer”.

Each tap on the snare has a distinct sound, and notice the sound goes from soft to loud. In other words, there are dynamics. Giving the sound a third layer of depth.

This is how Senri Kawaguchi and other professionals sound. Of course, all pros have astounding dynamics, speed, and rhythm, but every drummer has a distinct sound.  

The best way to understand Senri’s style is by listening to her old and new videos.

“Don’t Say Lazy” Drum Cover

The video below is Senri Kawaguchi’s cover of anime K-On’s, “Don’t say ‘Lazy” from 2009.

At this time, Senri was 12 years old. During that time, her playing was already phenomenal.

However, if you listen closely, the hits on her snare and hi-hat sound muddled. As I said before, her playing is still amazing, notably her speed, but it doesn’t have a clear tone.

It should be noted, in these type of recordings, sometimes it’s hard to determine if the problem is the player, or the equipment being used.  

In this case, use this video as a reference to compare the difference in how she plays now.

Triangle Live Performance

Now if you listen to one of her Triangle Live performance in 2017, you should notice a significant difference. The first thing you’ll probably notice is the hi-hat. Compared to K-On’s, the hi-hat is more controlled.

Although, K-On is a different genre of music, if you listen to the original recording of the song, you’ll notice the hi-hat isn’t as “loose”. However, it could be a stylistic choice.

This performance is obviously more complex than “Don’t Say Lazy”, but it’s a great way to analyze how Senri plays. One of my favorite parts is at 3:57 – 4:07. Notice how she is plays on the beat of each note played on the piano.

But she takes it one step further. If you listen closely, for each note played she hits two beats. However, around the 04:03 mark, she plays 3 beats.

hear the standard 2 beats, but then she “ghosts” an extra beat on the hi-hat before going into the standard 2 beats.

The way she flawlessly goes into the next note without ruining the flow rhythm is amazing! It might sound simple, but the practical application is hard. And if she made a mistake, it could throw off the rhythm of the whole band.

Senri’s play style is powerful and fast. It’s not as apparent when looking at the first video, but at her live performance it instantly noticeable.

If you need more proof, Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morelo, has even taken notice of her skills and said “Tripping out on this insanely great 16yr old Japanese female drummer. One of the best drummers I’ve ever heard”.  

You could say this is the ultimate form of “Senpai Noticed Me”!

What’s Next for Senri Kawaguchi?

Currently, Senri continues to work on music clinics, but has expanded in making library and video game music, in addition to focusing on her band.

Back in March 2019, Senri interviewed with MusicRadar and I highly recommend checking out the article to hear her story from her perspective, and insight on gaining fame as a musician.

It’s mind-boggling to see how far Senri Kawaguchi has come from her YouTube days. Since I am close to Senri’s age, it feels like I’ve been growing with her, giving me a stronger connection with her music. At the rate she’s going at, I know she will continue to gain even more fame, and show the world how amazing drummers are.


A La Mode

Senri Kawaguchi'S First Album: A La Mode
1st Album: A La Mode


KKK Core

Senri Kawaguchi Triangle Live in Yokohama 2017

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  1. Wow, that Triangle Live performance was incredible! Now paying attention to the drums, I can see why they are the backbone of this whole song. Kawaguchi’s rhythm is beyond immaculate here.

  2. I know right? So fast, but so meticulous and precise.
    If there are other musicians you want to recommend, let me know. I’ll be happy to look into them and write an article about it.

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