Noriko Terada started her musical life with the piano at age three. Once she turned 11, however, she fell in love with percussion. Terada is internationally known for her percussion recordings with the popular video game series Final Fantasy. She has performed at numerous venues and festivals, including Carnegie Hall, Blue Note NY, Montreal Jazz Festival, at TED Talks, Anime Central, and many others. Terada plays and tours around the world with the tap dance show “TAP DOGS,” and she is also a judge for the Hit Like A Girl contest.

Women are underrepresented in the percussion world. Our weekly series, Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW), aims to recognize, celebrate, and inspire female percussionists of all stripes. Each Wednesday we’ll feature a profile of a drummer, who will share tips, advice, and videos. Want to be featured yourself? Send an email to telling us more about you.

What is your city, country, and age?

Originally from Kashima, Japan. Currently living in Los Angeles, USA, 36 years old.

What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?

Since I work as multi-percussionist it varies depending on gig/music. For video game music, I play djembe, darabuka, Taiko drums, glocken, timbales, congas, bass drum, and orchestral percussion. For dance shows: Roland snare and bass drums, congas, bongos, cymbals, timbales, gong, and toms. For pop music: Cajon cymbals, mini snare, and shaker. And for funk music: Conga, bongos, timbales, cowbells, and shakers.

What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?

I play percussion on video game soundtracks, concerts, and tours, for Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy XIII-3, the game Xenogears, and on Capcom’s official live tour. I also perform and tour with “TAP DOGS,” the multi-award-winning tap dance show.

What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?

I started with the piano at age three, then started dancing later. When I saw drums and percussion for the first time at age 11, I thought, “This is it!” Since then, I’ve just loved playing them. After training at a classical conservatory back in Japan, I moved to the US and went to Berklee college of Music to learn hand percussion and drums in many genres and styles. Then I started a career in the US and now I am here!

Who is your favorite percussionist and why?

Jamey Haddad. So musical, so groovy, very unique coordination and sounds.

Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?

When you play with other people, open your ears and mind. Don’t play by yourself! Ask yourself what you can bring to the group, what you can give to the ensemble, whether it’s energy, solid groove, colors, dynamics, or maybe a smile. This is the most important thing.

As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?

True, our musician goals will continue progressing all through our lives. I guess if you keep loving what you do, and if people still enjoy it, and if the music community (collaborators, artists, fans) you are involved with is amazing, I would call that success.

Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?

Just do it!

How important is failure in making music/performing?

Failure is a great chance to improve and get to know yourself better. Use that experience to become a better you.

Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?

Just be yourself. There are things that only you can do, so explore what you like and what you are good at. Then it won’t matter if you are female or male—it will be original.

Also, I have been part of the female drum and percussion contest “Hit Like A Girl” as a judge and Japan ambassador. The mission of this contest is to showcase and expand the female drumming community all around the world. So please check it out.

Where else to find Noriko

Instagram @noriko_terada_drumsume