Facts About a Tabla

By Contributing Writer ; Updated September 15, 2017

The tabla is an Indian percussion instrument. It consists of two separate hand drums, the dayan and the bayan. The date of invention and inventor of the tabla are unknown, though the tabla is at least a few centuries old. The tabla is most commonly found in traditional and modern Indian music. The tabla has been adopted by musicians around the world to spice up their percussion repertoire.

Components

The dayan features a wooden shell, while the larger bayan features a metal shell. Both drums together are known as the tabla. The playing heads are known as pudi. Rawhide tuning strings are made of gut and known as tasma. The wooden tuning blocks of the dayan are known as gatta. The wooden shell of the dayan is referred to as Lakadi, while the metal shell of the gayan is called pital. On the bottom of each drum is a ring known as kundal.

Positioning

The drums of the tabla are placed in front of the player side-by-side. The dayan is on the right, while the gayan is on the left. The drums sit flat on the floor, or on small cushions for support. The player sits on the floor in a cross-legged fashion. One hand could be playing the dayan while the other plays the gayan, or both hands could be playing a single drum.

Strokes

The different hits, or strokes, on the tabla are known as bols. Each bol is represented by a syllable--such as Dha, Ga, Ka, Ta, Ti or Tin. Each of these syllables can be strung together to create rhythms. Stringing together bols is a popular way of notating and sharing tabla beats.

Techniques

The heels of the hand, palms, fingers and fingertips are used in various combinations to play the tabla. Often, fingertips will be used in a rapid swiping motion on the dayan to produce a roll. The heel of the right hand can be pressed on the head of the gayan to create muted tones. The heel can be moved from the inside of the head to the outside or vice versa to create changes in pitch.

Considerations

The drums making up the tabla are small and lightweight. Because tablas are inexpensive, they are an excellent portable instrument for novice and professional percussionists. The tabla has a distinctive sound that will add an Indian flair to any music you perform.

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