Tabla Info

in Info, Tabla


Tabla is a two-piece percussion instrument which is used as a rhythmic complement to most of the North Indian Classical and soft music. It consists of two drums namely dayan and bayan. Both the drums vary in sizes, where a smaller one(dayan) is used for right side and the larger one called bayan for left.

Bayan is made from terracotta, ceramic, brass, copper, aluminium or steel but brass is preferred the most whereas Dayan is made out from a piece of rosewood or hardwood. Sometimes It is also made from clay but is not preferred much. The pitch of tabla varies inversely with its diameter i.e, larger the drums, lower the pitch.

The origin of tablas is not very clear and has undergone various discussions so far. Some say that it has been derived from two other percussion instruments namely mridangam and pakhawaj.

Others believe that it was invented by 13th century poet named Amir Khusrau who while playing pakhawaj, accidentally broke it into two pieces and found that it still generated acceptably good sound. Although its origin has not been clear, but it is believed that invention of tabla has given a new feel to Indian music due to its rhythmic beats.

Heads of tabla are made from goat or cow skins. Heads are attached to the drum shell with the help of cow or camel hide strap which are placed between the braid and bottom of drum. Different parts of head are outer ring of keenar(skin), maidan and syahi. For Details of parts of tabla, click here.

Keenar is covered over main skin and helps in decreasing some of the natural overtones. Each head contains a central area called syahi which is a paste made out from wheat mixed with some black powder.

The quality of pitch is dependent upon accurate construction and shape. Tuning of tabla can be done with the help of a tuning hammer which is almost provided when a tabla is purchased or can be purchased for a few cents.

The drums are placed over round-shaped bundle of plant fiber or another tensile material enveloped in cloth and is called as guddi. It is mainly done so that the drums remain stable while playing.

Gharana is a term that is used to define the hereditary style of teaching in Indian Classical Music. Different performers mostly categorize tablas into two gharanas namely: Dilli baj and Purbi Baj. Dilli baj means that the style was developed in Delhi and Purbi baj was the style developed in the east of Delhi.

Some also distinguish tabla into 6 different gharanas namely:

  1. Delhi gharānā

  2. Lucknow gharānā

  3. Ajara gharānā

  4. Farrukhabad gharānā

  5. Benares gharānā

  6. Punjab gharānā

Tabla is mostly used in Classical music and in some of the dance styles. Kathak is one such dance from which cannot be accomplished without tabla.

Some of the notable tabla players of India are: Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Alla Rakha, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Pandit Kishen Maharaj, Ustad Tari Khan,  Pandit Sharda Sahai and Ustad Tafo Khan.

Most renowned tabla makers of India are: Mukta Das and Haridas R..Vhatkar.

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