Tabla, Indian Percussion Instrument

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Tabla, Indian Percussion Instrument

The tabla occupies a very important position among Indian Musical Instruments. The sounds and beats of the Tabla have the unique ability of transforming any kind of music and giving it a completely new dimension. An ideal accompaniment, the Tabla is undoubtedly an inseparable part of North India Classical Music (Hindustani Music) including the religious and popular music forms.

What is Tabla?

An Indian Percussion instrument, the Tabla refers to a pair of asymmetrical hand drums which are small in size (contrasting sizes) and tuned to different timbres.  The Tabla is always played by an individual. Here is a list of some of the well known Tabla players and musicians

Description of the Tabla

The left hand drum is known as the “BAYA” and is made of brass or copper and creates a deep sound.

Diameter – 27cm / 11 cm Long – 30cm / 15 cm

The right hand drum is called the “DAYA” is made of wood and creates a higher sound as compared to the baya.

Diameter – 18cm / 7cm Long – 30cm / 15 cm

Features & Looks of the Tabla, Percussion Instrument

The most recognizable features of the pair of drums include –

  • Both the Daya and the Baya have a leather strip that laces the drumhead to the drum and runs from the top to the bottom of the drums in a ‘W’ formation.
  • Out of the 2 drums, the right hand drum or the Daya has short wooden blocks fitted under the leather strips. These may be loosened or adjusted to tune the sound of the drum.
  • The head of the both the drums are constructed in such a way so that they are capable of producing a wide range of differing sonorities.

Playing The Tabla

To play the Tabla, all parts of the hand are used. The fingers and palm of the hand are used in different & varying ways to produce a range of sounds. The most common tabla bol are dha, dhin and ta, tin.

Tuning The Tabla

The tabla is tuned based on the tonic note (sa) of the raag / scale or melody which is either being sung (vocal) or played by the instrumentalist. The wooden blocks in the daya are hammered to loosen or adjust the tuning of the drum.

Rhythms are organized into cycles of beats in Indian Music and can be seen with this example of Tintal – 16 beats divided into pattern of 4+4+4+4 –

Beat counts     

2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10     11     12     13     14     15     16
dha     dhin     dhin     dha     dha     dhin     dhin     dha     dha     tin     tin     ta     ta     dhin     dhin     dha

Tabla Performance


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