Tabla or Tablas – The Northern Indian hand drums
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February 3, 2016

Tabla information and tabla selection

The tabla is a set of two drums originating from north India, The tabla is an accompanying instrument, but it can also be played for solo performance.

The left hand drum is made of wood and goat skin and is called the Dayan, It is used to play the base rhythm. The left hand drum is made of metal and goat skin and is called Bayan.

The Dayan is tuned to the tonic note of the main instrumentalist or vocalist that the tabla player plays with. The left hand drum, Bayan is not tuned, but you can get many tones with the pressure of your wrist, While tapping the centre of the instrument with the tips of your fingers. So you can get your melody from your left hand drum.

Specific sounds on both drums make up well established syllables, which can be combined into phrases and then compositions.

Before playing a solo piece the player sounds out the phrases with his/her mouth and then plays them out on the drums.

To achieve the incredible mastery that professional players achieve, they practice for long periods of time non stop. They tend to go to a retreat on their own away from all possible disturbances and all they do is practice for 30 days, then 60 days then 90 days at a time.

Tabla selection

The Bayan can be made from different materials, for beginners an aluminium set or stainless steel would suffice. But for more advanced players where the search for the tone of the syllables is more profound, a brass or a heavy nickeled brass set is required.

The large difference between a professional high quality tabla and a lesser one is not just in the selection of the high quality of materials and manufacture, but also in the selection and repositioning of the head by the master craftsman until a perfect sound is achieved.

An important selection in your bayan is in the type of tuning system you wish to have, Traditionally the roped tuned has been used and it gives good results. The problem is that if the drum cannot be tuned by moving the wooden dowels (called gatta) up or down or adding more, then tuning by retightening the lacing is a much more complex job requiring more experience. This means that for the novice or the player who does not want to get involved with the complexities of the tuning, a bolt tuning system is more appropriate.