The SwarShala Indian music software includes Tabla and over 100 other perfectly sampled virtual Indian instruments.

About Tabla:

Tabla is arguably the most evolved percussion instrument in the world, and certainly the most famous drum of India. It is composed of a pair of drums: the Dayan (usually referred to as Tabla), which is is a higher pitch drum usually played with right hand, and a Bayan (usually also referred to as Dagga) that is larger and has a deeper, low pitch sound. Bayan meaning left, it is usually played with the left hand.

The Dayan is generally made of noble wood like teak or rosewood. The log is cut into a conical shape, then hollowed out. After that, a thin wet goat or cow skin is stretched over it till it’s dry. Then an outer ring of thicker skin is applied over it and kept tight through a series of complex and woven braids made of goat intestines. This ring helps reduce the natural overtones of the drum. The head is then kept tight to the wooden body through a long lace of goat intestines that is passed through 16 holes around the head and a circle at the bottom of the body.

Once that has all been assembled and kept tight, a special black paste (syahi) is applied in successive layers over the goat skin, in the shape of a perfectly centred discus. Thin layers of paste are applied and then rubbed with a special stone to make them fully even until the Syahi gets its final height and shape. This step of the process is crucial to the quality of sound of the drum. Without Syahi, tabla would sound like any high pitch drum. The Syahi gives it its unmistakable sound and character.

Close-up of a tabla skin (pudi)

Now the Dayan is almost ready to be played, but it probably needs tuning. In Indian classical music, tabla needs to be perfectly tuned to the base pitch of the performance. To allow for that, 8 wooden pegs are inserted between the straps on all sides of the drum. These allow for an important change in pitch. Hitting them downwards will pull the strings, resulting in the head getting tighter over the body, and thus producing a higher pitch. For smaller, subtle pitch adjustments, the ring around the head is hit directly with a small metal hammer called Hathori.

The Bayan (left hand drum) is built in a very similar way to the Dayan, except that its body is larger, rounder and generally made of metal (brass, copper, steel or aluminium). Previously Bayans were made of wood or clay but were somehow too fragile so a metal body slowly took over.

However the skin of Bayan is made the same way Dayan and tied with similar intestine straps. It also has pegs around (though smaller) to raise or lower its pitch.

Tabla is then played sitting down on the floor, with right hand on Dayan and left on Bayan. The Dayan allows for a whole lot of different sounds (Bols) depending on where the finger(s) hit (edge, syahi, between edge and sushi, …) and the way they hit (open, tight, …).

The Bayan is also instrumental in giving Tabla its character and beauty through modulations of it bass sound. Basically the player would hit the skin with the tip of his fingers and simultaneously apply pressure on the skin with the base of his palm/wrist, creating countless beautiful modulations while the right hand does its “lead” work.


Free Tabla software download

Try the free SwarShala demo that includes Tabla along with various other Indian instruments by clicking on the "Try a Demo" button below.


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