About Tabla

Amir Khusrau Tabla is an instrument used in several traditional musical settings in North India and Pakistan. The origins of the instrument are somewhat of a mystery. Some people consider Amir Khusrau (pictured) as the creator. He was of Persian descent and lived in the 13th century. However, there are no known compositions for the instrument until those of Siddar Khan (18th century), the founder of the Delhi Gharana (school), the oldest of the six gharanas. The other five gharanas are Farukhabad, Benares, Lucknow, Punjab, and Ajrara. Each school has a different approach to the instrument and hence there different styles of compositions.


Padhant is a system of spoken “words” created for each sound or bol that the tabla makes. These different “words” are then used to form patterns that when heard a player can then play on the drums. Padhant has been used to orally transmit compositions through the ages. While in training a student is typically taught the padhant of a composition before actually playing it on the drums. The student is then able to have the pattern in the mind before having it in the body.

About the Drums

Tabla Tabla consists of a pair of drums, a dayan and a bayan (pictured). The dayan is the smaller of the two and is tuned to pitch typically C or C#. This drum produces the high pitched tone sounds and also the closed percussive sounds. The bayan is the larger barrel like drum. It produces the low bass tones that can be modulated in pitch. The black circles on both drums are called the shahya; literally king of the drum. These act as resonators and literally bring life into the drums which without them would sound sharp and flat. The hammer seen in the picture is used for tuning the drum. This is done by hitting the pegs on the dayan up or down and also hitting the rim of the drum for fine tuning

Uses of Tabla

There are four main categories of music from the North Indian region. They are: Classical, Semi-classical, Light music, and Folk. In all of these forms the primary function of the tabla is accompaniment. However, during the past century the tabla has grown in popularity as a solo instrument in the classical setting.

With its mysterious origins and unique sound, tabla is now being used in many non-traditional settings. The vastness of its potential has yet to be realized.

Home   About This Site   About Tabla   About Vishal   Student Bios   Performances
Contact Us   Student Extranet   Links   Get Involved