Production of tabla bols is a trying art. It is not difficult, once you see how its done.
If you don’t ever buy another book/cassette/video, you should think seriously about my Tabla Video Tutor #2 – Production of Tabla bols. It has one of the biggest collections of tabla bols including 2, 3, and 4 beat combinations. Also included are combination bols where the tabla / dagga drums are struck simultaneously to produce sounds.
I have seen so many students falter in their tabla studies because they just couldn’t “get it”. Not for lack of trying but more because their instruction in bol production was either hindered due to poor class schedule, poor instructions from their teacher, or perhaps they simply ran out of money to take more lessons. Sometimes you have to take 3 – 4 lessons to get this information properly ingrained. I received a call from a user of my tutor who expressed his delight at learning in a couple of weeks what he had had trouble learning in the last five years from his tabla teacher!
No amount of self teaching or gazing at photographs is going to help you play the tabla bols properly, no matter how good the writing of any work. This applies also to learning via audio cassettes although the audio medium is better than learning from a photo. Still, it leaves too much to your imagination. You will end up acquiring very bad habits that will be difficult to undo. This is an art that has to be seen to be played properly. So don’t hesitate in this decision! The beauty of a video tutor is the luxury of the rewind and the freeze frame buttons 🙂
Proper Sitting Position
Before doing anything, you must get your sitting position, and your hand positions in good form. I cover this in detail in my Tabla Tutor #1.
The most common method is to sit squating on the floor with the dagga to your left and the tabla to your right. The drums are tilted slightly forward so as to afford a comfortable resting place fro your hands.
- Remember to sit straight: Many students get a habit of sitting with one shoulder higher than the other. For a right handed player, it is usually their left shoulder that’s higher. Perhaps due to the effort necessary for playing the dagga. Whatever the case, practice playing with your shoulders square. This not only provides good visuals but also ensures that certain passages and bols will play without the need to re-configure your position while you’re performing.
- Keep your drums together and touching each other: This is a good practice as the hands and mind get trained in locating the set in a specified position and hence produces a more stable environment for learning. This also helps in allowing a tabla technique of the left or the right hand crossing over towards its adjoining drum for two handed playing thus giving a certain speedy rolls similar to a bongo type drum roll technique. I’ll talk about this at a latter date.
- Keep the drums close to you: I recommend having the drums touching your shin area as you squat. This not only relaxes your hands as they don’t have to stretch out as far but it also keeps the drums from slipping forward while playing. I was sitting on a bare wooden gym floor once and the tabla would start moving forward as I played. Boy I had a lot of fun controling it. To minimize this, always have a carpet underneath or even a piece of cloth.
- Have a little talcum powder handy: Usually I have a little powder that I keep to the right of my tabla drum. I then dab my right hand’s ring finger on the powder and gently apply it to the tabla head and also to my left wrist. This is all the powder that you should use. Excessive “pouring” of the talcum will create a buildup and dull the sound of your drum. A lot of performers also don’t appreciate being accompanied by a tabla player that has a tendency to use too much talcum. I’ve had instances where the tabla player will literally have a puff of powdery smoke all over the performing area enough to make the rest of the players choke :)The other less obvious problem with excessive use of talcum powder is that it’ll make your fingers too slippery. This has a detrimental effect on your practice and performance. Basicly, it will reduce the crispness of your shots and that’s not good.
- A proper tabla tuning hammer should always be available to you while playing. I keep mine to the left or between the two drums. This way I can grab it with my left hand at an instant’s notice and proceed with tuning.
- As a precautionary step, try keeping your heads covered with the cloth pads when not playing. This not only stops passerbys from fingering with the drums but it also protects them from fluctuations in its tuning.
Let’s look at some of the important tabla sounds that you must know.
This bol is produced on the chanti of the tabal. Some tabla players call this area “kinar”. Chanti meant a sharp bell type of a sound and “kinar” literally means “edge”. In either case, this bol is produced by striking the rim of the tabla with your index finger.
How to Tune your Tabla drums
Some basic Tabla Bols
Left and right hand placement
And much more! So come on back…..