Top 5 Best Tabla in India | Jan 2021
Reviews, Comparison and Buying Guide
What is Tabla?
The tabla is a membranophone percussion instrument originating from the Indian subcontinent, consisting of a pair of drums, used in traditional, classical, popular and folk music. It has been a particularly important instrument in Hindustani classical music since the 18th century, and remains in use in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The name tabla likely comes from tabl, the Persian and Arabic word for drum. However, the ultimate origin of the musical instrument is contested by scholars, some tracing it to West Asia, others tracing the evolution of indigenous musical instruments of the Indian subcontinent.
Best Tabla | Buying Guide : Things to consider while buying a Tabla
A table is made out of two different hand drums. They function in a similar way to the bongos. In other words, a Tabla drum has the ability to give life to a variety of timbers and sounds. If you are interested in giving life to appealing drum beats, you need to be careful to purchase the best Tabla available out there in the market for you. This guide would walk you through the steps that you should follow in order to purchase a Tabla.
A tabla set consists of two drums –
- Tabla or Dayan is the smaller wooden drum, playing very high pitched, bell-like tones.
- Bayan or Dugga is the large metal drum known for it’s “whooping” sounds and heard first at around :07 seconds into the video above.
The names used to describe the drums in a tabla set will vary by region. In this article we will refer to them broadly as “Tabla / Dayan” and “Bayan / Dugga”, but you may also see them referred to elsewhere differently. For example, the larger drum may be identified as a “Baya” or simply a “Dugga”, etc. It’s all the same.
Tabla / Dayan: The Basics
A Tabla / Dayan is notable because of it’s bell like pitch, which is tuned to a specific note intentionally. That’s an important thing to understand about tabla that differentiates it from most other drums in the world.
How is it tuned?
When in concert with other instruments, a Tabla / Dayan is most often tuned to “Sa,” which is the musical “root note” of the composition. This means if someone says, “We are playing in the key of D,” for example, you’d ideally want a drum that tunes to D so you can match everyone else. A 5.25 inch Tabla / Dayan would be an appropriate drum in that case.
If you do not have a drum that tunes to D, you could also tune to an interval such as a musical fifth (a.k.a. the “perfect fifth” or “Pa” in the Indian context). So, if you did not in the example above have a 5.25 inch drum, but rather a 5.75 inch Tabla / Dayan, you could tune that to “A” which is the fifth of “D”.
Bayan / Dugga: The Basics
Like the Tabla / Dayan, you have options when it comes to your Bayan / Dugga. This drum will primarily be graded based on weight, which influences overall tone and clarity. In general, the heavier the drum, the better.
Brass or Copper alloys are best, and really your only option if you are at all serious about playing. If you’re looking for a decoration, painted steel Bayans are cheap, but if you’ve read this far, that’s probably not what you’re wanting.
How does tuning work?
This is a good and important question, because like many instruments, tuning is step one to playing. The main thing to understand is that tablas are tuned based on tension. For your Dayan / Tabla, you need lots of tension on the head in order to achieve that bell-like sound. For your Bayan / Dugga, you need significantly less tension so that you can have a nice low sound.
A tension tuned instrument will naturally and constantly be shifting in pitch. These changes largely stem from weather and environmental variables. For example, a Bayan / Dugga that sounded great all winter and needed little adjustment might become saggy when the temperature rises in the warm months. This is especially true in places with high humidity. When this drum head gets too low and saggy, tension is added by tightening the straps. For that same drum, when the temperature drops and the air gets dry again in the winter, you might be letting tension out again so that the drum is not sounding too high.
How to choose your set?
Now that you’re practically educated, and you know the basics of how tabla works, I recommend watching lots of videos and simply narrowing in on a set that sounds good to you. Consider your budget and the sounds you like, and try to buy something that you won’t wish you had spent more or less on later.
Remember that your first set of Tablas can and should be a long term investment. The best instruments to learn on are the ones that can easily be made to sound great by even a beginner – and those are always the better / more expensive instruments. When people under-invest, they often don’t learn to play because their instrument wouldn’t sound good even if a pro was attempting to play it. In this case, know you’re not looking for the equivalent to a guitar that won’t hold tune, you are buying a good set of tablas that will be the beginning of a really nice collection of tablas that will serve you well as you begin and well into the future.
Today the tabla can be purchased in many varieties of woods. Some of these are not even worth mentioning. Just remember if it looks bad it probably is. A good tabla will have a clean looking skin. Its straps will look smooth and even. Its dowels will look uniform. The general feel of the drum will hint of quality!
The most common types of materials used for a tabla are clay, sheesham wood, tun wood, and mango wood.
I see clay tablas every now and then and they sound pretty good too but I cannot see myself trying to tune one lest my hammer finds an unintended mark 🙂
The sheesham wood tablas are probably the best. The wood is heavy and the sound of the tabla is crisp and vibrant. I have played tablas made out of tun and mango wood. They don’t sound that bad. Whatever you do, stay away from drums that have oval looking heads; this is a sign of warping or just bad design. These are also very hard to tune properly. Also make sure there are no surface cracks on the wood as this could be a “growing” crack. I’ve seen tablas where the crack looked superficial but after six months the crack became substantial. This is usually caused by the drying factor of the wood. If you do somehow end up with a crack on the side of the wood, fill it immediately with a good quality wood filler and varnish the drum. Don’t delay this because contact of raw wood with air opens the crack up further. Another thing that you can check is the weight. A lighter weight tabla will not sound very good and will not be too stable while playing.
Finally, a good tabla pudi is the heart and soul of that inimitable tabla sound. Healthy, ringing, and resonant tones are only possible with a very good quality pudi. Pudis are made from goat skin and deer skin. They are both good although the deer skin ones look very white and are soft to the touch. They are also very delicate and tear easily. So you need to care for them. Goat skin pudis are tougher but the skin may have superficial blemishes and/or dis-coloration. This should not affect the tone.
Good tabla pudis are assembled with great skill. The maker hails from a generation of Tabla walas (family business). I have seen a whole family clan from the youngest children to the oldest members doing the necessary procedures. The art of pudi making is indeed one of great endurance and skill.
First they have to find the right piece of skin. The thickness is very important. The under-belly of the goat is used as this is the softest and the most uniform in thickness. Then it is cured, cleaned off and de-haired. Flat pieces of the best quality skins are separated to be used as the main head material. Smaller pieces are isolated to be used as secondary “chanti” (edge) and backing material. Some of the thicker skin material is made into threading material for the “gajara” (braiding) around the pudi and the thickest and toughest material is cut into continuous strap material. This is used for the final assembly of the pudi to the tabla and dagga.
The actual making of the pudi is quite amazing to watch but it is beyond the scope of this article so I’ll talk about this another time. But it is important to know that the process of applying syahi is the most crucial point to the creation of really good pudis. The syahi material is composed of hide glue, india ink, and iron filings rolled into a doughy ball and it is applied with a rolling action.
If you look at your tabla’s syahi, you’ll notice concentric circles. The smallest circle (about the size of a nickel) is the final one in the center of the syahi. Notice also that the syahi gets thicker as it comes towards the center. Know then that tablas that have more circles (between 5-6 plus) have had more syahi work done on them and will, in most instances, sound better than the ones with only a few such circles (2 – 3). I call these the rush job!
The syahi is put on the pudi in layers. This causes it to gradually build as each layer is rolled on. The process is as follows: The ball of syahi is held in the palm of the hand and as it rolls the syahi dries on the pudi. New material is deposited on the dried areas as the tabla wala patiently continues this process. when one area is finished, he starts on the next circle which is about an eighth of an inch inwards. This continues until he reaches the very center of the pudi.
Again, it is fascinating to watch and probably has no replacement. After the syahi dries, the syahi actually cracks into very little mosaic pieces. This is normal. Many of my students have a worried look when they receive their first tabla set. This mosaic cracks on the syahi is important as it helps in the resonance of the drum head. But sometimes a piece of the syahi comes loose and creates an obnoxious buzz in the tone. The reasons for this are varied. If the tabla set is new it could mean that the head is too old and the syahi has dried out. There is a way to fix this problem and I’ll talk about this in another article.
Tabla paraphanelia is crucial to proper tabla tuning, cleaning, and playing. Some of this should come with the Tabla set. Some you’ll have to gather. Here it is….
- Tabla Hammer
- Talcum Powder
- Covers for the Tabla/Dagga heads
- Rings to rest the drums on
- Carrying bag or Case for your set
- Credit card or similar rectangular plastic piece
You need a good hammer! This is very important. The best ones are made out of brass or copper. One side is flat and square the other shaped like a blunt flat chisel. The blunt edge is at least 1/8th of an inch thick and about 1/2 nan inch wide. The other end of the hammer should taper to a flat wide finish as this end has special use. I’ll talk about this later.
This serves multiple purposes. Powder is good for reducing friction. So when you really get going on the tabla, your heel will slide better on the dagga taking out smooth sounding glides. The powder also dries sweat; a mortal enemy of the syahi. Finally, it smells really good 🙂 Some people are allergic to talcum. In this case, try and get cornstarch based powder. While playing the tabla, apply little amounts only. Too much of this can start to cake up on the tabla heads and then you will need to remove this very carefully.
Carrying bag or Case
A proper case or gig bag is a must when you are dealing with a set that can change tuning at a moment’s notice. It’s funny how you will drop a bunch of money on a good quality set and oftentimes hesitate in buying a good case or padded bag to protect it. We all think of such extras as an unnecessary expense. But I high;ly recommend you get one when you get your tabla set. There are a number of options. Fiberglass case, padded nylon fabric case, duffle bags, hat cases, etc. whichever one you decide on, it is better than nothing. I would get one with pockets so you can put your hammer, powder, and other extras organized. Finally it is simply easier to carry the set in one container rather than lugging them separately.
A tabla case secures the deal and gives you the added peace of mind that your investment is protected. It is also handy to control the humidity for the temperature variations that can easily change and in some cases damage the instrument.
A cover is always a good idea when you want to protect a valuable investment. For a tabla, this can really be a life saver. A well made cover can not only keep dust and dirt away from your tabla heads but they can protect against accidents, discourage others from playing on it improperly, and protect it from temperature extremes. The thing to remember is that the rings are well made and are the right size for your tabla. Many times, they are made a certain diameter and the tabla or the Dagga drum might be too big or too small relative to the size of the Dagga or the tabla. This will result in the drums either rocking excessively on the rings or simply bottoming out. If the Bass drum bottoms out and touches the floor some unwanted tones result.
Top 5 Best Tabla – [Updated and Highly Recommended]
Brass tabla set easy to grip and handle.
Features / Reviews
Brass Bayan (Bass – Left Metal Drum)
Special Sheesham Dayan
Includes bag, binnu, hammer and cloth for covering the upper head of the Tabla.
Made in india,easy for carry, fully tuned, good quality tabla set,Good quality handmade metal drum & sheesham dayan,Head 5 to 5. 5 inches height 10 to 11 inches
Features / Reviews
Fully tuned, good quality tabla set
Handmade metal drum & sheesham dayan
- Product Color Will be Vary due to handmade instrument
- Made in india,easy for carry, fully tuned, good quality tabla set
- Good quality handmade metal drum & sheesham dayan, high quality cushions and covers, special handmade puddis (drumheads)
- Easy to play and handle
- High quality Iron on nickel polished made Tabla
Made In India,Easy For Carry, Fully Tuned, Good Quality Tabla Set, Good Quality Handmade Metal Drum & Sheesham Dayan, High Quality Cushions And Covers, Special Handmade Puddis (Drumheads), Special Sheesham Dayan (Treble – Right Wooden Drum) Head 5 To 5.5 Inches Height 10 To 11 Inches, Special Tuning Hammer, Steel Bayan (Bass – Left Metal Drum) Head 9 To 9.25 Inches Height 10 To 11 Inches Disclaimer: Product Color May Differ Slightly Due To Photographic Lighting Sources Or Your Monitor Settings.
Features / Reviews
High quality Iron on nickel polished made Tabla
High quality cushions and covers, special handmade puddis
9 inch Heavy Quality Bayan 2 kg . 5 to 5.5 sheesham Wood Dayan (tabla) 4kg . with water proof Bag , Gaddi chumbal set. , Hammer , pvc Gatta. Very good sound quality. This Tabla Do Not purchase Other Seller , Original Quality Only For Seller Akshar Tabla Mart.
Features / Reviews
Very good sound quality
Comes with water proof Bag , Gaddi chumbal set, Hammer, pvc Gatta
This copper tabla set with – 2. 5 kg to 2. 7 kg copper bayan and 3. 5 kg to 4. 5 kg sheesham wood dayan, circumference of copper bayan-9. 25 to 9. 5-inches, height 11 inches to 12 inches, circumference of sheesham wood dayan-5. 25 to 5. 45-inches, height 9. 5 to 10. 5-inches, with special handmade pudis, cushions and covers, hammer, and a carry bag.
Features / Reviews
Copper bayan and sheesham wood dayan
Comes with special handmade pudis, cushions and covers, hammer, and a carry bag
Benefits of Tabla
- Playing Tabla can help students grow academically; it improves students’ ability to concentrate and compliment their studies & physical fitness.
- According to scientific research, playing music, and hence Tabla and playing percussion, increases the brain development in various regions , including the corpus callosum, motor and auditory cortexes.
- Playing Tabla and rhythms can be an optimal experience and encourages participants of all ages to achieve flow.
- Tabla is a healing art and therefore it can give participants of any age a better sense of well being.
- Playing Tabla increases body awareness & kinesthetic development; it helps students develop graceful coordination and self-control.
- Playing Tabla helps improve synchronism in Mind, Body & other senses
- Playing rhythms improves listening skills and increases children and teens’ ability to focus for extended periods of time.
- In general, the increasing of rhythmic skills – and the learning of any musical instrument – increases students’ confidence.
- Playing rhythmic music helps students to take notice of the rhythms and beauty in nature and their surroundings.
- If parents play or take interest in the musical and learning process of their children, then Tabla can be a means to forge meaningful bonds between parents and children.
As you can see, a variety of tablas are available in the market for you to consider buying. The features of these tablas vary from one another. Therefore, you need to be careful to purchase a tabla that matches with your preferences.
If you are a tabla player with experience, it would not be a wise idea for you to move ahead with a tabla that is designed for the beginners. However, students can think twice before they purchase a tabla that is designed for the professional players. That’s because students can use the professional level tablas to learn the basics and then become concert players in future.