INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Tabla Forum: How define a good tabla?

 

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zitoun
How define a good tabla? Jul 15, 2003 06:05 a.m.


hi
I make a study on tabla (not daya) and i need to know the caracteristics of the good one. can you help me?
Prafulla Athalye
Re:How define a good tabla? Jul 25, 2003 04:40 a.m.


Hello,

Let me tell you what I have experienced so far about tablas. In tabla skins, there are 3 different types. Thin skin, medium thickness skin and thick skin. Every type has plus and minus points. Thin skin (Calcutta style) sounds very nice but it's not durable. It may break any time during concert also. About medium skin (Bombay style), it has very good tone, resonance and durable for 1-3 years approximately and most of professional players from Bombay prefer to have a medium skin. Again the durability depends on weather conditions too. About the thick skin, it is long lasting and very very durable but doesn't have a very good resonance normally. Therefore you have to hit very hard on it to get a sound which makes you tired while playing but most of the music institutions prefer to have tablas of thick skin because they want tablas to teach and not to perform normally on them. So, their basic aim is that they don't want to spend again and again on tablas. So, they go for durability. Secondly, it also depends on the type of wood. I can say shisam or khair wood can give you the best tone. Also, it is very important is how it is made. It depends on how the maker is experienced and how he does it. More experienced the maker is, better tablas can be made. It also depends on the heaviness of the wood. Heavier the wood, better depth you can get in the tone. And the last but not least that the ideal size should be taken for a particular pitch such as 5 1/2 inches diemeter is perfect for C sharp or D pitched tablas, 5 1/4 inches is ideal for D or D sharp tablas, 5 3/4 inches is ideal for A or A sharp pitched tablas and so on.
So, I may be wrong but this is what I have experienced so far. Anyway, I hope you must have got the information you wanted.

Regards,
Prafulla Athalye.
http://www.tabla-player.com

Dougie
Re:How define a good tabla? Jul 26, 2003 11:42 a.m.


[quote]Prafulla Athalye (Jul 25, 2003 04:40 a.m.):

Prafulla,

You obviously know a thing or two abt tablas.

Sometime ago I had purchased a tabla set from a music store in Bombay (bayan embossed brass) and brought to Toronto. After a year had taken it to a Toronto shop to exchange for a different set. The owner offered me $20/- value for the set saying that because I had oiled the straps I had ruined the set which was now virtually worthless. He explained that since the straps were oiled, the gatta could not possibly stay in place with the result that the set could not stay in tune.He said that straps of the modern day are not required to be oiled and have been pre-treated as such.

Personally, I could not be too sure if the info above was provided in sincerity or merely to get a good deal for himself in the bargain.

I was always of the opinion that the straps were to be oiled occassionally, largely because of the dry air in Toronto houses.

Any comments ?

Shawn
Re:How define a good tabla? Jul 27, 2003 12:56 a.m.


Hi,

You never have to oil your straps. They should stay in good shape just from regular pulling (re-tensioning) and use. If the straps get really dry, then you can rub on some shea butter before working with them. I've never had to do this, but I know someone who has.


Shawn
http://www.percussionist.net
Prafulla Athalye
Re:How define a good tabla? Jul 27, 2003 05:45 a.m.


I understand your problem but I don't think your set is waste just because you can replace the strap and wooden pegs if they really were of no use. You can still use tabla skin, bayan skin, tabla wood and bayan pot.

I have seen makers keeping the strap into the water before working on them so that it should be easier for them while working with strap as it becomes soft and flexible. I am not sure about the oil as I have never seen anyone using oil for such purpose.

Prafulla.

Dougie
Re:How define a good tabla? Jul 27, 2003 09:10 p.m.


tks prafulla / shawn
aanaddha
Re:... a good tabla part 1 Jul 28, 2003 12:12 p.m.


[quote][b]Prafulla Athalye (Jul 25, 2003 04:40 �Let me tell you what I have experienced so far about tablas. In tabla skins, there are 3 different types. Thin skin, medium thickness skin and thick skin."

About tablas, I wouldn't claim to have as much experience as Prafullaji, however I have discovered that there are hybrids of the Bombay and Calcutta types of heads. In Pune, near Bombay, there are tabla makers for instance, that use a combination of skins; a medium to thick skin for the maidan for durability, and a medium to thin skin for the chat for tonal qualities. It also goes without saying that the selection of skin is also very important. The skin for every part, including the straps, should be of uniform thickness with no flaws. Supple, freshly made heads are also preferable. I prefer well made Calcutta and Pune-style heads & straps because I maintain my tablas myself and they are easier for me to work with.

All leather including the stiffest rawhide contains a natural lanolin substance that makes it flexible. Even if it appears dry and stiff it can usually be �worked� to bring back it�s suppleness. Humidity, dryness, and cold will alter the tuning of your tabla but not permanently. Cleaning your tabla with solvents or �oiling the straps� will change the chemical composition of the natural lanolin and prevent the skin from ever resuming it�s natural shape and flexibility. If the skin or the straps appear loose the best solution it to tighten them by �pulling� the straps tight. Extreme heat and sunlight is probably the most damaging to a tabla as it will also warp or crack the shell. I prefer well made Calcutta and Pune-style heads & straps because I maintain my tablas myself and they are easier for me to work with.

"Secondly, it also depends on the type of wood. I can say shisam or khair wood can give you the best tone. Also, it is very important is how it is made. It depends on how the maker is experienced and how he does it. More experienced the maker is, better tablas can be made. It also depends on the heaviness of the wood. Heavier the wood, better depth you can get in the tone."

I used to think that was true, and for a long time my best tablas were the heaviest. However, recently I obtained a 5 3/4" tuned to C# that's about half the weight of my heaviest dahina. It's the best sounding tabla that I have ever heard anywhere. The extremely long sustained tones (na, tin, and dhi) actually appear to rise in volume before trailing off imperceptibly.
I admit having difficulty telling one wood from another without taking the head off. It seems that many makers use a varnish on the outside and it's often light-colored or reddish to resemble a light-colored or reddish colored wood. I have no knowledge of the properties of the varnish but I suspect that like other well-made acoustic instruments it may have bearing on the tone and timbre of the instrument. If you do take the head off of your tabla and you see that it has been machined out instead of being hollowed out with a chisel it would be better to not to re-head it as it will no doubt ever sound anything but dull. These types of tablas are also recognized by the thick elongated foot at the bottom. One well-known supplier in California is known to sell a lot of these as student-grade tablas.

aanaddha
Re:... a good tabla? part 2 Jul 28, 2003 12:14 p.m.


(part 2 of a previous message)

"And the last but not least that the ideal size should be taken for a particular pitch such as 5 1/2 inches diemeter is perfect for C sharp or D pitched tablas, 5 1/4 inches is ideal for D or D sharp tablas, 5 3/4 inches is ideal for A or A sharp pitched tablas and so on.
So, I may be wrong but this is what I have experienced so far. Anyway, I hope you must have got the information you wanted."

I would pretty much agree with Prafulla Athalye on everything he says. I would only add that exceptional sounding tabla is as good as the sum of a combination of it�s parts and manufacturing skill. The shape and composition of the syahi is also extremely important. One other small observation I have made is in regard to a �balanced� construction � the shape of the head and the syahi and the distance from the shayi to the chat and the width of the chat or kinnar should all be uniform and perfectly circular. The kundal ring on the bottom should be perfectly centered and all of the straps of equal length. Also with the gatta blocks � they should all be under the same number of straps (one or two for a new tabla) and the gatta should all be the same distance between the head and the bottom of the tabla. Any observable variation in the construction will immediately clue you in to the possibility that the tabla was made in a careless manner from the very beginning and will never be properly tuned. For more information you cannot go beyond the basic stage without reading David Courtney�s book on tabla maintenance.

One other way to know what a good tabla looks and sounds like is to ask a professional performer to examine his or her tabla and if they will allow you to play a few open bols with it � worth asking to see the tabla even if they won�t let you touch it to ask them to play it for you without the microphone amplification. Don�t wait until after you�ve purchased a tabla to have your teacher or someone else examine it � 9 times out of 10 you�ll be disappointed in their final assessment.

One final word � a good tabla won�t make you a better tabla player, so, unless you practice regularly on a firm schedule don�t complain about your instrument.

Aanaddha

Rohit
Re:... a good tabla? part 2 Jul 28, 2003 12:36 p.m.



[b]One final word � a good tabla won�t make you a better tabla player, so, unless you practice regularly on a firm schedule don�t complain about your instrument.

Aanaddha


very good point brought up, that tabla doesn't have to of extremely good quality for it to sound good - if you play it well. Some kids in india were playing when i went to bombay, and their drums were of the worst quality, but they all sounded good... so more than the quality of the tabla, the quality of the player makes a difference.

aanaddha
Re:... a good tabla? part 2 Jul 28, 2003 07:48 p.m.



Rohit (Jul 28, 2003 12:36 p.m.):

very good point brought up, that tabla doesn't have to of extremely good quality for it to sound good - if you play it well. Some kids in india were playing when i went to bombay, and their drums were of the worst quality, but they all sounded good... so more than the quality of the tabla, the quality of the player makes a difference.


To the contrary - everyone deserves to have a good tabla especially those kids in Bombay and Kolkata who can't afford them. It's the people who buy and sell inflated, overpriced junk that makes that possibility all the more unlikely.

Aanaddha

Rohit
Re:How define a good tabla? Jul 29, 2003 06:05 p.m.


no no, i think you got me wrong anaddha, i think that a good tabla should be available to all, but even with a bad set you could still be an amazing player, not that you shouldn't buy a better set.
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