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by David Courtney working tools

If you do not want to do this work yourself, I also do tabla repair.

This article is only an intoduction.  If you would like more information please check out "Manufacture and Repair of Tabla"

Note: This article originally appeared in Percussive Notes, October 1993, Vol. 31, No 7, page 29-36

Reprinted by permission of the Percussive Arts Society, Inc., 701 N.W., Ferris, Lawton, OK 73507

Contents of Article
     Parts of Tabla
     Head Change
     Common Problems and Their Repair
     Works Cited

List of Illustrations
     Figure 1. The Tabla Pair
     Figure 2. Parts of Tabla
     Figure 3. Parts of Puddi
     Figure 4. Inserting a Gatta for the Banya
     Figure 5. Tension "Cross" of Tabla
     Figure 6. Proper Order for Bringing Up Tasma
     Figure 7. Tasma Endpoints
     Figure 8a. Good Syahi
     Figure 8b. Bad Syahi
     Figure 9a. Good Gajara
     Figure 9b. Bad Gajara
     Figure 10. Moistening the Puddi
     Figure 11. Relacing the Tabla
     Figure 12. Tightening the Tabla
     Figure 13. Major Damage to Syahi
     Figure 14a. Normal Syahi
     Figure 14b. Syahi with Loose Particle
     Figure 15. Patching the Banya
     Figure 16. Patching Broken Tasma



Tabla has been rising in popularity for many years. Concurrent with the increase in popularity is an increase in the need for experienced maintenance personnel. Unfortunately there is a shortage of repairmen qualified to fix tabla. This article will address the concerns of tabla repair and maintenance from a Western standpoint.

Economic and social conditions in India are very different from those in the United States. As far as maintenance of tabla is concerned the most significant differences deal with the relationship between cost of materials and the cost of labor. In India, the cost of materials is quite high while the cost of labor is relatively low. Therefore, traditional techniques are labor intensive but result in an efficient use of materials. Conversely, conditions in the United States are characterized by a very high cost of labor and a relatively low cost for materials.

This article will deal with techniques which have been worked out in the United States. We will not discuss labor intensive, and thus cost prohibitive techniques. All the techniques have been worked out to provide maximum benefit with minimum input of labor.


Parts Of Tabla

We must first familiarize ourselves with the parts of the tabla. I should point out that India is a vast country with many different languages and countless dialects. The nomenclature varies considerably from one part of the country to another (Courtney 1980). The terms in this article generally reflect a dialect of Urdu known as "Deccani" which is sometimes called "Hyderabadi" (Courtney 1985).


This is the drum of the right hand (figure 1). It is the finely tuned drum composed primarily of wood.


This is the metal drum of the left hand (figure 1). It is made of metal and has a deep bass sound.


Figure 1. The Tabla Pair - The "banya" (shown at right) is made of metal and produces the bass sound. The "danya" (shown at left) is made of wood and produces the treble sound.


This is the wooden shell upon which the right hand drum (danya) is made (figure 2). Good woods are teak and "shisham" (rosewood). "Bija" is another wood that is found in the North and is quite good. In the Deep South, one tends to find jackwood. Although jackwood is a fine wood, south Indian tablas tend to be of poor quality for other reasons. Woods to be avoided are mango and "deel".


Figure 2. Parts of Tabla - 1) pital (metal shell) 2) puddi (drumhead) 3) tasma (rawhide thong) 4) kundal (counter ring) 5) gatta (wooden brace) 6)lakadi (wooden shell)


This is the brass shell upon which the left hand drum (banya) is made (figure 2). Although brass is the most common metal one sometimes finds iron, copper, and aluminum. It is best to get the heaviest shell possible. Aluminum shells tend to have a poor sound because of the low weight. Iron shells give an acceptable sound but rust easily. A heavy copper or brass is preferred.


This is the rawhide lacing (figure 2). The finest lacing is made of buffalo hide although one often finds cowhide, leather, or even goat skin. One should definitely avoid leather or thin rawhides. These do not have a good strength and will give problems.


This is the counter-ring used for lacing the tabla (figure 2). These are commonly made of metal wire or rawhide.


These are the wooden dowels used to control the tension (figure 2).


This is the drumhead and is the most critical, complex component of the tabla. Figure 3, show the various parts of the puddi. These are; the gajara (braid), the chat (outer annular membrane); the bharti (inner annular lining), the maidan (main resonating membrane), and syahi (black spot). An in depth discussion of the puddi and its manufacture is found elsewhere (Courtney 1988) and is beyond the scope of this work.


Figure 3. Parts of Puddi - 1) chart (annular membrane) 2) maidan (main resonating membrane) 3) syahi (black spot) 4) gajara (braid) 5) bharti (inner annular lining)

Now that we have a good idea of the structure of tabla we may turn our attention to the topic of tuning.


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© 1998 - 2018 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

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