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Chapter 05: Important Phrases


We have technically covered all of the most important bols to know in tabla. Of course, there are many more not discussed in the previous three chapters. They will be appropriately discussed. The bols we discussed above are found everywhere in all types of tabla compositions and talas. In addition to the bols discussed, there are important phrases that need to be discussed. These phrases are really combinations of bols, but they appear everywhere that knowing how to play them with skill and dexterity is very important. Before introducing these phrases, we must introduce new bols.


RA (or TA)

 Figure 5.2


We have not discussed this chapter 2, because it was not a fundamental bol. This is a bol meant for phrases covered soon. This is a nonresonant bol on the daya. On “ra”, there are no muted positions. The index finger hits the syahi slightly off center to the left. Do not lift the index finger off of the daya once you hit the syahi. It should sound completely nonresonant. If it sounds anything like “tun”, then the “ra” bol was played incorrectly. Absolutely no resonance should be heard. This bol is also known as “ta” (no long ā sound). The technique is shown on Figure 5.1.



Figure 5.3


Due to poor transliteration schemes used in English, it is difficult to get the correct notation for this bol. This bol is a retroflex “Ṭ” used in Sanskrit. In addition “a” is a short vowel. Different pronunciation indicates a new bol. This bol is nonresonant. Like “ra”, “ṭa” does not require a mute. However, the middle, ring, and pinky finger should be stiff together to hit the syahi, maidan, and kinnar. This should be completely nonresonant, however, it is natural to hear a very small “ṭa” sound. This is natural, but the point is that there should be no resonance. Like the technique with playing “ra”, the fingers must stay on the daya. The fingers cannot be lifted off the drum. Figure 5.2 shows the technique.


DA and DIN

Figure 5.4

“Da” (or “do” in Bengali) is a nonresonant bol on the daya. Unlike the previous strokes, a very muffled and “nonresonant tun” will be produced. By merely touching the daya when make a mute position, the sound produced is “da.” It is a very easy bol to reproduce. Remember, when you mute, you do not lift your hand off the daya. This bol is also known as na. I may interchangeably use it. Please note the pronunciation is “na” and not “.” Special note about Figure 5.4: The index and ring fingers are NOT touching the drum. The only fingers touching the drum are the ring and pinky fingers.


“Din” is the resonant version of the “da.” The sound of “din” is so synonymous to the sound of “tun” that sometimes, it is very difficult to tell the difference. The main difference, besides playing technique, is that “din” is to allow that open sound in the middle of a tala or composition. On the other hand, “tun” is intended for slower as well as for more open compositions. It is the mute striking to produce a resonant “tun” like tone. This bol requires practice as well as great dexterity. When “gha” and “din” are played together, the bol “Dhim” is produced. Most artists call this “dhin”, using “din” as another “tin.”


Now we know the necessary gaps, here is the first important phrase.


TRKA = TI + RA + KI + A






Figure 5.5


This is a phrase that involves for bols, namely “ti”, “ra”, “ki”, and “ṭa.” Figure 5.5 reviews how to play each bol, and in order. The length of each bol’s duration is exactly the same. “Ti”, “ra”, “ki”, and “ṭa” have exactly the same amount of time. This phrase, when rapidly, sounds like the distinctive tabla roll. This phrase is said, “ti-ra-ki-ṭa.” When writing it, you may choose to write “tirakiṭa.” This book will use “trkṭa.” Many bols use “trkṭa” phrase commonly and many solos and compositions make use of this bol very frequently.


DHIRKITA = DHI + RA + KA + A = (GHA + TI) + RA + KA + A


In addition, “gha” mixed with “ṭi” in the phrase will yield “dhirkṭa” The “gha” bol is mixed in which “ti” to produce “dhi” as the first stroke. “Dhirkṭa” is a very common phrase to use. In order to get a crisp and powerful feel to this phrase, great practice is required.





Figure 5.6

Merely “ti” played with “ra” following it. Both bols have equal duration.


Since your vocabulary and knowledge of the sounds have expanded, it is very wise to practice! Practice makes your bols sharper, distinct, and more powerful. Don’t worry about speed and don’t focus greatly on time-keeping yet. It will be covered in the next unit. Focus on getting the bols correctly played.


dhā dhin dhin dhā dhā dhin dhin dhā dhā tin tin dhin dhin dhā

dhā dhira dhira dhā dhā dhira dhira dhā dhā tira tira thā dhira dhira dhā

dhin dhin dhāge trkṭa tun kat dhāge trkṭa dhin

dhā dhā trkṭa dhā dhā dinnā trkṭa dhā dhā dhim

ti ti dhin dhin ti ti trkṭa trkṭa

trkṭa trkṭa dhā dhin- dhā dhā dhin- tin- tin-

dhāge ti ka tha dhāge ti ka dhā

dhin dhā dhin dhin dhā tin tin tin

trkṭa trkṭa trkṭa trkṭa

trkṭa taka trkṭa taka din ; tirkiṭa taka trkṭa taka dhim

dhirkṭa taka dhirkṭa taka tin ; dhirkiṭa taka dhirkiṭa taka dhim dhā

trkṭa gadigana dhā trkṭa gadigana dhā trkṭa gadigana dhā


This has a little of everything we studied so far. Please play this composition as much as possible and watch your fingers develop strength to build powerful bols. In addition, you’ll be able to keep up with speed and control sound much better.


If this book is being used by a tabla guru, this is usually where one year of training ends. This is my view of a tabla course. Of course, studying with gurus of other gharanas will have many differing ideas than presented in this book, such as pronunciation, bol names, and such. The key point is to listen to your guru’s style and follow it. Once you finish tabla as a whole, you can use your own terminology. In order to communicate on the same plane, its best to imbibe your guru’s ideas, while using this book as a guide to help you play tabla.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009