Percussion Instruments



1. Tabla
tablaTabla falls under the category of avanad vad (percussion instruments). It is an ancient indigenous tal vad.
It consists of two drums standing upright. Bharata mentions the procedure of applying the paste on the drum. However it became popular during the Moghul rule because it was, and even today is regarded as a fit accompaniments for khayal and thumri compositions.
The drum with the black paste called siyahi, played by the right hand, is the real tabla, because its tone-range is roughly and octave. The drum played with the left and is the bass or the drone counterpart and is called dugga or duggi or bayan. Tabla requires a lot of practice for reproducing different tals, especially half hatras. According to Danielou, “The drummer of our Indian village is in no way technically inferior to the most celebrated concert musicians.”[3] Allah Rakha and Samta Prasad are two well-known tabla players who have delighted both Indian and Western audiences.

A Tabla-player keeps the two drums in front of him, the real tabla on his right and the duggi on his left. The right drum is tuned to S or P. In the raga in which P is omitted, it is tuned to M. A small hammer is used for tuning, the cylindrical wood-pieces under the straps. If the tabla is to be tuned down, the gitki (wood-piece) is pushed up. After hammering on one gitki, the next one to be set is on the opposite side. In this manner, all the gitkies are hammered and while hammering them, the tabla is struck with the hand to find out if the svara of the tabla matches with the base note of the instrument which the musician is using. After the gitkies are set up, the gajra (top-skin) is adjusted in case there is still some minor tone variation. The duggi or the left tabala is adjusted with the gajra. In some sets of tabala, the duggi has also some gitkies which are adjusted in the same manner as those of the right drum. In case there is no black paste (siyahi) on the duggi, it should be covered with atta (wheat-dough). The dough should be removed or gently scratched after use. The right tabla can prodice a variety of complicated rhythms, while the duggi can produce a variety of complicated rhythms, while the duggi can only produce the main outline of the particular tal (rhythm). An expert tabla player (tablachi) can even play half matras skillfully.

2. Mridanga/Pakhawaj
mridangamThe mridanga is an ancient instrument of avanad vad and is also called tal vad. It is said that Lord Shiva used to do Tandava Nirtya-cosmic dance with the help of this instrument. Bharata calls it pushkar vad. This word was adapted as Pakhawaj. As such, mridanga and pakhawaj are practically the same.
Pakhawaj was, and even today is, popular as an accompaniment of dhrupad and dhamar. The mridanga was formerly a clay-drum but now it is made of wood. The structure of the pakhawaj resembles that of the tabla, the main difference being that the tabla consists of two drums, while the pakhawaj is one long barrel-like drum with skin-covers on both unequal sides. The left side is smaller than the right side. The pakhawaj is tuned like the tabla. There are two ways of playing the mridanga. It can play twenty-five varanas, both primary and secondary as follows:
Primary varnas: Ta, Ta, Di, Thu, Na, Dha, Dda, Draday,
Thee, Ga, Rivrar, Jhem.
Secondary varnas: Ran, Ka, Ga, Rran, Dhou, Dhi, Lan,
Thace, Dan, Dhi, Ki, Ti, Thrar.

3. Dholak
dholakThe other popular drum instrument is called dholak or dhavul. It is like the mridanga, but its two sides are equal in size. It is about two feet long and one foot in diameter. It can be played with hands or with sticks. It is used for hymn-singing, folk music and folk-dance. The left side is like bass and other side can be tuned to a high pitch by tightening the cotton-rope braces. The other drum-type instrument are nagara, tasha, kajira, and damru.


4. Dhadh
damruIt is small two-sided wooden drum. Some call it the damru. It is about 10 to 12 inches in length with a narrow waist in the middle. The parchments are held by cotton straps. It is held in the left hand and played with the right hand.