The Journey of Becoming a Tabla Maestro

Tabla musical instrument

Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain once said that the main job of an instrumentalist is to accompany the vocalist. He also mentioned that regardless of how well known the instrumentalist is, when he/she is set to perform with a classical singer or musician, the instrumentalist must serve as his “subordinate”.

Indian classical music has a bright future. According to the Pamda Bhushan recipient, youngsters can learn the art and make a wonderful career out of it. The idea is to help musicians give better exposure through the best music academies. This will help them grow up learning Indian classical music traditions combined with world traditions.
Practice is plays a crucial role to emerge as a good Tabla player. Zakir believes that ‘Perfect practice makes man perfect’. So he advices youngsters to learn certain techniques with the instrument and smartly deploy them while practicing them to catch up with speeds.

Tips by the Expert:


This is an important part of learning, playing, and mastering table. The strength should come from fingers. Power coming from arms may restrict the high speed one can attain. Additionally, with age, the power in arms gets reduced naturally.

Fingers possess some power within naturally. However, this requires being enhanced in a fashion that the fingers are able to create the desired sound on the table on their own. Little help can be taken from shoulder and or arm part. Experts believe that it is similar to a muscle building exercise wherein fingers need to be strengthened using some small weights just as you would strengthen arms at the gym. Once the strength is gained, it is possible to reach higher speeds.

The Part of Finger Used:–

The part of the fingers you use while playing the instrument also matter. The artist should be touching the right surface of the instrument. Experts feel only the top third part of finger should touch the surface. Although the power applied is not much, the overall impact and the sound produced will be perfect.

Position of the Instrument – The instrument must be placed in a fashion way that your hands do not end up being in an uncomfortable position. The daaya or right piece of Tabla must be kept slightly away from the body. On the other hand the baaya or left piece of the instrument must be kept closer. Placing the left piece closer ensures a position that allows you to apply pressure on the palm surface to generate diverse bass sounds.

Baby Finger:–

Some of the prominent players use a baby finger on the left piece. This allows them four fingers to play the left piece while some of these may also slide the left thumb on the baaya occasionally. This is done for adding impact to performance and variety (not a standard practice). This also ensures an added combination of pressure points to the palm once you learn to use the baby and index finger for the left piece.

Creativity – Good musicians focus on a lot more than clarity and speed. Learning to play table and mastering it combined with adding a style of one’s own is tough. You would require ample practice to be able to reach the level of table maestros. Experts feel that playing table is about the music quality one generates. The player should also be able to decide what to play in a specific circumstance.

Hard work and dedication will make you a unique, expert and renowned tabla player. You may not be able to emulate Zakir Hussain, but will certainly create your own unique style people will adore you for.
According to Pandit Ajay Chakraborty, “Some people are meant to be gods and others their subjects. There won’t be a Zakir Hussain in the next 1000years.”

In a Nutshell:

Practice to perfection requires devotion towards music and the instrument. Devotion, being the epitome of all emotions obviously can’t be attained easily. The only way apparent to me is being constantly motivated by listening to the legends and their recordings and the history and research the instrument deserving your devotion has already lived through.

It takes many hours of pure practice to emerge as a proficient table player. Giving ample time to the activity will allow brain brain adapts itself to the finger movements. Exercising patience and discipline is important too! Riyaaz or practice is about enjoying the music while playing and disciplining one’s mind.

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