Learn tabla online from home: A step-by-step guide

You decided to learn tabla online and you tried watching YouTube videos to learn – but there isn’t enough content. Lack of sufficient compositions doesn’t help too. And going to a Guruji isn’t a luxury you can afford (although it is highly recommended). This is the point TaalGyan comes into the story. Just follow these 5 steps and you’ll be performing on the stage in no time:

Step 1: Get yourself familiar with the basics of Hindustani Classical Music

You’d be surprised how many people miss this step and find themselves very confused later on. You already know that tabla is a classical music instrument. Now, jumping right into hitting those first strokes, although tempting, would be very wrong. We need to get ourselves familiar with the world of Hindustani Music first. This would help us to understand what it is that we are actually playing on our instrument. Moreover, we would truly be able to appreciate the elegance of the compositions and their structure.

This seems like a daunting task, but worry not because we have you covered. Just go through the Introduction to Hindustani Classical Music, and when you feel you’re ready to move ahead, read further.

Step 2: Get yourself properly introduced to tabla.

You’d again expect this to be obvious. But this is something you’d most probably miss out on if you directly start by watching YouTube videos. There is much more to tabla than two drums which produce a nice sound. Knowing our instrument in and out is what makes us a true musician. So, naturally, we proceed by getting thoroughly getting to know the thing we’re going to spend quite some time on.

Go through this Introduction to Tabla, and when you’re ready, read further.

Step 3: Learn the basic strokes

Now that we know the basics of our art form and instrument, we would finally start to get our hands dirty. Practice all the basic bols, which are mentioned here and follow the video tutorial carefully while doing so.

After getting yourself familiar with those bols, go through the exercises to have the common phrases ingrained in your muscle memory.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t play them right off the bat. Tabla isn’t supposed to be easy, but with correct methodology and consistent efforts, you’d definitely get there. The key is, to NOT GIVE UP. Most people give up at this point, thinking that months would pass before they start playing properly. What they do not realize is that those months would pass anyway, so better give your best and complete what we set out to do.

Step 4: Play your first taal

Ah, finally. We are done with the boring (but very very essential) stuff now and are ready to move on to more interesting things. Expect things to get crazy from here. A whole world would open up once you get well versed with your first taal, which is Teentaal.

Teentaal is THE most popular taal that is played on tabla, and everyone from beginners (like you and I) to maestros (like Zakir Hussain) play this taal to show off their skills. Not only is it very popular, but also one of the most structured and fun to play with. It has perfect 4/4/4/4 vibhaags (you’ve already learnt about vibhaags) and is of 16 matras.

Go through Teentaal, and start practicing the theka. Play it as much as you can until you can play it in at least Madhya laya. This can take quite some amount of time, but we promise, it will be worth it. This is the part when you can finally taal on the tabla and can call yourself a budding tabla player! If you’ve come this far, better take this all the way now. All the best!

Step 5: Go crazy!

Seriously, go crazy. If you aren’t going crazy, you’re doing something wrong, and we do not want mistakes now. You are reading this, so you’re probably comfortable playing the teentaal theka along with a nagma/lehra (If you are not, GO PRACTICE!). It is finally time to move on to better things. You can do a number of things now:

  • Start practicing the various compositions in Teentaal, like the Peshkara, Kaidas and Tukras. Realise that compositions are just a set of bols that have to follow the pattern of the taal, and then cycle through that pattern repeatedly.
  • Learn more taals like Jhaptaal and Ektaal. Start with the theka, master it. Move on to their compositions.
  • Learn taals like Keherwa and Dadra, to start playing on songs! Once you master the theka and their variations (which are particularly important for these taals), go through our tutorials on popular Hindi songs!
  • Now that you know how to play compositions, you’d probably want to assemble a solo of yours, to show off your skills! Just go through this post on how to assemble your first tabla solo.


And that completes all the steps! Quite daunting if you look back, but quite simple if you follow the tested methodology. If you followed through each step, you’re probably a tabla player as we’re talking. Yes, it takes time to get good and get someone to actually appreciate you, but you get there eventually. Everyone does, if they remain consistent.

If, however, you are stuck somewhere, or you find a gap in the information, we would definitely love to help you out and get your valuable feedback. Contact us here with any kind of question and suggestion.

If this article helped you in any way, please share it. That would mean the world to us.

Also, if this helped you, and you would like to be a part of this effort, you can help support this website 🙂

FAQ Section

Can I learn tabla online?

Yes, you absolutely can! Although learning tabla from a guruji is preferred, you can always use websites, YouTube channels, and other online resources to learn tabla.

How can I learn tabla at home?

Start by getting familiar with Hindustani Classical Music and tabla. Learning the basic strokes, and then moving on to simple taals before trying to playing compositions is also a good idea. Try websites and YouTube videos to learn the basics.

How long does it take to learn tabla?

You can learn to play basic taals in a few months. A couple of years are enough to be a tabla player who can accompany songs and give solo performances. To learn to play professionally can take upto 5-10 years as well!

Is learning tabla difficult?

Tabla is a classical instrument and requires structures and dedicated learning. It's not difficult you master the basics and practice passionately. Mastering the tabla does require more than a couple of years.

Introduction to Tabla

If you are a fan of Indian classical music, there’s a very high possibility that you’ve seen a tabla in action. Almost always, it’s either a tabla or a dholak which handles the rhythm section of the Hindustani Classical Music. So, if you have any intentions of getting your hands dirty with the instrument, you absolutely have to know the fine details that defines it. So, let’s get started.

Physical build of the tabla

Tabla has two drums: A Dahina/Daya (also called tabla or chattu) made of wood and a Baya (also called dagga) made of metal. Both of these have a membrane which is usually made of goat skin and have a patch of syahi (ink) which is generally made of starch. The Syahi serves to impart a unique set of tones to each drum.
The Daya, is the higher pitched drum which is smaller and has a cylindrical hollowed out wooden structure. It is usually played with the dominant hand of the player (Daya translated to “right” in Hindi). It has a hoop around it with thick laces running along its side and 8 wooden cylinders (called gattas) to adjust the tone of the tabla. It is usually tuned to the key of the accompanying instrument.

The Baya, is the bigger, lower pitched drum and has a round kettledrum shape. It is usually played with the recessive hand of the player (Baya translates to “left” in Hindi). It too has a hoop around it with laces and 8 gattas to adjust the tone. It is usually tuned to Sa and around 5 octaves below the tabla.

A brief history of Tabla

Original article: History of Tabla

Tabla is an ancient instrument and has its root as far  back as the Vedic Period. The origins of tabla have been a topic of debate for a long time and experts still differ as to whether it originated in the Indian subcontinent or in the Middle East. However, increasing amount of evidence points to it originating in the Indian subcontinent itself.

The basic structure of compositions

Taals form the root of all the compositions played on the tabla. A Taal is essentially a musical meter, which serves to bind all the music in a particular number of matras (beats). More importantly, the compositions played have to abide to the taal structure. Not only does the taal define the total number of matras, but also dictates the pattern of the compositions. Each taal has a certain point where it starts (sum), taali, khaali and vibhaags (measures). For understanding these seemingly alien words, have a quick look at this article.

Compositions can be divided into two main categories:
1. Smaller compositions like tukras, parans, uthaans etc.
2. Longer compositions like Peshkaras, Kaidas, and Relas etc.

Most compositions would follow in multiple avartans (cycles). If you are new to tabla (which you probably are, since you are here), all this can seem alien again. To keep this article concise, we have not included explanation for these terms, but we sure have you covered.

Different schools (Gharanas) of tabla

Original article: Gharanas in tabla

Gharanas in Hindustani music represent different schools or musical styles. All Gharanas have their own distinct flavour. There are six Gharanas in tabla:

1. Delhi Gharana – The oldest. Distinct feature being the use of two fingers, and a particular softness (or elegance).
2. Ajrada Gharana – Similar to Delhi (Geographic reasons). Compositions are elegant and soft.
3. Lucknow Gharana -The popularity of dance in the city has visibly affected the style and therefore tukras and parans form an important part of performances.
4. Farukhabad Gharana -Very similar to Lucknow.
5. Banaras Gharana –Music style is characterized by loud and impactful bols.
6. Punjab Gharana – Pakhawaj has affected the music style and long compositons like kaydas are extensively played.

How do I learn tabla?

Here’s a step-by-step guide for learning tabla from scratch.