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.
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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.