Basic terms in taals and tabla

While going through this website, you will encounter a lot of terms related to taals and classical music in general. This article intends to shed light on those basic terms in a concise way.

Matra / मात्रा 

A matra is a beat. Each taal is composed of a specific number of beats, which are grouped (vibhag) and which cycles (avartans) repeatedly. The time between matras can be varied and which is the Laya.

Bol / बोल 

A bol is a syllable or the alphabet in tabla. Everything that is played can be broken down into its constituent bols. One or more bols can be played in a single matra which forms the basis of Laya. Examples of bols are Ta, Dha, etc. Here is a list of common bols you might encounter.

Sum / सम 

The first matra of a Taal is called Sam. This is where the beat cycle or the Taal starts and is usually characterised by a recognisable impactful sound in the cycle. It is denoted by a subscript x  in notation.

Taali / ताली

Taali (Clap) or Bhari (Full) is that part which is characterised by a clap with the hands. It is necessary for every Taal to have a taali. For example, teentaal has a taali at the 1st, 5th and 13th maatra.

Khaali / खाली

Khaali symbolises the emptier and less impactful part of the taal. It is represented by a subscript 0 in the notation. For example, teentaal has al

Avartans / आवर्तन 

Avartans are the cycles a taal goes through. It is equal to the number of matras. Therefore, the length of one avartan in teentaal will be 16, and of jhaptaal will be 10. Compositions usually span more than one avartan. 

Vibhag / विभाग 

Every taal is divided into parts or vibhags. It is essentially grouping of bols which can be even or uneven. For example, the vibhaags on teentaal are 4/4/4/4. Jhaptaal has a 2/3/2/3 structure and Rupak has a 3/2/2 structure. All the compositions in a taal have to be divided in vibhags in the same way as the taal.

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