This year’s tabla maintenance

I just turned vegan a few weeks ago and I’m enjoying the change in diet. It’s a shame I can’t extend my new veganism to the tablas I play but sadly there have been no alternative materials found to even come close to the sound from traditional tabla design. So goat and leather it is then.

Although I have tried to experiment with the strap material at least. I heard about the amazing qualities of Vectran through David Yovino’s website (Transtabla) and that seemed like a great choice for strap. Unfortunately I can’t find it anywhere on the web except on the Transtabla site and after shipping costs that seemed prohibitively expensive. So I did some searches and found a polyester alternative.

David says on his site that polyester has much less stretch than polypropylene so I chose the polyester webbing. I could only find it on one site and bought 20 metres. Sadly, it didn’t work out on the dayan I reskinned. It just wasn’t strong enough and did stretch quite a bit. I should have noted that the material is in fact 75% polyester and 25% cotton. So the stretch is probably mostly from the cotton. Oh well. Anyway, here are some photos from the reskinned tabla where I returned to using traditional rawhide and then the bayan using the polyester webbing, which I will probably swap out because again, I don’t seem to be getting enough tension.

Shivji very kindly sent me these skins and the dayan sounds good after much pulling (I can never quite believe how much pulling is required!) and the bayan will need redoing before I can get a good idea of the sound quality but I’m sure it will be great once I get it right!

Update: More pulling caused the webbing to break and shred at the last 6 inches where I was going to tie off. I knotted on another section and tightened from there and after lots more pulling the bayan is starting to sound resonant. Not so much sustain but I think once worn in it will sound great.



Reheaded a tabla with good results :)


I reheaded this tabla last week and was very pleased with the results. Should be able to get this one up to D. The skin was from Harkiratji and sounds great. Took much less tension than the Kolkata pudis I’ve been used to. The top end is slightly less bright but it has more of what they call the ‘full’ sound. It’s hard to keep it in tune though. One thing I struggle with is getting the end section of the strap to be tight. Getting enough tension before tying it off is very hard. Anyway, really hope this one lasts!

reheaded Rhythm tabla

Mic inside bayan

I’m just dragging this out of the archives…
I’m thinking of tweaking this mic setup after discussing the subject with tabla player friend Daniel San.
He is researching the best way to put microphones inside his drums so I pointed him to this old post from back in 2010.
This is how the post went:

I’ve finally got round to trying the old ‘mic-inside-the tabla’ idea and I think it’s going to work out a treat. I’ll post much more in detail soon. In brief though, I fitted an AKG C418 condenser mic inside the bayan and it gives a strong low-mid tone with loads of resonance and a little bit of ‘metallic ringing’ which can of course be tweaked out of the signal. Great for gigs where mic-ing in the usual way presents too many problems.

Mic inside bayan
Mic inside bayan

Sitar and tabla concert

Look out for this one!
There will be a North Indian Classical concert at St.Andrew’s Church in Hove, on Friday September 19th.
Church address is Waterloo Street, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 1AQ
It will be Partha Bose on sitar and Shiv Shankar Ray and myself, Marc Clayton on tabla.
Concert starts at 8pm and costs £8 on the door.
For more details please see
This will have extra details posted soon.

Tabla Solo by Akram Khan

A rare opportunity to hear the foremost exponent of the Ajrara Gharana.

A first solo in the UK – accompanied on Sarangi by Ilyas Khan
Supporting Act: Chakardar Ensemble, Summer School performance.

The Tabla is the most popular percussion instrument used in North Indian Music.  Believed to have originated in the 13th Century, this pair of highly versatile drums have over the centuries been used both as a “solo” instrument and for accompaniment with vocal, instrumental, dance, pop, folk and in more recent times for fusion.  The Tabla is by far the most complex percussion instrument in the world, capable of tremendous tonal and rhythmic complexity.

The Tabla consists of a smaller higher pitched drum known as the ‘Tabla’ or ‘dayan’, made of a cylindrical hollowed out wood.  The larger drum, known as the ‘Bayan’ or ‘dagga’ is made of metal covered with a goatskin top which provides the bass sound.

There are 6 common Tabla “Gharanas”, schools or styles of Tabla playing:  Delhi, Ajrara, Punjab, Farukhabad, Lucknow and Benaras.  All named after the place where the playing style emerged.  In many ways, the Gharana system has undergone considerable change in recent times.  The traditional method of imparting knowledge from master to son/disciples from the local vicinity meant that the different gharanas remained “unpolluted” for centuries.

With the advent of easier communication media networks, the current generation of Tabla maestros have been influenced not only by maestros from all the gharanas, but also by musical traditions of different cultures.  The traditional style of of teaching Indian classical music still prevales maintaining the purity of their particular gharana yet able to use equivalent traditional compositions from other ghranas to showcase the diversity of these great musical instruments. Such has been the influence of the sounds of the Tabla in the West that we hear a growing expansion into western jazz and pop music with such big names as Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliot, Selena Gomez, etc…

More information can be found on