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How does Tabla produce sound ?

How Tabla produce sound

Key difference in Indian and European Percussion Instruments

The main difference in Indian and European percussion instruments is that their instruments only create rhythm and on the other hand, Indian instruments literally speak. The secret is in the ink spot on Indian instruments. European instruments have no ink smearing. Dhol, Tasha, Nagara, Chaughada, Sambal, Daph are also some of the Indian percussion instruments, with no ink on their leather surface.

How does Tabla produce sound? Or Scientific base of Tabla playing

Now, we’ll study what is the science in tabla.

In Tabla (or any percussion instrument, whereon leather is fitted), sound gets generated, when the leather surface thumped, wither by fingers or palm. The waves thus created travel in two dimensions. These waves then reflect from the leather surface periphery, and so produce standing waves. When the wave is two dimensional, node converts into a line.

There are various air layers floating parallel over the leather surface of a percussion instrument. When this leather surface vibrates, air layers also vibrate. When air layer travels up, it also pushes the adjacent layer in upward direction. However, as said earlier, due to the other parallel air layers floating over the leather surface, this layer (i.e. air layer travelling up) can’t travel freely in upward direction. Thus, it gets compressed between the very next upward air layer and the leather surface. Thereafter, it too starts pushing the other floating air layers in upward direction, causing their compression. Subsequently, this compression starts its travel in the air. In the meanwhile, the leather surface loses its tension and comes down. Air layer on it thus gets pushed down, i.e. it expands as the pressure releases. When this leather surface attains its original position, this expanded air layer is pushed upwards. Thus, the pulse due to the compression and expansion begins to travel ahead. As this pulse is dependent on the vibration of leather surface, its frequency is similar to the leather surface frequency. In this way, the vibrating air layer reaches to the listener and so he/she becomes aware about the sound. Thus, can be the description of ‘how does tabla produce sound’.

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Importance of ink smearing on Tabla

As said earlier, the ink spot on the Indian percussion instrument plays an important role in their paramount sound quality. This ink is a classic mixture of gum and the fine powder made from the black stones found in the river Narmada. Through the chemical analysis of this ink, iron and manganese particles are found in high quantity. This makes the high volume of the ink. However, these days, this ink is made from iron fillings, coal powder and gum / wheat dough. If the proportion of the volume of the ink and the leather surface is 1.768, the numbers of vibrations are same irrespective of total numbers of the vibrations of the leather surface. Considering this scientific principle, the ink volume is maintained.

Dr. C. V. Raman’s contribution in Tabla sound

CV Raman swarmanttra

Indian Noble Laureate Dr. C. V. Raman had a vast research on this ink, which has the result as follows: in case of ink absence on leather surface of the percussion instrument, many over tones are created, which reduces the quality of the instrument sound. On the other hand, ink helps these over tones to convert into harmonics to result into the most pleasing sound.

Thus, the Tabla playing has a pure scientific base.

About Pratik Kashallu

Hey Cassicals , I am Pratik Kashallu and I am steady followers of Indian Classical Music…just like you. I’ve have a passion for collecting antique classical gramophone records and record players. Thousands of antique gramophone records and many record players are available in my collection. With this zeal, I am a Admin of world famous Facebook fan page "Indian Classicl Music Fan Club" which is loaded by more than 22K facebook fans and it's total weekly reach is around 90K

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5 comments

  1. What complete and utter nonsense (in terrible English to boot)… “Air layers floating parallel over the leather surface of a percussion instrument”…? Seriously?
    “If the proportion of the volume of the ink and the leather surface is 1.768, the numbers of vibrations are same irrespective of total numbers of the vibrations of the leather surface”.. What?
    Who wrote this, some school kids?

    This “scientific” article does not even mention the most typical, and yet unusual chracteristic of the sound of the Dayan, namely the practically complete absence of the fundmental frequency in the spectrum, which begins with the first overtone…

    • Dear Reader,
      Your criticizing comment will be very much useful for us in our future article-writing. However, we always crave to have our content in such a simple language, which could easily be understood even by a common man, who even doesn’t know much about music. So purely scientific articles might take him away from music.

  2. Super sir….. You are doing a excellent job….go ahead, its very helpful for next generation

  3. Your attempt at “simple” language does not excuse the fact that this is simply wrong…..

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