riyaaz

Tabla is an instrument that demands hard-work and diligence, and several veterans have given input on the various types of effective riyaaz. One must learn the difference between “revision” and “riyaaz.” Many students practice for 1-2 hours daily, but only play what has been taught a few times, or try to cover a lot of material in that time period. However, in order to achieve a balance and flow between the dayan and bayan, constant repetition of the composition, whether it be a short composition such as gat or tukda or an expansionary composition such as the mukh of a kayda, is necessary. There are two main strategies for acquiring a flow between the daya and baya. 

  1. Start off from a slower laya and increase the laya in increments to a faster laya, keeping the tonal quality pure throughout. Start off with clear and crisp notes and then automatically loosen the wrist while increasing speeds to prevent your hands from being stuck as you progress.

  2. Gradually increase the crispness and sharpness of your bols as you progress from a slower laya to a faster laya.

No matter what approach, the effect is the same: a connection and synchronization between the left and right hand, as well as a smooth flow with the laya on mark with the lehra, with minimal musical distortion. 

 

We must divide such an extensive topic into two subtopics, Practical Riyaaz and Theoretical Riyaaz. 

 

Practical Riyaaz

  • Nikaas- the way that sound is generated. 

  • Akshar Sadhana- treat each bol as significant. 

  • The Clarity of Bols- tonal quality

  • Dexterity- the ease of playing smoothly

  • Stamina- prolonged playing in a diverse range of layas

Theoretical Riyaa​z

  • Detailed Understanding of Solo Playing

  • Knowledge of Gharana

  • Theory of Taal

One of the most important aspects of understanding how to do riyaaz is to understand which compositions played for a very long amount of time are beneficial for “forming” the tabla player’s hand. The introductory kaydas gifted to us by the Delhi gharana are the mantras of tabla. A mantra, in yoga and ancient Indian culture, is a phrase that is repeated constantly throughout a lifetime, and which leads to spiritual progress and advancement towards God. Similarly, if “mantra” kaydas such as “dha dha tite dha dha tin na,” “dhagetite kdadhikite dhagenage tinakena,” “dhatite dhatite dhadhatite dhagetinakena,” etc are played for a long time, other kaydas that may be taught in class are automatically cleared. The balance between the daya and bayan is improved because such kaydas do several different finger movements and exercises on the tabla, such as the horizontal movement “tina” or the vertical stretch of the index and middle fingers through “tite.” 

 

Other things that also help restore the balance between daya and baya are slowing down the speed to a comfortable laya. Optimally, this should be a laya that is not too fast (which can make it hard to concentrate and give importance to each phrase) nor too slow. That being said, it is important that compositions such as kaydas can be played in various layas, and tempos (single/double/quadruple if necessary) in order to show grasp of layakari. During riyaaz, the clarity of bols, due importance to each bol, volume of tabla, flow/gap between bols in accordance with laya, and ease of playing are some of the things that must be investigated. 

 

Some Methods of Intense Practice

  1. Wearing weights/ heavy bangles on wrists and playing in order to improve strength

  2. Chilla: constant playing for several hours continuously for several consecutive days, often described as torture but improves stamina significantly. Can provide energy for months.

  3. Some legendary Ustads/Pandits used to practice on tablas with low sound or even a wooden platform in order to improve tonal quality and volume.

  4. Putting a cloth on tabla and then practicing, helps for volume.

All forms of such intense practices have advantages and disadvantages, short term gains and long term losses. For this reason, a variety of different practices is needed in order to be an all-rounded tabla player.