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Tuning the Tabla

Tuning is a difficult skill and requires precise identification of swars with a good listening ability. The swar is provided continuously on an instrument such as the harmonium. Today, various apps and nagmas are also used to provide the swar. Using this swar as the guideline, the tabla player adjusts the tabla to match the intended swar.

  • The tabla ideally should not be placed on the ring while tuning as it requires frequent rotation

  • The gatthas must be adjusted to reach the intended sur or scale.

    • Hammering downwards creates pressure and tension, raising the sur.

    • Lifting upwards releases tension which causes the sur to decrease.

  • Tune the ghars, or houses on the gajra, two at a time in accordance to a sequence in order to reach the intended swar. This helps to increase or lower the tension around the pudi and helps to tune the tabla closest to the intended swar. 

    • There are 16 ghars on the gajra. Label them 1 through 16. The sequence of tuning the ghars is to start with 1, then the one directly opposite to that (9), then rotate the tabla 5 ghars, (14), then the one directly opposite to that (6), and so on. This, way we not only tune all ghars but also do it in pairs of opposite ghars, which helps maintain the balance efficiently.​

    • 1, 9, 14, 6, 11, 3, 8, 16, 5, 13, 2, 10, 15, 7, 12, 4

  • Afterwards, with the index finger, play a strong “na” on the chaati to ensure that it is in tune with the intended swar, rotating the tabla, and repeating after every ghar. If necessary, lightly hammer the gatthe to increase or decrease tension in bigger intervals.

  • If the tabla’s swar sounds higher, play a “thap” with the bottom of the palm to decrease the swar slightly. 

  • Bigger interval changes occur on the gatthe, while fine tuning is done on the gajra.

  • At the end, play an open na on the tabla to confirm that the tabla is tuned to the required swar, making sure there is minimal distortion in the sound.

  • If more adjustment is still required gently bump the tabla on the floor, this helps the wadis to slightly loosen from the gajra in order to adjust the tabla.

Various Scales
Red Balls of Fire


Safed 1

White 1



safed 2

White 2

Rock Formation


safed 3

White 3


kali 3

Black 3



kali 4

Black 4

Purple Smoke


kali 5

Black 5



Kali 1

Black 1

Blue Pattern


kali 2

Black 2

Golden Sparkles


safed 4

White 4

Brick Wall


safed 5

White 5


safed 6

White 6

Dark Green Paper Structures


Safed 7

White 7

Move the cursor over various scales to learn the Indian Classical Music equivalent (desktop only).

Tabla players, instrumentalists, and vocal singers have preferred scales that they perform in. The make of the tabla and whether its pudi is small or big greatly reflects the range of the scale to which it could be tuned to. 

Below is a slideshow which gives different diameters of tabla along with the associated surs and common uses in Indian Classical Music.

Rock Formation

Diameter: 5"

Sur: F, F#

"Tip tabla" used for light music, violin, flute, and sometimes harmonium accompaniment.

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