About Taalas


Definition of Taal


Rhythm is a concept that you encounter almost every day in our life. Due to your response to the rhythm in the music you instinctively tap your feet or click your fingers on hearing music  There are many examples of rhythm in our life.

By listening to these examples carefully, you can clearly identify repeating patterns of sound. These repeating patterns construct what is called 'rhythm'. Rhythm is a concept that we encounter almost every day in our life. Remember the time when you instinctively tap your feet or click your fingers on hearing music? Well, this reaction is nothing but your response to the rhythm in the music. There are many examples of rhythm in our life which are given below.

You can clearly identify repeating patterns of sound by listening to music. Repeating patterns of sound is called rhythm. Any musical system is constructed with rhythm.  Planets revolves around the sun according to set rhythm as well wave in stream flow in rhythm.


Rhythm has existed several centuries before the ragas were invented. Rhythm is essential for Indian music or any music of the world. Indian system of rhythm is known as 'tala and tala means "clap". In north Indian music the tabla has replaced the clap in the performance of raga.  Almost all the Indian compositions are built improvised with the help of tala. Tala is a repeating cycle of a number of beats per second which are grouped in a particular way which sounds pleasant. If we listen beats without proper cycles of rhythm then it will sound awaful.


North Indian Taals


These are some of the famous Taals in Northern Indian music. Although most Tabla players know all the following Taals, but they don’t get to play them very often. Most commonly used Taals are ‘Teen Taal’ (16 beats), ‘Aik Taal’ (12 beats), ‘Roopak’ (7 beats), ‘Dadra’ (6 beats), ‘Kehrva’ (8 beats) and ‘Jhup Taal’ (10 beats).


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(8 beats, two sections)

Taal signs




1        2        3        4

5        6        7        8


Dha   ge     na     ti

Na     ke     dhi        na


(6 beats, 2 sections)

Taal signs




1          2          3     

4        5        6      


Dha    Dhin        na

ta    tin      na


Jhaptaal Taal
(10 beats, 4 sections)

Taal signs






  1              2

  3          4           5

 6           7   

 8           9         10


Dhin          na

Dhin     Dhin       na

Tin        na

Dhin     Dhin       na


(7 beats, 3 sections)

Taal signs





1        2        3       

4          5

6        7     


Tin    tin      na

Dhin     na

Dhin    na



Tabla Sounds:


Tabla has ten main sounds  or boles.  All other boles are combination of these sounds. These ten sounds are divided into three basic categories:

(I) Right side sounds:

1. na or ta
2. tin or ti
3. din or thun
4. tu
5. te
6. re

(II) Left side’s sounds:

7. Ge or Ghe (pronounced gay and ghay)
8. ke (pronounced kay)

(III) Sounds played with both hands at the same time:

9. dha ( ‘ge’ plus ‘na’ or #7+#1)
10. dhin (’ghe’ plus ‘tin’ or #7+#2)


Please do not skip to the next sound until you learn one sound of one hand correctly.


How to Learn, Read and Play Taals


To master a Taal, first memorize the boles, then learn to read (show) it on your palm. If you know a Taal’s flow by heart, then you can take any boles (sounds) and make them fit in that Taal.  Most of the Indian film songs are composed in taal kehrva and other taal is dadra. Few film songs are composed in jhaptaal and rupak.


Showing a taal on your palm:


  1. Get your left palm out and count 1,2,3,4, 5,6,7,8 (beats in a Taal vary Taal to Taal) in any constant speed. Take a little breather before ‘5′ thus accenting 1st and 5th beat.

  2. Now every time you say a number touch your left palm with one finger tip of your right hand.
  3. Now clap on one (very quietly) with all four fingers on your left palm and count 2, 3, 4 with using your , second and third finger.
  4. On 5, do not clap, move your right hand away to the right instead, leaving this beat empty.
  5. Count 6,7,8 the same as 2,3,4 by using your , second and third finger.
  6. You just counted the ‘Kehrva Taal’ on your palm.  Please see below given table:

Taal Kehrva
(8 beats, two sections)

Taal signs X       0      
Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Boles Dha Ge Na Ti Na Ke Dhi na
Hands Clap 1st 2nd 3rd Wave 1st 2nd 3rd


The purpose to count:

The purpose to count on hand is getting to know a Taal. You can sing anything while giving Taal with your hand. It is perfect way to find out if your piece ends on one (sum) or not. Or you can try to make a pick up or a fill. Once again, this is how the palm system goes:

  1. we clap on every clap point (that is the Sum, and the other Taali points in a Taal)
  2. We count all the other beats with our fingers just to keep rhythm.
  3. We wave our right hand to the right to show Khali (empty point).

Sometimes only the Sum (first beat) and the Khali (lighter point) are shown on the hand. It is called ‘giving Khali-Taali’. Please refer to definitions of rhythmic words to know more about these words.


A key to pronounce and memorize Tabla Boles (sounds)

Tabla boles (sounds) can be really hard to remember if you see them individually. The key to memorize them is to see them as a group. Try to form a combination bole (sound). Some times combination boles are spread over two, three or four beats. See the broken ‘words’ and pronounce them together in whatever time they are written in. If there is no combination boles then try to read a section together. Memorize it then read the next section. In most Taals, you will find that you only have to memorize a portion of it. As the whole Taal forms a poetry of boles. For Dadra Taal please see below given tables.

Taal Dadra
(6 beats, 2 sections)

Taal signs X     0    
Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6
Boles Dha Dhin na Dha tin na

Let’s separate Left and rigt and see what is going on

Taal signs X     0    
Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6
Right Ta Tin Na Ta Tin Na
Lleft Ge Ghe   Ge    

Here you see that in the both sections, the right hand is playing the same thing. To make the first beat and section heavier, two extra boles are added with the left hand. As described before, ‘ta+ge’ is ‘Dha’ and ‘tin+ghe’ is ‘Dhin’. It is just like any drum patterns. If you take them apart and write them in sections, you will see that how the bass drum separates the Taali (heavier) and Khali (lighter) sections.   





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