Hi guys, for many tabla players, this particular sight is a nightmare for sure. Personally, I have only ever had one tabla head split of my own which lasted me around 15 years or so.
As a musician and supplier of tabla, it’s my responsibility to talk about how to care for your instrument too. Many people are not taught this for one reason or another so this is just a basic guide of how to take care of your cherished set of tabla. These are my own thoughts from experience and by no way an absolute truth.
Respect – The most important point and the basic etiquette of a musician is to have reverence for their instrument that is offered as sadhna to The Divine. As soon as this mode of thinking comes in, the below points will make perfect sense. The teachings from your Guru are like words of God, where one does not take ego or become proud to be a student of their Ustad. Having a spiritual approach to music will sublime your ego and hopefully open your heart to learn more and more from anyone of any age. There are no boundaries in music that separate us from cast, creed or any other factor. Treat all musicians with the highest respect at all times, no matter of the stage of their sadhna, WE ARE FOREVER A STUDENT. So if you have this kind of respect for the art, how would you then treat your tabla? Think this answers itself. So guys, please please treat your tabla with the highest form of care you can give. Cutting corners does not suit a true lover of the art of tabla.
Sturdy covers and rings – I can’t stress how important it is to have these to stop damage to the skin through atmospheric issues or accidents.
Buy a good bag – I usually recommend a decent bag with wheels which are available in most sports shops. You can also pad the bag with blankets or cushioning. There are other bags available too.
Storage – It goes without saying that a tabla should be kept at room temperature. Not close to any form of heating. Please never store tabla in an attic, damp or cold area like a garage.
Avoid moisture – So like the above point, moisture is a killer. This will ruin your skin and wood. No liquid, oil or any substance should come in contact with the tabla, no not even your sweat from hard riaz! Some people try to clean the skin with milk and end up touching the syahi and game over. So keep your drinks away from tabla at all times.
Powder – You may have seen this from me previously, but please do not douse your tabla with powder, this doesn’t make you play any faster or better. It damages the syahi and also dampens the sound. There’s been many times that I’ve had to clean the syahi for students and it can cause damage to the syahi. Caution: Do not do this yourself without guidance as you can crack the syahi and end up with an imbalance or buzzing tabla. If you have sweaty palms, then there are many natural therapies you can use like fresh lemon juice on your palms before you go to sleep. Ideally, just apply powder to your palms and rub them around and that should suffice.
Tuning / Pulling – So the deep topic of tuning arises once again. Depending on the scale of the tabla I would definitely recommend learning how to tune properly. Also high scale dayans should be tuned down (pegs bought up) after playing to stop the skin from staying constantly stretched. Some lower scale tabla will be ok to maintain on scale, this depends on your location and atmospheric conditions. If your dayan needs pulling, then either learn how to do it from your Guru or you can always bring it to someone who knows how to do it.
New tabla / repaired tabla – When I repair a tabla, you’ll notice that I usually mention that the skin will settle (drop) naturally and should not be pushed to reach scale straightaway after receiving the tabla. I usually do my groundwork of pulling slowly and bringing to balance before sending it to you. The tabla needs to be played in properly so the more you play, the more the tabla will settle.
Hope this has been of help to you all and guides you to taking care of your tabla and giving it an extended life and respect.