North Indian Talas
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Rhythmic Training Through the Traditions of Africa, Bali and India.
By Matthew Montfort. Ancient Future Music (1985).
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There are an estimated 350 talas in North Indian music, of which ten are in common use. These ten, along with three unusual ones, are presented here.
Each tala is a number of beats in duration. The beats have different degrees of emphasis within a tala, and are marked with a system of hand claps, hand waves and movements of the fingers. The most important point of rhythmic emphasis is the sam, the first beat of the tala and point to which all variations eventually return. It is represented by the symbol "+," and is marked by a hand clap. The khali, literally the empty beat, is the unaccented beat of the tala. The lack of accent is emphasized, making the khali a very important beat. It is marked by a wave of the hand and is written with the symbol "0." Talas have other accented beats known as tali, also marked by hand claps. They are not as heavily accented as the sam, but serve to divide the tala into smaller sections as do the sam and khali. In written notation, the tali are numbered, starting with the number two, as the sam is the first tali. For example, the sam is written "+," the second tali is written "2," the khali "0," the third tali "3," and so on.
In this presentation, tabla bols (onomatopoetic syllables representing the drum sounds) written as one word have the same time value within a tala. Rests are written as "*." Each word or rest within a tala is of equal duration. These words or rests are each equal to a beat, except in sitarkhani, ardha jaital, upa dasi, and chartal ki sawari tala, where each word or rest is an eighth note in duration.
Each tala has a corresponding theka, a set of bols that delineate the standard groove that represents the tala. To practice reciting theka, use this pronunciation guide to Indian drum syllables.
Ten Common Talas
16 beats, divided 4 + 4 + 4 + 4:
+ 2 0 3 |: dha dhin dhin dha dha dhin dhin dha na tin tin ta ta dhin dhin dha :|
16 beats with 3-3-2 eighth note pattern, divided 4 + 4 + 4 + 4:
+ 2 |: dha * ga dhi * ge dha * dha * ga dhi * ge dha * ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 0 3 dha * ka ti * ka ta * ta * ga dhi * ge dha * :| ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
8 beats with 3-3-2 accent pattern, divided 4 + 4:
+ 0 |: dha ge na ti na ka dhi na :| ^ ^ ^
6 beats, divided 3 + 3:
+ 0 |: dhi dhi na dha tun na :|
7 beats, unusual in that sam and khali fall on the same beat, divided 3 + 2 + 2:
0 2 2 |: tin tin na dhin na dhin na :|
10 beats, divided 2 + 3 + 2 + 3:
+ 2 0 3 |: dhi na dhi dhi na ti na dhi dhi na :|
12 beats, dvided 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2:
+ 0 2 0 3 4 |: dhin dhin dhage terikita tun na kat ta dhage terikita dhin dhage :|
14 beats, divided 3 + 4 + 3 + 4:
+ 2 0 3 |: dha dhin * dha dha tin * ta tin * dha dha dhin * :|
12 beats, divided 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2:
+ 0 2 0 3 4 |: dha dha din ta kat dhage din ta tete kata gadi gena :|
14 beats, divided 5 + 2 + 3 + 4:
+ 2 0 4 |: kat dhe te dhe te dha * ge te te te te ta * :|
Fractional talas are expressed in terms of an interger and a fraction. They usually contain a grouping of 1 1/2 beats at the end of the cycle.
6 1/2 beats, divided 3 + 2 + 1 1/2
0 2 3 |: tin * na * teri kita dhin * na * dha ge na :|
10 1/2 beats, divided 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2:
+ 0 2 0 |: tin * ta * teri kita tin * ta teri kita dhin 3 4 5 * dha ge na dhin * dha ge na :|
Sawari talas contain two or more groupings of 1 1/2 matras, causing an irregular rhythm pattern.
Chartal Ki Sawari
11 beats, dvided 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2:
+ 2 0 3 |: dhin * teri kita dhi * na * tun * na * kat * ta * 4 5 dhin * na dhin * na :|
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