This is also an essential part of the learning tabla. An artist or student should learn to maintain or repair his/her instrument. I am using both statements - Tabla Maintenance and Repair as we need to learn in both ways. Let us discuss this difference.
Tabla Maintenance levels – This requires Tuning, Playing, and storing the drum.
- Tuning – After few days We need to tune our tabla as it gets out of tune or loosens up. So we have to use a hammer to tune this instrument. Suppose we want to set it on C# and it is a bit lower, Then we should hit from the top of the gajra to raise the tone to its correct tonal level. And, If the tone is a little higher than the note, then we hit from the bottom of the Gajra to lower the note. We use this gajra to adjust the tone to a minor level.
If setting the note from gajra is not enough to bring the tone to its required level then we need to hit on wooden pegs to bring the tone to its correct sound level. In case of a loose tabla, we can also put more laces (Badhhi or Dwaal) on the wooden pegs, as at first, we apply just one or two lace on these pegs.
One more issue with the tabla is powder. Tabla Players apply powder to their palms to set them dry as hands get wet while playing. This powder slowly got stuck on the top of the tabla skin and on syahi as well. Then we need to clear it. There are many ways to clear it but I prefer to use a plain shinny paper-weight, a black stone called kasauti to clean it. Some people use sandpaper also but it will damage the tabla skin if used hard.
- Repairing Tabla – This is a special skill that not all tabla players have, but everyone who is a tabla player should know about this skill. Repairing covers re-heading, tightening, and manufacturing parts, from which tabla players should learn about re-heading and tightening at least. Every few months, Tabla laces need a tightening exercise and that needs special skills as we should tight the lace equally from all ends. At the bottom of Tabla or bayan, there are two knots of tabla strap or lace. From which we need to start stretching the laces one by one in the right-hand direction, till it reaches the other end. At this finishing point, we need to loose the second knot and stretch out the loosened lace from it. This way we can tight the lace of both – tabla and bayan (We should fit the wooden pegs in Tabla).
Now re-heading, Normally we can go to a nearby shop and just ask them to rehead our tabla heads for the repairing. But a good tabla player should learn this art too. Whenever we travel abroad we usually take one or two tabla skinheads with us as a reserve. Also sometimes we travel to a place where there are no tabla shops nearby, then we can change the broken head with a new one easily if we know that art. This needs special skills.
- First, we have to untie all the laces from the tabla.
- Second, Then we set the skinhead on the top of the tabla and tie it with the help of a thin rope.
- Third, After setting it up we start fixing the laces again from one side to the other.
- Fourth, After putting all the lace to the tabla again we have to stretch the lace one or two times as per the requirement to tighten and fix the skin properly.
- Fifth, After this process, we start fixing the wooden pegs under the tabla lace.
- At last, Then we just need to tune it to the desired scale or note and we are done. In the case of Bayan, we just need to follow the steps that will tighten the lace and it will be ready to perform.
- Manufacturing – This is the most technical and important part of the repairs but very rare tabla players practice this exercise. But they have enough knowledge to check how a tabla maker is preparing their instrument. This needs very special skills along with years of experience. There are many tabla makers who are doing very fine in their field from this list we are mentioning some of the best Tabla Makers of India, who are well known for their work.
[Note: We are not against any tabla maker, everyone is giving his best. We are just adding those who are very much popular and also, we know for their quality and experience.]