How to Play Dholak

Written by michael larkin
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The dholak is a double-headed hand drum originating in India and Pakistan. It is often used in traditional Indian music as well as Indian folk music, and is a staple of Indian weddings. One side of the dholak is smaller and tighter to produce a higher-pitched percussion sound, while the other is larger to serve as the bass side.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Sit cross-legged on the floor and place the dholak either in your lap or on the floor in front of you, whichever offers you a more comfortable reach of the sides of the drum. Position it so that the smaller side is on the right and the larger side is on the left if you are right-handed or vice versa if you are left-handed.

  2. 2

    Strike the larger end of the dholak near the middle with the flat of your middle and ring fingers. Strike quickly and do not leave your fingers on the drum. This will produce a low bass note.

  3. 3

    Strike the larger side of dholak again, this time using the heel of your hand closer to the rim. This will produce a more muted bass note.

  4. 4

    Quickly strike the smaller side of the dholak between the centre of the drum and the rim with the tip of your middle finger. This produces a sharp, staccato note.

  5. 5

    Combine these three notes into basic rhythms. One beginning rhythm to try is Step 2, followed by Step 3, followed by two rapid strikes described in Step 4.

Tips and warnings

  • Learning the dholak takes time and practice. Start with basic beats and build up to more complicated rhythms.
  • Practice with a metronome to perfect your timing and rhythm.
  • Playing with other people can break the monotony of practice and help you learn to play in rhythm with other instruments.

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