How to Care for the Tabla Drum

Updated July 20, 2017

The tabla is an iconic part of northern Indian classical music, although the exact origin of the tabla is a matter of debate. A set of tabla consists of a pair of drums; one drum is wood, and the other is metal. Both kinds of tabla are covered with a skin head with a black spot in the middle called a syahi. The syahi is formed by a special kind of paste and glued onto the head. With proper care, a set of tabla drums lasts for years and provides reliable use. Tabla that are cared for well are dependable.

Play the tabla with hands, not drumsticks. Drumsticks damage the drum heads.

Protect the tabla from rapid or extreme temperature changes. Changes in temperature may cause the wood of the dayan drum to crack. Extreme heat may make the drum heads split.

Protect the tabla from all moisture. Keep the syahi dry at all times. Never play the tabla outside in wet weather.

Tune the tabla with a quality tuning hammer. Use a tuning hammer made of only brass or copper. While more expensive, it will not damage the heads of the drums, unlike a steel hammer. A good tuning hammer is at least 8 to 9 inches long. The head of the hammer must be curved.

Apply talcum powder to your hands before playing the tabla. Any kind of talcum powder works and helps to keep sweat from hands, which can damage the drum heads.

Place tabla covers on the tabla when the instrument is not in use. Covers protect the tabla from dust, dirt, moisture and temperature changes.

Store the tabla away from sunlight in a dry place.

Clean the tabla heads of dirt and powder by gently scraping them with an edge of a credit card or other thin plastic. Don't use plastic that has a sharp edge, which can damage the drum heads. Clean the tabla heads whenever you see powder or dirt on them.


Tabla covers can be purchased or made.

Things You'll Need

  • Quality tuning hammer
  • Talcum powder
  • Tabla covers
  • Credit card or other thin plastic
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About the Author

Helen White has been a writer for more than 15 years. Her papers have been presented at conferences in both the United States and Europe and she has written several technical guides for various computer issues. White holds a doctorate in music from the University of Washington.