Buying Tabla and Jori Drum Sets

Sikhism Drumming Instruments

A performing artist playing tabla. Getty / RBB

The tabla, also known as jori, is a pair of drums played during Sikh worship services which include kirtan, the singing of sacred hymns. The tabla establishes the rhythm and provides the beat, or taal, for the ragis, musicians who play a variety of instruments including the vaja, or harmonium, and various kinds of string instruments such as the dilruba.

Tabla sets generally consist of:

  • Bayan - a large round bass drum.
  • Dayan - a slender wooden treble drum.
  • 2 Heads - made of goat hide in small and large sizes, one for each tabla drum.
  • Puddis - "patties" sit atop the head to affect sound quality, and are either dry prefabricated colored with black ink, or freshly handmade from moist atta and natural colored.
  • Fasteners - leather lacing strips or steel bolts strap heads to drum bodies, and are tightened, or loosened for tuning.
  • Tuning blocks - wooden cylinders used with leather lacing to tune the head to desired pitch.
  • Tuning hammer - a metal hammer used to tighten or loosen blocks having a handle with a flattened end for prying or adjusting the head.
  • Cover - ties in place to protect the tabla head.
  • Cushion - a heavy ring to hold the tabla steady when played.
  • Case - fitted to carry or store the tabla set.

Bayan, or bass tabla, is available in wood (dhama / jori), or a variety of metals including stainless steel, copper, and brass. The bayan may be plain or embellished with intricate designs.

Dayan or wooden treble tabla is carved from hardwood such as Rosewood, (a.k.a. Jag, Sisu, Sheesham Tali) and may be plain, but is often decorated with ring designs carved around the drum base.

Tabla stands between 10 to 12 inches tall with the bass bayan tabla being about the same thickness as it is tall, and the treble dayan wooden tabla about half the thickness as it is tall. Each tabla weighs between 4 to 12 lbs (2 - 5 kg), with the smaller wooden dayan usually being the heavier of the two.

The large bayan, and small dayan, tabla heads each come in a variety of increments especially fitted for various sized tabla bodies. Round tabla covers come in in two sizes fitted to the heads. Cushions may be the same size, or two different sizes with the larger made to support the bass bayan tabla, and smaller to be used to support the wooden dayan tabla. The tabla and all accessories can be carried in a fitted nylon bag, or a rigid case which is tapered to fit the different sized tablas. Overall weight may range from 25 up to nearly 40 lbs.

Stainless Steel Tabla

Steel Tabla Set
Steel Tabla Set. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The basic bayan bass tabla is manufactured of stainless steel, and generally has no embellishments or design work. The economic stainless steel tabla is a good starting set for beginning tabla students.

Brass Tabla

Brass Tabla Set Painted Red With Etched Design
Brass Tabla Set Painted Red With Etched Design. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The brass bayan bass tabla may be nickle coated or have designs etched in a coating of metallic red or black paint. Some tooled brass bayan tablas are embellished with Double colored designs or emblems such as Ik Onkar, or other religious symbols.

Copper Tabla

Copper Tabla Set
Copper Tabla Set. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The copper bayan bass tabla may be chrome plated, embossed or have lacquered copper finish embellished with simple, to intricate, designs. The copper tabla may also have a double colored finish tooled and embellished with designs, or emblems.

Double Color Tabla

Double Color Brass Tabla Embellished With Ik Onkar
Double Color Brass Tabla Embellished With Ik Onkar. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The large brass, or copper, bayan bass tabla may be decorated with fancy double color designs, which may include religious emblems and symbols. One or more metals may be used to produce the desired deluxe finish.

Bolt Tuned Tabla

Bolt Tuned Brass Tablas
Bolt Tuned Brass Tablas. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

Both bayan bass and dayan treble tablas may use bolts rather than leather straps for tuning. Bolts are attached to metal straps which run the length of both bayan bass tabla and dayan wooden treble tabla. Tuning bolts may be tightened or loosen with a built in screw mechanism that is turned by hand by hand to produce various pitches to correspond to tuning of harmonium or stringed instruments the tablas accompanies. Each Tabla generally has 16 bolts with replacement sets of 4 bolts available.

Tabla Case

Red Fiberglass Tabla Case
Red Fiberglass Tabla Case. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The most basic way to transport a tabla set, is to place the tablas side by side on a 2 to 3 yard (meter) lenght of fabric, (such as turban cloth,) which is drawn up and knotted to fashion a handle. Most modern sets of tablas are complete with some sort of carry case. A wide variety of replacement cases are available such as a collapsible unlined nylon, or folding padded nylon bag, sturdy felt lined and leather case, or a locking hard-shell colored lacquered fiberglass tabla case.

Tabla Head

Goat Skin Tabla Head
Goat Skin Tabla Head. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The tabla head, available in two basic sizes, is made of animal skin, often goat hide and secured by leather lacing which may be of camel hide, or secured by bolted steel straps. Tabla heads have a black round patch composed of dried starch patties (


) which is integral to producing the desired sound pitch. The large metal bass bayan tabla requires a head between 8 to 10 inches across. The smaller wooded treble dayan tabla require a head between 4 to 6 inches across. Individual tablas vary quite a lot and it's important to measure the body and head carefully when replacing any tabla head.

Tabla Drum and Accessories

Tabla Set
Tabla Set. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

Bayan bass tablas made of various metal, designs and many finishes are available individually. Replacement accessories such as heads, tuning bolts and blocks are also available individually, as well as cases, covers and cushions sets. A variety of books teach the basics of playing tablas and practicing


, a measured beat with a specific count. CDs are an invaluable aid for listening to during practice.

Dhama Jori

Dhama Jori
Dhama Jori. Photo © [Courtesy Pricegrabber]

The traditional Jori differs from Tabla in that the Bayan or larger drum of the


from atta.


Performing Kirtan With Tabla and Harmonium
Performing Kirtan With Tabla and Harmonium. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

The vaja, or harmonium, accompanied by the tabla, and kartal hand held cymbals, is one of the most popular arrangements of instruments for performing kirtan at the Sikh gurdwara.

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