Taals in Gurmat Sangeet

Tal, (variously transliterated as "tala", "taal" or "taala") is the Indian system of rhythm. It has been argued that rhythm is fundamental to the creation of any musical system. Certainly from a historic standpoint, rhythm existed many centuries before the word rag was ever used. Given this historical preeminence, it is not surprising that rhythm occupies an important position in the Indian system of music.

What symmetry is to the plastic arts, rhythm is to music.

Just as the "note" is the basis of the melodic compogs:nent of music, the bol (pronounced bowl) is the foundation for taal. Bol literally means speech or syllables. The vocal bols sound very similar to bols played on the percussive instrument. The most common tabla bols are Dha, Dhi/Dhin, Ti/Tin, Ra, Ki, Ta, Na, Tin, and Te. Different schools of percussion may pronounce the same bol differently. Several bols structured in a specific manner and arranged in sub-divisions are called thekas.

Each bol usually takes up one, halt or quarter of a beat (matra) in a theka. The first beat of a theka is called the sam (pronounced sum). It plays a crucial role in the improvisation structure during a recital -- since it becomes a point of convergence for both the melodic and percussive improvisation. A theka also consists of layers of accents or voids in the first beat of a sub-division. A degree of symmetry, with an elegant manner of the theka leading to the sam, is quite common in the arrangement of the bols in a theka. A theka (also referred to as tool) can theoretically contain between two and 108 beats, although in reality there is no limit. While bols have existed in the percussion repertoire for a long time, thekas are probably a recent phenomenon (perhaps only around 600 years old ) The commonly heard thekas are dadra (6 beats), roopak (7 beats), keherwa (8 beats), jhaptaal (10 beats), ektaal (12 beats), chautal (12 beats), dhamar, deepchandi, jhumra (all 14 beats but with different bols and sub-divisions), and teentaal (16 beats). Although thekas are usually standard, bols of thekas can vary slightly, depending on the musical school or individual style of the tabla player.

A raga is totally dependent on tal (pronounced taal). Vocal music, instrumental music and dance rely on rhythm for its effect on the audience. Tal/tala [1] is the means of measurement of time in music or dance. Rhythm is the breaking up of time in small units. Time is cut into pieces at certain regular intervals. Literally tal means the palm of the hand; the time is measured by the clapping of hands (tali) or beats of drums or sticks. Tal is divided into two halves; Bhari (full) starting with sam, and khali (empty) starting with khali. So tal is an organisation of rhythms or different beats in certain groupings which are smaller units of matras. These rhythmic units repeat themselves in cycles. The drummer has to produce the spoken syllable indicating the position of the hand on the drum.

Tala (also written as (‘’Tal’’) in Indian music and Gurbani Kirtan refers to a complete and complex system for the execution and transcription of Rhythms and Beats. There exist over 20 different ‘’Talas’’ or ‘Beat Patterns’. The most common Tala in Classical Indian Music is the Theen Tala. This beat has a cycle of 16 beats divided in 4 sectors. Sectors 1,2 and 4 are full while sector 3 is empty. These beat patterns can also be played at different speeds.

A taal does not have a fixed tempo and can be played at different speeds. In Hindustani classical music a typical recital of a raga falls into two or three parts categorized by the tempo of the music - Vilambit laya (Slow tempo), Madhya laya (Medium tempo) and Drut laya (Fast tempo). In Carnatic Music, there are five categories of tempo namely - Chauka (1 stroke per beat), Vilamba (2 strokes per beat), Madhyama(4 beats per beat), Dhuridha(8 strokes per beat), Adi-Dhuridha(16 strokes per beat). But, although the tempo changes, the fundamental rhythm does not.

Each repeated cycle of a taal is called an avartan. A tala is generally divided into sections (vibhaags), not all of which may have the same number of beats.

The word tal. Tal literally means "clap". Today, the tabla has replaced the clap in the performance, but the term still reflects the origin.

The basic concepts of tal are: tali or bhari, khali, vibhag or (ang), matra , bol, theka, lay, sam and avartan.

Tali - Tali is the pattern of clapping. Each tal is characterized by a particular pattern and number of claps.

Khali - Khali is the wave of the hands. These have a characteristic relationship to the claps.

Vibhag (Ang) - Vibhag is the measure. Each clap or wave specifies a particular section or measure. These measures may be of any number of beats, yet most commonly 2, 3, 4, or 5 beats are used.

Matra - Matra is the beat. It may be subdivided if required.

Bol - Bol is the mnemonic system where each stroke of the drum has a syllable attached to it. These syllables are known as bol. It is common to consider the bol to be synonymous to the stroke itself.

Theka - Theka is a conventionally established pattern of bols and vibhag (tali, khali) which define the tal.

Lay - Laya is the tempo. The tempo may be either slow (vilambit), medium (madhya), or fast (drut). Additionally ultra-slow may be referred to as ati-vilambit or ultra-fast may be referred to as ati-drut.

Sam - Sam is the biginning of the cycle. The first beat of any cycle is usually stressed.

Avartan - Avartan is the basic cycle.

The main instrument for keeping rhythm in Indian Music is the Tabla In connection with Tala or musical beats/rhythms and the ‘Ghar’ in the SGGS, the following can be concluded.

  • GHAR 1 - DADRA TAAL (There are 1 Taalis and the Beat has 6 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 2 - RUPAK TAAL (There are 2 Taalis and the Beat has 7 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 3 - TEEN TAAL (There 3 Taalis and the Beat has 16 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 4 - CHAAR TAAL (There are 4 Taalis and the Beat has 12 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 5 - PUNJ TAAL (There are 5 Taalis and the Beat has 15 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 6 - KHUT TAAL (There are 6 Taalis and the Beat has 18 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 7 - MUT TAAL (There are 7 Taalis and the Beat has 21 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 8 - ASHT MANGAL TAAL (There are 8 Taalis and the Beat has 22 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 9 - MOHINI TAAL (There are 9 Taalis and the Beat has 23 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 10 - BRAHAM TAAL (There are 10 Taalis and the Beat has 28 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 11 - RUDRA TAAL (There are 11 Taalis and the Beat has 32 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 12 - VISHNU TAAL (There are 12 Taalis and the Beat has 36 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 13 - MUCHKUND TAAL (There are 13 Taalis and the Beat has 34 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 14 - MAHASHANI TAAL (There are 14 Taalis and the Beat has 42 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 15 - MISHR BARAN TAAL (There are 15 Taalis and the Beat has 47 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 16 - KUL TAAL (There are 16 Taalis and the Beat has 42 Maatraas)
  • GHAR 17 - CHRCHARI TAAL (There are 17 Taalis and the Beat has 40 Maatraas)

Other Musical Instruments that are used in Indian Classical Music for Rhythm are Tabla, Dhol, Mridang, Dholki, etc

The common taals in Hindustani classical music Are:

Dadra - 6 matras

X                    0
dhin dhin na | dha thun na
Many variations of this theka exist, some going by the name khemta.

Rupak (7 matras)

0             1             2
tin tin na | dhin na | dhin na

Tivraa - 7 matras
(khula bols)

X               2             3
Dha din ta | tite kata | gadi ghene


X                        2         3
Dha dhere naga | kat ta | dhere naga 

Kaharvaa - 8 matras

X                    0
Dha ge na tin | na ka dhi na

Kaharvaa has countless variations, including dhumaali, "bhajani", and qawwali 
etc. It is often counted as 4

Jhaptaal - 10 matras

X            2                  0         3
Dhin na | dhin dhin na | tin na | dhin dhin na

Ektaal 12 Matras

X              0             2        0          3                      4
Dhin dhin | dha dha | tu na | kat ta | dhage terekite | dhin dhage 

Chautaal - 12 matras 
(khula bols)

X etc. like Ektaal
Dha dha | din ta | kat tage | din ta | tete kata | gadi gene

Ara Chautaal - 14 matras
X 0 2 0 3 4 5
Dhin terekite | dhin na | tu na | kat ta | terekite dhin | na dhin |dhin na

Dhamaar - 14 matras
(khula bols)

X 2 0 3
Ka dhe te dhe te | dha - | ga te te | te te ta -


Ka dhe te dhe te | dha - | ga di na | di na ta -

Tintal - 16 matras

X 2 0 3
Dha dhin dhin dha | dha dhin dhin dha | dha tin tin ta | tete dhin dhin dha

The theka becomes very ornamented in slow speeds. The "tete" of 13th matra can 
also be played "ta" or "tre
kre". "ta" is often pronounced "na" for euphony. Strictly speaking, "terekite" 
should never be substituted for
"dhin" of 2nd matra as this brings in the unwanted shadow of tilwara tal.

Sitaarkhaani - 16 matras

Vibhags as for tintal
Dha gedhin -ge dha | dha gedhin -ge dha | dha getin -ke ta | ta kedhin-ge dha

Matta taal - 18 matras

X 0 2 0
Dhin terekite | dhin na | ti--kre tina | terekite tina | kena dhidhi|
4 5 6 0
nadhi dhina | dhina gadha | terekite dhina | gadha terekite 

Tivra - 7 beats
(khula bols)

X 2 3
Dha din ta | tete kata | gadi ghene


Dha gere naga | ga di | gere naga
X            2                          0                  3
Dhin na | dhi--kre dhidhi na | ti--kre titi na | dhina gadha terekite

Dipchandi - 14 matras

X                2                   0          3
Dha dhin - | dha dha tin - | ta tin - | dha dha dhin -

The last four matras can be played "dha dha dhin dhin". Some tabla players put 
"na" in the gaps.

Sultaal - 10 beats
(khula bols)

X             0         2             3              0
Dha dha | din ta | tete dha | tete kata | gadi gene

Jhumra tal - 14 beats

X                           2                                   0               

Dhin -dha terekite | dhin dhin dhage terekite | tin -ta terekite | dhin dhin 
dhage terekite

Tilwara - 16 matras

X                                 2                        0
Dha terekite dhin dhin | dha dhage tin tin | ta terekite dhin dhin | dha dhage 
dhin dhin
Used for vilambit vocal, a variant of tintal.

Upatal Jhampak (also known as Roopam) - 8 1/2 matras

X            2                  0         3
Dhin na | dhin dhin na | tin na | dhidhi na/2 | 

Division Of Beats:

Tintal 16 beats divided 4-4-4-4    
Dhamar tal 14 beats divided 5-2-3-4    
Ektal and Chautal 12 beats divided 2-2-2-2-2-2    
Jhaptal 10 beats divided 2-3-2-3    
Kaharva tal 8 beats divided 4-4    
Rupak tal 7 beats divided 3-2-2    
Dadra tal 6 beats divided 3-3    
Adha-Chautal  14 beats divided 2-4-4-4.  

Timing of Gurbani Raags  
Glossary of Indian Musical Terms  
Taals in Gurbani Sangeet