the tala

tāla [तालः - sanskrit], tāl [ताल - hindi]

We have many cycles in our life. We have natural cycles like the changing of night-time and day-time and unnatural cycles like dividing the day into 24 hours or dividing the week into seven days.

The tala (means: clap) is a rythmic-cycle, which starts at the beginning of a gat (composition) and shows the proper music-tempo (vilambit-slow, madhya-medium, drut-fast) whithout any break until the end of the gat, or even until the end of the raga.

The most important moment of the tala is the sam (joint, union), which is usually the first matra (beat) of the cycle. The second most important beat is the khali (empty), which is the unstressed part of the tala.

The sam is not only the beginning of the tala, but even a concluding item. Many phrases (tan, tihai) ends on sam.

All the tala-cycles of a raga, if played well, follow one another like pearls on a string.

The same length of beats could be divided into different talas, using different dividing-systems. The 16 beats can be played as tintala, sitarkhanitala, or even aditala. Of course, there are some rules which tell the appropriate tala for a composition.

The sound samples which you can listen to with the listed talas are in madhya (medium) tempo and all are 4 cycles long. In vilambit (slow) tempo or even in ati-vilambit (very slow) tempo, which you can hear mainly in vocal performances, the tala has a different bol-set. The stresses are constant, so the beats, stressed or unstressed, are left unchanged. In case of tintala you can listen to a vilambit variation also.

On stereo system you can listen separately, the bols (left channel) and the instrumental version (right channel).

frequently heard talas of Hindustani classical music

dadratala - 6 (beats)
rupaktala - 7
keherwatala - 8
mattatala - 9
jhaptala - 10
ektala - 12
chautala - 12
dhamartala - 14
adachautala - 14
jhumratala - 14
tintala - 16

dadratala (6 beats)
rythmic subdivision: 3+3
used in: thumri, bhajan

X     O     - stress
I I I I I I - beat
Dhin Dhin Dha Dha Tin Na - bol
1 2 3 4 5 6 - beat-counter

rupaktala (7 beats)
3+2+2
vilambit laya

O     1   2  
I I I I I I I
Tin Tin Na Dhin Na Dhin Na
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

keherwatala (8 beats)
2+2+2+2
thumri, dhun

X   2   O   3  
I I I I I I I I
Dha Ge Na Ti Na Ke Dhin Na
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

mattatala (9 beats)
2+2+2+3
vilambit and madhya laya

X   2   0   3    
I I I I I I I I I
Dhin TeRiKiTe Dhin Na Tin Na DhinDhin NaDhin DhinNa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
                 

jhaptala (10 beats)
2+3+2+3
vilambit and madhya laya

X   2     0   3    
I I I I I I I I I I
Dhin Na Dhin Dhin Na Tin Na Dhin Dhin Na
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
                 

ektala (12 beats)
4+4+4
khyal: vilambit and drut laya

X       O       2   3  
I I I I I I I I I I I I
Dhin Dhin DhaGe TeRiKiTe Tu Na Ka Ta DhaGe TeRiKiTe Dhi Na
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

chautala (12 beats)
4+4+4
dhrupad

X   O   2       3   4  
I I I I I I I I I I I I
Dhana Dhinana NaKana Katna Dhinana Nakana Dhinana Nakana TiTana KaTana GaDina GhaNa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

dhamartala (14 beats)
3+2+2+3+2+2
dhrupad

X     O   2    
I I I I I I I  
Kana Dhina Tana Dhina Tana Dhana -a  
1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
O     3   4    
I I I I I I I  
Ge Ti Ta Ti Ta Ta -a  
8 9 10 11 12 13 14  

adachautala (14 beats)
2+2+2+2+2+2+2
khyal

X   2   O      
I I I I I I    
Dhin TeRiKiTe Dhin Na Tu Na    
1 2 3 4 5 6    
3   O   4   O  
I I I I I I I I
Ka Ta TeRiKiTe Dhi Na Dhi Dhi Na
7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

jhumratala (14 beats)
3+4+3+4
khyal: vilambit and ati-vilambit laya

X     2      
I I I I I I I
Dhin Dha TeRiKiTe Dhin Dhin Dhage TeRiKiTe
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
O     4      
I I I I I I I
Tin Ta TeRiKiTe Dhin Dhin Dhage TeRiKiTe
8 9 10 11 12 13 14

tintala (16 beats)
4+4+4+4

X       2      
I I I I I I I I
Dha Dhin Dhin Dha Dha Dhin Dhin Dha
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
O       3      
I I I I I I I I
Dha Tin Tin Na Na Dhin Dhin Dha
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
             
madhya-drut tintála
vilambit tintála:
X       2      
I I I I I I I I
DhaDhaGe DhinDhaGe DhinDhin Dha DhaDhaGe DhinDhaGe DhinDhin Dha
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
O       3      
I I I I I I I I
DhaDha Tin TinTin Ta TaTeRiKiTe Dhin DhinDhin DhaTin
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
             
vilambit tintála

X - sam, the main stress of the tala, showing by clapping hand
O - khali, "empty" beat, showing by waving hand