Before I continue with this lesson, I had a good question from one of our readers. I’d like to address his concerns here.
Hi. I am trying to learn the tabla at the relatively advanced age of 53. I have a good teacher and everything is going well except that I have trouble sitting on the floor for any length of time without pain. In your experience, will this get better with time, or should I save myself a lot of trouble and move to a table. This might be a good note for your excellent lesson series.
Thank you for your question. I’ll be putting this info up on my next Tabla Lesson in RagaNet.First let me say that the following suggestions are given with my utmost respects to your teacher and his view point. His recommendations are what’s normal to any tabla training. But your situation calls for different measures. So here’s what you might like to look into….
Many Western students have this problem and it can be distracting from the learning process.
In India, this habit is adopted for no other reason but because our life style is such that everything is floor level. This is viewed upon as a tradition and hence students find themselves under pressure to conform. Not that I’m against this way of sitting. It is my prefered position of playing the tabla. But I like to think that if there is phisical limitation and there is another way that’s more comfortable and does not hinder your learning process…. go for it! Since tradition in the West is towards sitting up on chairs and platforms this also conforms well to performance and practice.
There are different floor level positions for playing Tabla. Let me try covering the most popular.
Many women tabla players are actually encouraged to sit with both legs turned to one side or kneeling as the Japanese do. This probably has something to do with cultural norms. Men are encouraged to sit cross legged or on their knees as the Japanese. As an alternate, I recommend this kneeling position. It also tends to give you some height over the Tabla hence allowing you to strike more boldly. You might try putting a pillow between your heels and your buttocks. This will allow you to sit for extended lengths of time. If you have knee problems, you might look into knee pads. A lot of builders use these for relief.
The issue is, if you are planning to play with another musician, how are they seated? Because, it can be a visual distraction to not be at the same level as other artists you are accompanying.
I have often seen tabla players, especially in recording studios, in India, place their drums on a platform (sometimes this would simply be a pair or chairs) and play sitting on another chair. This works in this situation because all the musicians are being recorded, so visuals are not an issue. But this can be designed to look pleasing in a concert situation.
I am currently working on designing my own tabla holders made out of cast iron. The Tablas fits perfectly on the rings and you can play your drums standing up! Boy that’s going to give some traditionalists nightmares!