A publication of the Batish Institute of Indian Music and Fine Arts

Tabla Lesson Nine
Rhythm Filler Pieces

by Ashwin Batish
Please Note: All content is copyright 2003 Ashwin Batish. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying, photocopying, transmitting this document on hard paper or electronically or by any other means is strictly prohibited and unlawful. You have our permission to link to this page.


Well, I just got off the phone with a really nice gentleman from New Jersey and he is a recent tabla student doing his life's dream project - playing the tabla!! I love this. I cannot be more happy than to hear from a new recruit. I feel blessed to have any new entrant into the field of music.

He specifically asked me to elaborate a statement I had made in one of my previous RagaNet Tabla Lessons and that was on the issue of how does one provide the filler pieces in an existing rhythm cycle. So I thought this would make a good article for RagaNet so here is some information on this.

When deciding to learn about how to fill a tala with these filler phrases, you have to understand some important questions first:

  • Why Fill?

    A tabla theka is a repeating rhythmic cycle. When you first learn it you are happy just to get a sound and then the more you play and get practiced, playing the same piece over and over again starts sounding monotonous. With a good teacher by your side, this process is less noticable as you get quickly put on a regiment of kaidas, tukadas, mukhadas, relas etc. .... well I hope so :)

    Even so,it is not often that these filler pieces are taught by a teacher. But if looked at carefully, they are the final result of becoming a well versed tabla player. What I mean by this is that as your study of the tabla gets into high gear, these pieces automatically start to filter in into your playing.

  • What are filler phrases?

    So what exactly are these filler pieces? Well, if you look at a theka of Tintal of 16 beats for instance:

    X 2 0 3
    Dha Dhin Dhin Dha Dha Dhin Dhin Dha Dha Tin Tin Ta Ta Dhin Dhin Dha

    Notice that if we were to play this very fast there would be hardly any gaps between each beat. By this I mean at least a tempo of four beats or more per second. So in every second count Dha Dhin Dhin Dha and so on. Therefore there would be very few fillers required if any. But if you were to slow this down and now play one beat per second or slower, now you have extra space that is a candidate for filling. Let's look at this aspect of the tala:

    X
    Dha Dhin Dhin Dha
    2
    Dha Dhin Dhin Dha
    0
    Dha Tin Tin Ta
    3
    Ta Dhin Dhin Dha

    Now you can see how much space has opened up. Here is where we put the fillers in for instance:

    X	2	3	4
    
    2	2	3	4	
    3	2	3	4	
    4	2	3	4	
    Dha	-	Ka	Ka	
    Dhin	2	3	Ka	
    Dhin	-	Dhin	-	
    Dha	Ge	Ti	Ta	

  • Are they tala specific?

    Some tabla filler phrsases are tala (taal) specific and some are not. The flow of the rhythm being played coupled with the tempo it's being played at will determine which fillers will sound good. The above example is for the Tintal rhythm cycle. In Jhaptal, for instance, the beat count is 2 - 3 - 2 - 3. Therefore the filler phrases will keep this split in mind and hence try to fill but not break this mold.

    X 2 0 3
    Dhin Na Dhin Dhin Na Tin Na Dhin Dhin Na

  • What makes good tabla filler phrases?

  • Is there a standard to what phrases are inserted where?

  • Secrets to becomming a fill expert!

Other Issues:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Please Note: All content is copyright 2003 Ashwin Batish. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying, photocopying, transmitting this document on hard paper or electronically or by any other means is strictly prohibited and unlawful. You have our permission to link to this page.

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