Broken or Fixable?

Tabla (smaller drum) & Baya (larger)
Tabla drums are very sensitive instruments that need consistent maintenance to keep them in good shape for playing. But even a drum that sounds horrible may still be fixable! Eventually even the best drums will wear out and need to be re-headed or replaced. This blog aims to help you find out what your next step should be.

General Maintainence

Over time a tabla or baya drum head will wear out due to normal use, tuning or improper care. Your drum may just need to be tuned to regain its tone. Read about how to Tune your Tabla

Your drum may also need to be properly cleaned to insure best sound. Over time sweat, powder & dirt collect on your drum. Learn to clean it properly on my page, Tabla Cleaning & Maintainence

You may have noticed that your tabla is making a buzzing sound. This is most likely due to loose piece on the head. Find out how to fix it on my page, Fixing a Buzz

When to Re-head

Re-heading is generally a much more inexpensive alternative than buying a brand new drum. If the shell of the drum and the strap (tasma) is still in good shape, a new head of a matching size can be purchased for much less than a new drum.
Tabla with broken head

Of course if your drum head rips it will need to be re-headed. Drum ripping can be due to unbalanced tension on the drum, thin, worn out or poor quality drum head, or even lightning! Yes, vibrations such as lightening can cause a tabla head to split!

The tasma (strap) should be flexible and strong. Dry, brittle or thin tasma tends to crack and break easily. When replacing a head, you may also need to purchase new tasma if this is the case.

When to Buy a new drum
If you are considering re-heading, its important that your tabla shell or body, usually made of a hard wood like rosewood, is free of major cracks. Also the top edge or lip of the tabla where the head rests should be even and smooth.

If you head is in bad shape, it you may be able to sand it or fill the cracks with wood glue. However, if both shell & tasma have issues, it may be time to purchase a new drum. Cracks usually keep increasing due to the tension of the strap and head, and the constant banging! So a cracked drum shell with worn out strap & head are usually a sign to buy a new drum.

How to tighten or loosen a tabla
Especially when the seasons change, or when traveling to places of varying climates, a tabla tends to loose its pitch or gain & loose tension. This results in an out of tune drum. To lower the pitch it may be necessary to take a strap off a few of the pegs to add extra slack.

Hook for pulling strap
Also overtime the number of straps we put increases as we tune and add more pegs to increase tension. At a certain point you will need to pull the slack of this extra strap through your tabla head using a tool.

Using a hook or similar tool can allow you to pull the slack through while adding or removing a peg. Traditionally you hold the drum in place with your feet while pulling and checking the tuning with your free hands. Wearing gloves is also recommended.

When the strap is up on all the pegs

The hook can also aid in pulling the slack through if you have all straps up on pegs and can not longer increase the tension. This involves pulling the slack through all the way around the drum as you remove each peg while maintaining tension.

Its important to keep the tension balance around the tabla head while you are pulling the extra strap through. If one side has no tension, the other side will pull and your head will go out of balance and out of tune.

Once you have pulled the strap through you will carefully put the pegs back on one strap evenly around the drum. Some use a screwdriver or other tool to push the tight strap back onto the peg. In any case be careful as this work is hard on the hands. Wearing gloves is highly advised.

Making a hook for pulling

Simply head to your local hardware store. You will need:

1. A large heavy duty screw hook (refer to photo) 
2. A section of round wood pole, about the size of a closet rack pole
3. electric power drill or hammer & nail

Cut the pole to a length that your hand fits around plus a little extra, and use the power drill or hammer & nail to make a small preliminary hole in the middle of the pole section. If the wood is soft and you have a strong arm, you might not have to use the power drill, but it makes it much easier.

Then twist the screw end of your hook into the hole. Make sure that your hook is in the wood very securely! You will be pulling with it a lot, and you don't want it to suddenly come out.

Now you can use your new Pulling Hook for general tabla strap tightening, loosening, re-heading etc!