Taal, also known as tala, could be considered a musical measure. Better known as a musical meter, it is basically a rhythmic beat that measures musical time.

In what way is the musical meter executed, you may ask? The myriad of ways includes hand clapping, waving, touching fingers on thigh and striking of small cymbals or other percussion instruments found in India.

At this juncture, you may wonder if tala is a uniform method of measurement. It actually is not. It’s a hierarchical arrangement depending on how the musical piece is curated to perform. Since it changes from piece to piece, it is never a repeating pattern. You can read our blog, 5 Qualities of Successful Performers to upgrade yourself.

However, it is safe to assume that it is cyclical. In many musical pieces, there would be a fundamental pattern of cyclical beats and mini patterns to stray the audience away from the main “chorus” for a while. These are some of the ways musical artists keep their performances interesting; by introducing slight new elements. A common instrument that is used for tala is the percussive instrument table. If you were to find a YouTube video on any musical “kutcheri,” you would see a tabla player assist the other musicians for the tala.

Onto a glimpse of the technicality of thaalams, there are 6 types.

They are:

1) Soolathi saptha thaalam

2) Desadhi and madhyadhi thaalam

3) Chappu thaalam

4) Navasandhi thaalam

5) Simhanandhanam and sarapanandhana thaalams

6) Aparoopa thaalam

The major difference between the 6 types of thaalams/ tala would be the length of the beats between each note. They differ in speed too. In Indian music, there are mainly 3 speeds that are followed; the first speed (vilambitha kaal), the second speed (madhyama kaal) and the third speed (dhiritha kaal).

The most interesting thing is that the usage of tala is not limited to Indian music only! Counting beats like “1..2..3” is a form of tala because it is a musical measurement. So the next time you listen to a song, think of the tala!

The majority of the western songs follow the standard eight beats or four beats cycle. In the Indian taal (Thaalam) system the eight beats cycle is commonly known as Aadi Thaalam while the four beats cycle is known as Chaturashra ekam thaalam. While Indian music follows a pretty intricate taal / thaalam system. In order to know more, we need to know the components that comprise a thaalam. Angas or parts (components) of a thaalam play a significant role while formulating thaalams.

The following are the most basic Angas of a taal:

1. Laghu: A beat plus counting of fingers

2. Dhrutham: A beat and a turn of the hand

3. Anudhrutham: A beat

For notation’s sake, each anga has its own unique symbol. Another important aspect to note is the concept of ‘JAATHI.’ This determines the number of beats (mostly in laghu). There are five jaathis: Tisram (3), Chathushram (4), Kandam (5), Misram (7), Sankeernam (9).

Apart from the five jaathis, we also have seven basic thaalams. Those learning Carnatic vocal will be aware of the basic lesson Alankaaram in which the seven thaalams have been dealt with. They are – ‘Dhruva,’ ‘Matya,’ ‘Roopakam,’ ‘Jhampa,’ ‘Thriputa,’ ‘Ata’ and ‘Eka thaalams.’

The interesting fact to note is that each of the seven basic thaalams can be expressed in all the five ‘jaathis.’ This implies that we obtain a total of 35 thaalams as a result of the permutations and combinations. Such intricacies have only spurred on artists, percussionists in particular to utilise their creativity and create complex thaalams.

If ever in need of a fun mathematical exercise, what better than thaalams?

Thaalam- where Math, Rhythm & Fun Meet!!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments