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zennman

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Posts: 134
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi everyone,

I was wondering if any of you had some good exercises to get clean sharp terekite's and tete's... mine sound muddy and indistinct. I use three fingers to play terekite. Is there a trick to using pressure and wrist motion or something like that ?
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Chaz

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Reply with quote  #2 
The trick to clean, crips "te" sounds, be they tete, tirakita, or whatever, is to use the single finger technique. Three-finger strokes will always sound muddy and indistinct in comparison to really good single-finger technique. All your power should be in the fingertips, rather than distributed through your fingers. The trick, essentially, is to apply maximum strength through minimal surface area. To develop good Ti, tete, and tirakita you should first practice the three main beginner kaidas:

Dha Dha ti Dha Dha Dha tin na

Dha Dha tete Dha Dha tin na

Dha Dha tirakita Dha Dha tin na

playing "tete" as middle finger + index finger and tirakita as middle + index + ring finger (ring/pinky strike in unison but the power is in the ring finger). You should focus on minimal hand movement: the wrist should always be straight, with very little rotation of any sort when playing tirakita. You can also play some excercises like these:

/Tirakita / tirakita / tirakita / Dha - / tirakita / tirakita / tirakita / Dha -

tete tira kita tete tira kita tira kita tete tira kita tete tira kita Dha -

Really you can play almost anything you like so long as it's focused on one idea and infinitely repeatable (in other words, don't play gats or tukras). Whatever you play, work as hard as you can on playing clear and the clarity will come. The single-finger technique will be hard--perhaps impossible--to learn without guidance, but try it and see what you think. The clarity will not come immediately, but it will still come a lot faster than with three-finger playing.
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Aanaddha

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Reply with quote  #3 
Zen-dude,

I absolutely agree with Chaz. I also commend you on your critical self-awareness. - That's the biggest step forward. Most students tend view 'te' or 'tete' as a 'give-away' - not so difficult, and hence maybe not so important to practice as say 'dhineghene' or 'dheredhere' or 'takterekitetak'. Wrong!
I've been playing tabla for several years and it's only the last six months have I settled down to a routine practice such as Chaz has suggested. I know what he's talking about and I can confirm both the importance of what he suggests as well as the results. A strong 'tete' will set your hand for the rest of your tabla playing life! Take it seriously! 'Tete' is a key component of nearly every composition and every compound bol.
When playing tabla every finger has a responsibility to go precisely where it's supposed be and also to be in a position to move quickly and forcefully to it's next position. This isn't as easy as it appears. Like people, fingers are lazy sometimes, they don't get a clear message from the brain, they get in each others way, no one wants to do the hard part, etc., etc. with the typical excuses. You really have to drill and train these guys or they'll develop bad habits and end up falling asleep on the job. That's when things start to sound "muddy and unclear".
Watch your fingers carefully - yes! look at your tabla and at your fingers - look at where your other fingers are and where they're going! If you're confused then so are they and vice versa. If you can't follow their movement then you're practicing too fast; slow down - even if it's to slow-motion. Drill one finger at a time then two at a time, then forwards and backwards until they know what to do and where to be without your have to tell them. Make them speak; 1-1-1-1-2-2-2-2 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2 / 2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-2-2-2-1-1-1-1-1.... te-te-te-te-te-te-te-te.... do only this for 3-4 weeks and tell me if your terekita isn't almost as good as Zakir's! :wink:

This is how the Masters, the Gurus, and the Ustads learned, but nobody wants to believe that.

A.

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zennman

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Posts: 134
Reply with quote  #4 
Wow ! Thanks for the pointers, guys. I noticed part of my problem was I was using almost the entire length of my fingers to play tete. I have tried using the finger tips in the past, but gave up quickly because they don't sound as loud, and they make my hand tire easily. I think I will need to spend time on it. I am only very recently beginning to think about finger strength.. I played from my shoulders and forearm earlier. I am beginning to ease into it, and can now play with minimal wrist movement and zero shoulder bobbing.

I asked about the clarity because I saw the video clip of Speaking Hand yesterday, and his tete sounded way different and crisp than anything I can play. I saw it again now and noticed the finger tips too. Will get working on it. Thanks for the tips again ! Appreciate it.
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Chaz

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Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "zennman"
I am only very recently beginning to think about finger strength.. I played from my shoulders and forearm earlier. I am beginning to ease into it, and can now play with minimal wrist movement and zero shoulder bobbing.
excellent! That's a terriffic step. One of the most difficult things I had to learn in India was to quit using the shoulder and forearm for strength. It's all in the fingers, man. 8) What you'll find is that you need less strength and less movement for more sound, so it's win-win after the awkward first steps. Be sure to check out Ustad Shabbir Nisar's video clips for another example of a very stable, clear hand. Watch how little his shoulders and wrist move to create the sound he gets: this is what I aspire to!
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RD

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Posts: 43
Reply with quote  #6 
Great advice Chaz and Aanaddha! You guys said it!! When your tite's are played correctly and
I mean REALLY played. It makes everything after that- that much stronger. I have been spending most of my practice time latley on early compositions based around tete. and really trying to get them as clear as I can. Getting that Tete down and really "hearing" the beauty of tete will make everything else that much better. Realizing this is a sign of maturity in your playing.
R
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taal

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Posts: 140
Reply with quote  #7 
Hi;
Great experience sharing here on this very important topic! Very much essence of the forum is satisfied through such discussions.
I have been facing this issue since past few years and have spent lot of time and energy in finding out the exact process of bringing speed and flexibilty to hands. I havn't got much success yet, but believe me, I have tried all said above, still there is something "else" behind imparting those great movements to hands. However, there is no doubt that constant practise is the most undoubtful way as Aanaddha has said. Based on my experience, I add my following observations on this topic:

1. At first, the very bol under subject should be spelled as TiTa, and not as "tete". Tete is just not right translation of Devnagari and can be confusing to new comers.
2. While practising, it is equally important to hit at exact centre of syahi. If this is not observed, then the sound is not right and all effort is wasted. The reason that this has to be stressed is that it is bit difficult to take away one fingure and make space for other to play at centre for second Ta, and hence hand tries to take short-cut of playing off-centre.
3. In playing TiRaKiTa, it is equally important to play a powerful and krisp "Ki"; else whole bol sounds very dull. This is important beacuse we give less imporatance to left while we are concentrating on right one. Believe me, my stronger Ki has auotmatically improved right hand bols. It gives a kind of "jump'start" for following Ta.
4. Regarding issues of power from wrists or shoulders, keeping wrist straight etc, I have to say that tabla playing is just like handwriting. Each person has unqiue handwriting, it can't be changed. It can just be made better. It has to appear nice and should be legible. In the same way. we all have unique body structures, finger lenghts, finger power and flexibility. One really can not make his movements follow exactly like other person. Hence trying to imitate somebody's movements may lead to nothing but frustration. I am of opinion that as long as your playing looks ok (avoid too much shoulder and facial movements) and all sounds are produced right, follow any style that suits you. Go ahead and lift that hand and hit if you feel easy that way (and also it should look Ok). Dont get bounded and confused by all other body rules. However, again, constant riyaz is a must must.
More and more I observe other experts playing, my above opinion gets confirmed. Hopefully one day I will find satisfactory way.

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Taal
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dubois

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Posts: 24
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "taal"
1. At first, the very bol under subject should be spelled as TiTa, and not as "tete". Tete is just not right translation of Devnagari and can be confusing to new comers.
But some people learn to pronounce it "[size=200]ते टे[/size]"! David Courtney has this to say: "[te te] is often an indication of Punjabi origin." In this case I think it's a pretty good transliteration.

If one wants to get really picky, one could argue that "[size=200]ित ट[/size]" should be spelled "ti Ta" (or "tI Ta" if you meant "[size=200]ती ट[/size]")

I do not disagree that differences in bol pronunciation can cause confusion, but (as far as I know) these differences cannot be called errors. Any confusion just means the student is not yet ready to learn from anyone but his teacher. :-)
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Chaz

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Posts: 147
Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "dubois"
I do not disagree that differences in bol pronunciation can cause confusion, but (as far as I know) these differences cannot be called errors. Any confusion just means the student is not yet ready to learn from anyone but his teacher. :-)
This I agree with. While we're on the subject, I occasionally use i, e, and a to differentiate between middle, index, and ring fingers respectively (for example: "dhati teta") but since this is my own personal thing I rarely use it here.

Anyway, I also want to agree with Taal about hitting "te" strokes (whatever you call them!) in the exact center. That is definitely important.
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mbsobat

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Posts: 127
Reply with quote  #10 
Very useful discussion. I suggest to make a summery of importent issues and provide it for the new comers.
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rapture

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Posts: 471
Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Chaz"
The trick to clean, crips "te" sounds, be they tete, tirakita, or whatever, is to use the single finger technique. Three-finger strokes will always sound muddy and indistinct in comparison to really good single-finger technique.



This is totally ridiculous. Granted, a majority of tabla players use the single finger technique - it's easier to play tirakita this way. If you've ever listened to skillful players of the eastern gharanas - Banaras and Lucknow, you'd notice them playing with great clarity using the full-hand method. Anokhelal, Swapan, even younger players like Sandeep Das. I have seen Zakir using it occasionally as well. It takes more time and hard work to develop speed and clarity using this method than the single finger method, and your statement that it will "always" cause tirakita to sound "muddy and indistinct" is, quite honestly, ignorant and offensive to those of us who appreciate the Purab Baaj. The bottom line is that if you can't play clearly, then you aren't playing correctly.
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Chaz

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Posts: 147
Reply with quote  #12 
oh, I'm sorry, rapture; to be honest, I reread my post a few days ago and recognised how elitist it sounded (which wasn't my intent), and meant to revise my claim because it's not true that single-finger is the ONLY way to get clean and sharp te sounds (it is, however, a proven way). However, I really wish you and some of our other fellow posters would occasionally give other members the benefit of the doubt when they post something you don't like, rather than immediately go on the offensive. If you disagree with me, then please just say so without being rude and we can continue the discussion in a constructive manner. isn't that what you'd like too?

Anyway, I'm not even really sure if a majority of players use single finger technique regularly or not; I have the feeling that most people used Purab style these days. I personally don't believe that single-finger method is easier at all, because it requires much more finger strength to get the same volume, and allows the player to use a variety of unique stroke combinations that take a lot of time to practice. you cannot 'throw' the hand at all in the same way that it's possible to with purab style; the hand always has to stay controlled to get any sound at all (now naturally Swapan and other great non-Delhi style players arent' throwing their hand, but SOME do). Furthermore, I liken studying three-finger technique to learning to drive a clutch as opposed to an automatic car: when you can drive a clutch, you can drive an automatic, but if you only know how to drive an automatic then you can't drive a stick. Likewise, if you know single-finger tirakit and tete then it's easy to switch to Purab style.

You see, I studied Lucknow style tabla for years before learning Delhi style, but until I learned Delhi I could never have played two tirakitas in a row or even half of the things my hand is capable of now. And I certainly didn't play as clear. But you still have to play both styles. I still play a lot of purab compositions in Purab style, and I naturally revert to purab fingering when I play Dhira Dhira and compositions with "tak" (among others). Without a doubt, Purab playing is beautiful; listen to Nizamuddin Khan in his prime, or today's Swapan Chaudhuri. They play beautiful two- and three-finger tabla. Zakir has an incredible "dhatrekreDhetete", and that's a bol that loses its sonority if played with single-finger technique. But at the same time, it's beauty doesn't necessarily come from clarity, does it? Would you not agree with me that both styles have their advantages and uses, and that single-finger is a more effective means of producing clear and defined bols as opposed to powerful ones? (I promise you, If Zennman had asked about how to play strong and loud, I wouldn't have reccomended single finger playing.)

Anyway, thank you Rapture for offering an opposing perspective on this issue, because this conversation is hardly the last word on playing ti/tete/tirakita well. I hope we keep it going for a while!

[Edited for more insensitive, elitist content. :wink: ]
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Annakai

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Posts: 44
Reply with quote  #13 
This is a great thread- alot of really great practice techniques are being discussed. I really commend you all for the self-analyzation. My humble opinion is that sometimes our minds and perceptions of practice are the biggest hurdels to overcome in the technique of playing. I cant really speak for you guys, but I know this is true for me.
Chaz and Aanaddha - you guys are right on, man. Sometimes the tete's are the relatively understated soul of a composition, once they are beautifully played, everything can then fall gently into place.
RD, you posted a great idea of practicing early compositions - I learn so much everytime I play one. The straight-forward traditional compositions teach so much because ... I guess I could say that there are less embelishments to hide lazyness behind. We gotta face it - our hands get tired - but those compositions really target and trim the musculature of the hand - and forearm - nicely. :wink:
Also, Aanaddha I am so glad you brought up the idea of sometimes watching your hands while practicing. Playing tabla, we are not only musicians, but painters and dancers as well. Just as in a created image or choreographed movement, it is very important to self-analyze personal expression. Its a very effective, and simple way to find things to improve. My teacher once took this a step further. In the room where we practice, there is a large mirror and he once sat me down in front of it so I could analize the movement of my hands while playing. WOW! It made a huge difference - seeing my hands from a different perspective was phenomenal. It was equilivant to practicing while amplified - it really helped me to fine-tune my posture, technique, and overall efficiency. So that is something I do not hesitate to recommend!

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zennman

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Posts: 134
Reply with quote  #14 
I was going to come back to this thread in a couple of weeks, but looked like a good time for some updates.. So I have been practicing tete's with my fingers instead of the whole hand the past 2-3 weeks, and it has opened up a whole set of possibilities for me. At this point it is mostly the clarity and speed of the fillers (terekete's and derivatives there of) I am able to play. Practicing the technique has set me back a little bit on the compositions and gats, but I feel it has been very worthwhile. I need to continue with my finger tete's so they become louder (now it makes sense why many tabla players fingers look kinda swollen), but I can feel the difference already.

I also wanted to comment on Annakais suggestions... I have tried practicing with amplified tablas, and it is the most humbing experience ever. It makes you extremely aware of every mistake you are making.. the gats and quaidas I thought I could play well sounded like mud when I really could listen to the emphasises I was skipping and the vast descrepancies in timing and stroke volume. I also record myself playing and listen to it.. it is a really good way to catch the dips in the flow (poor timing, non uniform strength in playing bols) and laziness of the fingers (eg. skipping the last 'te' in terekite).

I agree with the mental aspect and practice perception idea also. I am currently without a teacher and it is so hard to motivate myself and create a plan for myself. Practicing the tete's has kept me occupied. Now I am trying to envision a setting/target and practice stuff that will get me there. For instance, I am trying to play the simple relas and dancy beats that will go with a fusion performace with a guitarist and a drummer. Practicing without a context is sooo hard when you don't have a teacher.

Thanks for the inputs everyone !
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