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Indian Classical Music Notation System : Taal

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3. Taal (Tal, Tala): Taal is the rhythmic pattern of a piece of music. It is akin to the time signature in western music. It is a repetitive sequence of beats in a specific pattern of stresses and rests in between. The commonest Taals, unlike Western music, are those that are “Additive Time Signatures.” Western signatures are more simple, compound or complex.

Tempo is noted Laya: Vilambit laya (Slow tempo), Madhya laya (Medium tempo) and Drut laya (Fast tempo). Each taal can vary in speed according to this.

Patterns are noted like 3+4+3+4, meaning 3 beats in 1 measure of time followed by 4 beats in 1 measure of time repeating itself – i.e. one, two, three, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, one, two, three, four. In western notation his will be (3+4+3+4/4) – meaning 4 meters with 1/4 notes divided as alternating groups of 3 and 4. The sum of the above expression is the number of total beats in that taal played in unit time. So, 4+4 is not that same as 4+4+4+4. This is because the 1st beat of every taal is played with an added accent. The spacing of the accents is also different for different taals. These sections in between two consecutive accents are referred to as Vibhaga (or Partitions).

Common taals are:
    Rupak taal:   3+2+2
    Dhamar taal:  5+2+3+4
    Teentaal:     4+4+4+4
    Jhoomra taal: 3+4+3+4
    Ektaal:       2+2+2+2+2+2
    Daadra taal:  3+3

Teentaal is equivalent to the Western 4/4 with an accent at the beginning of every 4th meter.

Indian Classical Music:

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