Tabla is a pair of small drums played in the chamber music of northern India. It consists of a pair of drums, the smaller right hand one called dayan and a left hand larger metal one called bayan. The dayan (right hand drum) is a higher pitched one-skinned drum usually of wood and having the profile of two truncated cones bulging at the centre, the lower portion shorter. Skin tension is maintained by thong lacings and wooden dowels that are tapped with a hammer in retuning. It is usually tuned to the tonic, or ground note, of the raga. The diameter at the membrane ranges between five to over six inches.
The bayan (left hand drum) is a deep kettledrum, usually of copper but can also be of wood, iron, aluminum, steel, or clay. Generally brass with a nickel or chrome plating is the most common material. The membrane is held with a hoop and thong lacings to maintain skin tension. Pressure from the heel of the player's hand varies the pitch. The drums are played with the fingers and hands. Important characteristic of the Tabla is the large black spot on the playing surfaces giving it harmonic overtones. These black spots are a mixture of gum, soot, and iron filings. Their function is to create the bell-like timbre that is characteristic of the instrument. Tabla is believed to have evolved from the barrel shaped drum called pakhawaj about two hundred years back.