Frequently Asked Questions about the TransTabla system

Q. Are the pegs and hammer still used to tune?

A. Yes. The fine tuning methods with the hammer have not changed, so you will continue to adjust the drum as you used to, but less frequent especially if you order   Vectran strap. You will now use the blocks only to adjust the difference in the heads out-of-balance points, keeping proper tension to allow the hammer to do its job. The blocks are no longer used to raise and lower pitch by large amounts, and can be kept in the most balanced configuration of 2 straps for the life of the head.

Q. Is the TransTabla heavier?

A. If you had your current shell retrofitted, it would add around 8 ounces to the weight if you have a light drum to start with. Tablas out in the world can vary by several pounds depending on the woods used, and the makers methods.

Q. Is the TransTabla taller than normal, or does it get really tall when you turn it?

A. The net change in height is meant to be zero from where the drum pulls up to its intended pitch. Every time you take out slack, you will be raising the height slightly, but it should be noted that any movement of the mechanism is multiplied 32 times in distance through the straps, so it’s unnoticeable for slack adjustments, and approximately 1/10″ for entire pitch adjustments. Tablas average around 10.5″ high and so will the TransTabla.

Q. What is considered “good condition” for trading in shells for credit?

A. Trade-in worthy shells will need to meet all of the following criteria:

  • Not severely warped or cracked
  • The rim of the shell needs to be around 1/2″ thick or greater.
  • No loose knots or other heavily damaged areas (normal hammer strikes and gouges are acceptable)

Q. Will the system work with traditional rawhide strap?

A. Yes. We prefer the Vectran due to its zero-stretch qualities, superior strength, and resistance to rot and mold. We have used rawhide strap on the TransTabla several times with no issues other than more frequent adjustments being needed due to the stretch.

Q. Does the diameter of the tabla determine the base kit or is the base kit universal?

A. Base kit is universal for any diameter tabla.

Q. What is the modification needed that you mention in the video?

A. Installation requires boring out a relatively small feature on the bottom of the drum, to accept the metal parts. There is a photo of this feature in the “Follow a Retrofit” section of our site. For now, all the drums will be finished and assembled here, but we hope to qualify machine and wood shops around the US and abroad where you may take your drum in to have modified and purchase the TransTabla parts. If you or someone you know is a skilled woodworker or machinist and would like to be licensed to perform the modification, please contact us.

Q. Can I buy the TransTabla parts separately and just have you retrofit my shell?

A. Yes. We offer a Self-Install Kit for those familiar with re-heading a Tabla. You will be responsible for strapping your own head and we will provide the TransTabla base parts along with the shell alteration.

Q. What type of Tabla heads do you use?

A. Whichever sound the best! We source heads from a variety of India’s most talented makers and test them for sound quality. Many are discarded in this process. When custom ordering, you can specify your preference as to a Calcutta style or Bombay style head. Each complete TransTabla we feature will have video clips of the instrument shown so you may hear for yourself before you buy.

Q. Will you be producing this system for the Bayan?

A. Due to the much lower tension (easier to pull), and much lower maintenance required for the Bayan, we have no plans to create a pulling system for it. However we do offer conversion of Bayan’s that will allow a pin style mounting for players who wish to sit in a chair or stand to play.

Q. What kind of range does the TransTabla have?

A. Range primarily depends on the diameter and type of head. The common sizes of 5-1/2″ and 5-5/8″ will have about a 1.5 pitch range, for example a “C, C#and D” pitch is a popular range. The larger diameter heads of 5-7/8″ and 6″ can have a 2.5 to 3 pitch range with cases of 4 or greater being reported back to us by users. The lower tensioned drums around G and A tend to have a greater range than the heads requiring higher tension around D and E.

Q. Isn’t moving the pitch around bad for the head?

A. With the traditional method of moving straps onto the blocks and taking blocks out to pull strap, there are many situations that could adversely affect the head. One had to pull each individual strap to nearly full tension, and the force is concentrated on a single point when doing so.  This could cause a part of the gab to come loose, weaken or break straps, or tear the head. The TransTabla differs by pulling every strap uniformly and simultaneously, thereby minimizing damage. It is not recommended to put the tabla head through a full-slack to full-tension movement frequently, TransTabla or not. However once the intended pitch is found, it is very low risk to make small pitch adjustments and should not adversely affect the head. Many users take advantage of the even and consistent adjustment made possible by the TransTabla to tune their drums down for travel. This can reduce damage from humidity and temperature changes and help preserve the life of the Tabla head.

Q. How should I ship my Tabla or TransTabla?

A. Most all major shipping carriers require 2″ of bubble wrap on all sides to honor insurance claims. Start by meeting this requirement by wrapping your Tabla with a cover securely attached if available. It’s recommended to lower the tension of your Tabla for shipping to reduce thermal expansion/contraction damage during transit.  You can also remove the blocks entirely to lower the profile, but this is not recommended unless removal of the head is necessary anyhow.  Wrap the blocks and place them in the voids that remain in the package. Double wall boxes are recommended and most Tablas will fit in approximately 12″ x 12″ x 15″ box dimensions.  If you are shipping to us, full insurance is required; contact your preferred carrier for details.

Q. What is the “racelacing” lacing method on the drums, does it change anything?

A. Racelacing came about as a result of a desire to see more of the beautiful wooden shells TransTablas are made of. This lacing pattern skips a downward turn of the strap to the base ring and instead loopes it through the next position and then wraps the base ring. Essentially the amount of visible strapping is reduced from 32 to 16 points. The benefit is purely aesthetic and would only be used for our complete custom TransTablas produced here, or upon request of a custom conversion. This lacing method only works with TransTablas due to the strapping being in a fixed position after lacing is tightened. This method also puts more pressure on the blocks as it’s the same force as having all 4 straps on the blocks, but using only 2.