A composition in Hindustani music is set to a particular rhythm cycle (taala), which consists of a fixed number of time units or counts (maatras) and is made up of two or more sections. The first beat of each section is either stressed (shown by especially emphasised clap) or unstressed (shown by a silent wave of the hand).
Among the taalas which are in common use, the sixteen-beat tintal (or trital: 4+4+4+4) is perhaps the most popular today. Other common taalas are:
- dadra - six counts: 3 + 3
- rupak - seven counts: 3 + 2 + 2
- kaharva - eight counts: 4 + 4
- jhaptaal - ten counts: 2 + 3 + 2 + 3
- ektaal and chautaal - twelve counts: 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2
- dhamaar - fourteen counts: 5 + 2 + 3 + 4
- dipchandi - fourteen counts: 3 + 4 + 3 + 4
- addhaa tintal or sitaarkhani - sixteen counts: 4 + 4 + 4 + 4
Drum syllables of tabla (or other percussion instruments) = bols ('words').
Memorised, can be spoken = patterns of drum strokes.
Basic bol pattern = characterises taala = theka.
Sam = first beat of cycle, Beat counterbalance = khaali.
Generally, khaali is in middle of cycle, except rupak, where falls on first beat.
Tempo (laya) at which composition performed specified in relative terms:
• Vilambit (slow).
• Madhya (medium).
• Drut (fast).
As performance progresses, the speed of rendition goes on increasing.
In layakari ('playing with rhythm'), rhythmic variations introduced with reference to the basic tempo.
The simplest form of layakari involves playing at various tempos such as
• Daidh (one and a half times the original speed)
• Dugun (double speed)
• Tigun (three times the original tempo)
• Chaugun (four times as fast).
In more complex layakaris, off-beat movements and mixed tempos used.
In vocal music, words spaced in different ways over rhythm cycle.
Currently popular feature of performance = tihai, a pattern repeated three times and ends on sam or mukhda.