Both tabla and pakhoaj are prominent percussion instruments in Hindustani classical music, but they have distinct characteristics and purposes:


  • Description: A pair of hand drums, a larger “bayan” (bass) and a smaller “dayan” (treble), played separately with fingertips and palms.
  • Uses:
    • Accompaniment: Primarily used to accompany vocalists and other instruments in khayal, thumri, and other classical styles.
    • Solo performance: Can be played solo in intricate and virtuosic compositions called “taal solo” or “chakradhari.”
    • Rhythmic foundation: Provides the rhythmic framework for a performance, with various “bols” (strokes) creating complex rhythmic patterns.
  • Sound:
    • Brighter and sharper than pakhoaj due to the use of fingertips and smaller “bayan.”
    • Capable of a wider range of dynamics and tonal variations.
    • Characterized by intricate and fast-paced taals.


  • Description: A single barrel-shaped wooden drum played with open hands and fingers.
  • Uses:
    • Primarily used in solo performances focusing on the instrument’s tonal and melodic capabilities.
    • Used in traditional devotional music like bhajan and kirtana.
    • Historically associated with dhrupad singing, a more ancient and stately vocal style.
  • Sound:
    • Deeper and mellower than tabla due to the larger size and open hand playing technique.
    • Emphasis on resonant, sustained notes and melodic phrases.
    • Often played in slower, contemplative taals.


  • Both are fundamental instruments in Hindustani music, influencing rhythm and aesthetics.
  • Both require extensive training and mastery to produce nuanced and expressive sounds.
  • Both have rich historical and cultural significance.


  • Playing technique: Tabla uses fingertips and palms for a wider range of strokes, while pakhoaj mainly uses open hands for a different sonic palette.
  • Purpose: Tabla focuses on rhythmic accompaniment and virtuosity, while pakhoaj emphasizes solo melodic exploration and tradition.
  • Sound: Tabla is brighter and sharper, while pakhoaj is deeper and mellower.
  • Typical musical context: Tabla is more prevalent in diverse styles, while pakhoaj is more associated with specific genres like dhrupad and devotional music.

Ultimately, both tabla and pakhoaj are powerful instruments that offer unique contributions to Hindustani music. Their differences in sound, playing style, and purpose add richness and diversity to the musical landscape. Understanding their individual characteristics can enhance your appreciation for their distinct roles in classical music.

Oh Xnap! Looks like we have to do this the old-school way, call us: +91-9620931299