Need Tabla Recording tips

Does anyone have experience in recording Indian Tablas. I have an upcoming session and it is the first time I would be recording Tablas. Need to know if I should mic each separately and whether I should use condenser mic or stick to sm57s…
Appreciate some tips

If you have a large room with some reflective surfaces I’d put the player in there, and get a bit of distance between the mic and Tablas.

Walk around the room playing them, find where they sound good. Try the condensor mic first, try at say a metre away and adjust the distance to get a nice blend of room and ambient sound. Adjust the height to change the balance of “slap” and “body” sound.

If you’re stuck with a small room, try micing close with the 57’s add your ambience in the box. Maybe 1 above, one below, try and keep them the same distance to avoid phase issues. Don’t forget to reverse the phase on the bottom mic.

You could try 2 mics above as well. One condensor and one dynamic might work well too.

There’s no hard and fast rules, try some stuff and see what you like.

No shame in asking the player. Invite him to listen to the recorded result.

Then do your mic adjustment needed, to get the wanted sound (fitting the song).

PS. I once were a front of house engineer, one day getting an Indian band to mix. I eq’ed the hell out of a “casio” keyboard sound (sounded like those kid keyboards) to get it somewhat ok sounding… Only to get run down by the whole band (and their families) telling me to let it sound as is, he he :laughing: :laughing:

After that, I always ask the band/player if they show up with an instrument I have never mixed or recorded (live or in the studio).

Good luck :slight_smile:

Condenser mics will give you more articulation and sensitivity. If the tablas are sitting in a dense mix, use these. Dynamics like 57s will be the opposite.

If it were me, I would mic with a couple of pencil condensers in xy close to them at 8-10" and add a room mic. You will get a lot of detail that you can soften with the room if it is too much. This can also aid in the mix, blending from near to far as the arrangement progress and does its rise and fall. Convert the mono room to stereo using a mono to stereo tool, or even better, use a spaced pair for the room along with the near xy.

Tablas aren’t a typical instrument. The sounds players get out of them like hand swipes, muted thuds and finger bends are not typical for hand percussion. They are very unique.

The question you have to answer to decide on technique is where are they going to sit in the FINAL mix? Think and visualize 3D. That should help you determine how you are to record them. You have to know this.

Relating to Tablas:
Dynamic mics: Less sensitive, slow and less defined transients and nuances, sits back in a mix.
Condenser mics: More sensitive, fast and defined transients and nuances, sits more forward in a mix.

Don’t mic at the rim. This will put the timbre of the instrument way out of balance in the recording. Tablas need mics placed at a little distance to sound like tablas.

Have an idea of what you want, experiment on placement, and nail it! :slight_smile:

Great advice!!!

I 1st learned this when recording a french horn (the bell fires backwards) in a brass trio.

Once the mic placement was correct and the player was happy, it was a great afternoon of recording.
Also, I got to learn something.

Good Luck!

To paraphrase Monty Python, "Nobody underestimates the Mid/Side Technique "

M/S is nice since it makes it possibe to make actual adjustments after the fact of the recording and … it sounds good if you do it right! :sunglasses:
Great for percussion in a room and including the room because it’s kind of part of the total sound so it’s part of the tabla experience.