Book Review: Music, Language, and the Brain (Tabla)

I will not pretend to understand music theory to the extent of many of the experts in the field of music cogntion. It is, however, a goal of mine to take a class in music theory and to learn a musical instrument within the next two years.

Rather than discuss in detail the terms I briefly introduced in my previous blog, I will instead move on to the instruments Patel discusses as he presents a comparison and contrast between music and speech.

The first instrument is the Tabla. Patel writes,


I’m guessing that many of you, like me, have never heard of the Tabla before reading this post. Patel provides the above description and follows it up with a definition of each drum. a large drum (Bayan) that sounds with a lower pitch and a smaller drum (Dayan) that sounds with a higher pitch. Still, I think it would be even better to see the Tabla in action.

In the first video, watch then eleven year-old Priyanka Menon playing the traditional kaida with the Tabla. As this website is about music and children, it seemed fitting to see a child passionate about a non-western instrument! In the second video, bringing the Tabla even closer to western culture, watch Mark Ronson play along to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”. I invite you to watch both videos in full to adequately appreciate this instrument.


To me, this instrument almost sounds like a guitar. I hear chords more than just beats. Patel examines this more closely in the linked video. Those sounds the instrumentalist is making at the beginning of the video are called vocables, or speech sounds. In comparing and contrasting the spoken vocables and tabla beats, one can see how the tabla can be useful in researching the similarities of speech and music.

tabla 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *