Basic Tala Concepts – Before Beginning The Basics

Adi Tala

The basic exercises in Carnatic music of Sarali Swarams, Janta Swarams, Dhatu Swarams, Hetchusthayi Swarams are all set to a cycle of 8 beats. This cycle is called Adi Tala (or Talam). So in order to execute the exercise perfectly, we need to understand a few elements of this Tala. The musical time is maintained by the performer by playing the tala through hand gestures. Watch the video to learn how to put Adi Talam.

Speeds of using Notes

Aksharam refers to the number of musical notes that we fit in a beat. This is the unit of musical time. So depending on how many notes we fit into each beat, the name of the kalam (or speed) changes.

  • 1st speed: 1 Aksharam or Note per beat – So we get (1 X 8) = 8 Aksharams in 1 cycle of Adi Tala
  • 2nd speed: 2 Aksharams per beat – (2 X 8) = 16 Akshrams in 1 cycle of Adi Tala
  • 3rd speed: 4 Aksharams per beat – (4 X 8) =  32 Aksharams in 1 cycle of Adi Tala

The basics of carnatic music are usually performed in three speeds.


Humans are intrinsically given to imperfection. So when we try maintain Tala using our intrinsic sense of rhythm, we tend to make errors in timing. So we can avoid that by taking the help of a metronome. Constant practice with a metronome significantly improves our internal sense of time.

The metronome works by providing us clicks (or other sounds) at regular intervals. We can change the tempo of the metronome to our requirement. The unit of this tempo is Beats Per Minute, which is abbreviated as BPM. So let’s say if the metronome was playing at 60 BPM, then we should hear a click timed perfectly after every second (60 seconds, 60 beats). The metronome offers us very precise control of the placement of beats. So it is an invaluable tool for practice, especially when starting out as a beginner.

12 Responses to “Basic Tala Concepts – Before Beginning The Basics

  • Thank you so much for explaining the basics .This is what iam looking for , and I could not find it elsewhere. Very helpful and informative .

  • kumaaraguruparan
    8 years ago

    thank you for a nice explanation. Athi thalam explained very nicely

  • fantastic

  • Vindhyavali
    7 years ago

    Such a wonderful and informative stuff. Now I could atleast try to understand the basic jargon used in the Carnatic music. Thanks so much !!

  • Ramadas K N
    7 years ago

    Thank you very much in making me understand the basics of Music. I would like to learn Violin under your guidence.

  • Roopashri
    7 years ago

    Basics are well explained. Which is not found elsewhere easily. Very good for beginners.

    • The basics are explained necely.
      I would like to learn under you music.

  • Visalakshi
    6 years ago

    Thank you very much.
    The basics are explained nicely.
    I would like to learn music under you.

  • Visalakshi
    6 years ago

    The basics are explained nicely.
    I would like to learn music under you.

  • Splendid !

  • Dr.suriyakala
    4 years ago

    Very good clear explanation

  • The basics of Talams are explained beautifully. However could you please teach us to identify the various thalams during a concert(identify roopaka,kanda and Misram etc;)

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.