The playing technique is complex and involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds and rhythms, reflected in mnemonic syllables (bol). In the Hindustani style tabla is played in two ways: band bol and khula bol. In the sense of classical music it is termed "tali" and "khali.
The smaller drum, played with the dominant hand, is sometimes called dayan (literally "right" side ), dāhina, siddha or chattū, but is correctly called the "tabla." It is made from a conical piece of mostly teak and rosewood hollowed out to approximately half of its total depth. The drum is tuned to a specific note, usually either the tonic, dominant or subdominant of the soloist's key and thus complements the melody.
The tuning range is limited although different dāyāñs are produced in different sizes, each with a different range. Cylindrical wood blocks, known as gatta, are inserted between the strap and the shell allowing tension to be adjusted by their vertical positioning. Fine tuning is achieved while striking vertically on the braided portion of the head using a small, heavy hammer.