Tintal is one of the most popular tals for the performance of classical Indian music. It is often referred to as the "king" of all other cycles. Comprised of 16 beats that are divided into 4 vibhags of 4 beats each, tintal is fairly easy for listeners to relate to as one naturally feels 4 bar phrases within 4/4 time. Although tintal can be loosely compared to a 4 bar phrase of western music important distinctions must be made. Within classical Indian music there are no specific bar lines. Instead we find rhythmic cycles which begin and end at the first beat of the cycle called sam (+).

Tintal literally means "three claps": tin = three, tal = clap. As shown below, the claps occur at the beginning of the first, second, and fourth vibhag, with the khali wave (o) present at the beginning of the third vibhag. The musician must provide clear and consistent theka accompaniment while also introducing appropriate improvisations and ornaments. During this more interactive role there is a constant blending of theka ornaments with other compositional forms such as tihai and mukhra. Within basic tintal theka many interpretations and bol ornaments can be incorporated by the player. However, if too much ornamentation is present, the primary bols of the theka might become disguised, confusing the artist you are accompanying, or listeners who may be distracted by excessive ornamentation. Imagine the basic theka (shown below) as being like a green pine tree situated in the living room of a home. As ornaments are tastefully placed onto the tree, we feel a sense of purpose and understand the mood of the event that is celebrating Christmas. However, if too many ornaments are used, then the tree becomes hidden until we no longer see it. Similarly the tintal theka would become buried by excessive bol ornamentation. It is a careful balance of ornaments which convey the mood and natural aesthetic of Indian music.

So far we have examined tintal in conceptual ways using tali clapping and bol recitation. Now we must adapt the bols to the tabla. Repeat the basic theka over and over until it is comfortable and fluid. Then begin adding tasteful theka ornaments like those shown on the pages which follow. Note: all dhin strokes are played on the sur of the daya.

Tintal 16-beat Theka (4 vibhags - 4+4+4+4)
clap  +  dha     dhin    dhin    dha
clap  2  dha     dhin    dhin    dha
wave  o  dha     tin     tin     ta
clap  3  ta      dhin    dhin    dha

Notice that the khali vibhag (third line) begins with the stroke dha, which is clearly a bharee bol played with open bayan. Also note that the fourth line begins with the khali bol ta. In essence, khali has been displaced by one beat. This is where much of the beauty and form of the tintal cycle exists as the four beats of khali have been delayed by one beat (tin tin ta ta). This rhythmic shift adds significant momentum and character to the 16-beat cycle. Interestingly, some tabla players do not shift khali by one beat. Within this less common approach, the entire third vibhag is played with khali bols (ta tin tin ta), with the entire fourth line played with bharee bols (dha dhin dhin dha). I personally do not recommend interpreting tintal in this manner.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whenever the khali bol tin is played, it should always include the left hand playing the dry stroke bol ka on the bayan.