Lessons in Japan with Glen Kniebeiss were inspiring and challenging. I would arrive fresh off the train or bike and settle into either the tiny music room or in the light-filled, airy, high-ceilinged living room. Each lesson would begin with some tea- Japanese or Indian, usually accompanied with an audible exhalation from either one of us. Then we would begin.
Time would fly by, and by the time we tapered off, it would easily be an hour and a half or two later.
The first couple of weeks we covered basic strokes. We learnt their names, refined fingering techniques, and internalized tone production.
As a means to put these strokes into practice, we learnt a theme and variation compositional form, called the kaida. Learning the kaida form enables students to learn the tabla holistically. This is because of the many requirements when it comes to playing a kaida. While non-Indian classical musicians may practice scales or particular rhythms and work separately on a performance piece, the tabla player can utilize the kaida form to practice both performance and "training" repertoire. Ongoing practice of kaida polish the musician's ability to achieve both consistency of sounds and clarity of tone production, to exercise restraint when playing, and to maintain a constant tempo.