Usage of Svaras in Dhrupad: The most distinctive quality of Dhrupad lies in the beauty and the elegance with which it uses the Svaras. The Raaga is rendered here in its purest form. No mixing of other Raagas is permitted in Dhrupad as is the case with other more recent styles like Khayal, Thumri, Tappa etc.
Tala or rhythm in Dhrupad: Another characteristic feature typical to the Dhrupad is its Tala or rhythm. A Dhrupad singer is required, to have perfect control over the Tala. In earlier times, there were Dhrupads in which a singer had to follow a different Tala in each line. The first line for instance may be in Cautala which contained twelve Matras (beats) while the very next line may be in Jhapatala which contains ten Matras. Rendition of such a composition was obviously extremely difficult. Thus, it is seen that most of present day's Dhrupad singers select only those Dhrupads for demonstration which have a uniform Tala in all the lines.
Poetic and Literary Content in Dhrupad: An outstanding characteristic of the Dhrupad is its poetic and literary content. This is perhaps the only musical form where the poetic qualities are held to be just as important as the melody. In Khayal, the poetic quality and the literary content are not nearly as important as in Dhrupad. The Dhrupad thus represents a unique balance of Svara, Tala and Pada.
Laya in Dhrupad: Another attribute of Dhrupad lies in the complexity of its Laya (tempo) which requires the singer to demonstrate a high degree of sophistication in changing the tempo. This feature of Dhrupad can be said to be its essence. It comes as a legacy from the Gitis of even more ancient times.