Instruments

Tambura (tanpura in north) is one of the classical instruments of the stringed group. It is a common instrument in the south and it is found in different varieties. In appearance tambura looks like the southern veena but it does not have the second gourd and elaborate head-piece. The resonance box or bowl of tambura or tamboori is made of wood and is spherical in shape having an upper covering made out of a plain flat plank. The length of the instrument varies from 31/2 feet to 5 feet. The hollow body of the tambura has a small neck. The bridge which is placed on the bowl in the center is made of wood or ivory. There are four metal strings attached directly to the narrow ledge fixed to the body of the tambura. Three of the strings are made of steel and the fourth and lowest one is of brass. The strings pass through holes in the ledge which is near the peg. The tuning pegs of the first and second strings are fixed at the side of the neck and the other two strings are at right angles to the head. There are beads threaded upon the strings between the bridge and the attachment to which they are secured. These beads act like a wedge between the belly which is slightly convex and the string, when it is pushed down in the direction of the attachment.There is a slight difference in the northern and southern varieties of tambura. In the south, tamburas usually have wooden bodies whereas in the north gourds are used. The tambura is held upright while playing. Sometimes the bowl is placed on the right thigh. The strings of the tambura are gently and continuously plucked with the fingers, one after the other. Little pieces of silk or wool is placed in certain positions between the strings and the main bridge to improve the tonal effect. The finest tamburas are made in Miraj, Lucknoe and Rampur in the north. Tanjavoor, Thiruvananthapuram, Vizianagaram and Mysore are famous centers of manufacturing tamburas in the south. Tanjavoor tamburas are beautifully carved and ornamented with ivory.

 

Santoor is a stringed instrument which is popular in the middle East. It is of great importance in Kashmir. Santoor is used there for accompanying a type of classical music called 'Soofiana Kalam', along with other instruments. Santoor is made of a box of wood, trapezoid in shape. Over this there are thirty bridges, arranged in fifteen rows, two in each row. A set of four strings of metal tuned to the same note is stretched over each pair of bridges, thus the total number of wires is sixty. The length and thickness of strings vary according to the octave, the strings are thickest in the lower octave. It is played with a pair of flat wooden pieces curved at the striking end.

 

Tabla is one of the most famous instruments of India. It is said that drums appeared early as 6-7th century AD. Drums are seen in the Pushkaras depictions in the Ajanta sculptures. The most interesting part of Indian drum is the loading of the leather surfaces, the right face carries a permanent loading. The tabla consists of two drums the 'bayan' played with the left hand and the 'dayan' played with the right hand. Bayan is made either of clay or copper while dayan is usually hollowed out of a block of wood. Both are covered with the skin fastened to leather hoops which are stretched over the body of the drum by means of leather braces. Cylindrical block of wood are wedged between the braces and the wall of the tabla. Wedges can be pushed up or down to lower or raise the pitch. The application of a mixture of flour and water to the left head of the dayan lowers the pitch and gives the dull bass sound. This plaster is always scraped off after use. In bayan, the plaster is mixed with iron fillings and it is applied once for all. Tabla has a light and sweet sound. Therefore it is well suited for accompanying kheyal, thumri and other soft instruments like sitar and sarod. Dayan can be tuned accurately, but bayan has an infinite pitch. It can be tuned accurately to an octave lower than tabla. The drums are kept erect on the ground and played with the fingers. Sound is produced by striking the center with full hand or the tip of fingers and press the bass of the palm towards simultaneously sliding it over the drum head. Tabla has a highly developed technique of playing. This instrument is capable of producing almost all the patterns of rhythms that a musician can conceive of.

 

Flute is one among the three celebrated musical instruments of India (the other two are veena and mridanga). It has various names such as bansuri, venu, vamshi, kuzhal, murali and so on. The flute was used in the Vedic period. In ancient India, flute was commonly used in the religious music of the Buddhists. It is used both as an accompaniment to vocal music and as a part of instrumental ensembles. Flute is a cylindrical tube made of bamboo with uniform bore and closed at one end. Flutes are of different kinds and their lengths and number of holes vary. The length can vary from eight inches to two and a half feet. There is a mouth hole in every flute. In addition to it there are 6 to 8 holes arranged in a straight line. The range of the flute is about 21/2 octaves. Long flutes have a rich, deep and mellow tone whereas in small flutes the tone is high pitched. The flute is held in a horizontal position with a slight downward inclination. The two thumbs are used to hold the flute in position. The three fingers of the left hand, excluding the little finger and the four fingers of the right hand are used to manipulate the finger holes. The player blows into the mouth hole, thus setting in vibration, the column of air inside the tube. The lowest octave of the scale is produced by altering the effective length of the tube by covering the holes with the finger. The player can produce any interval by opening or closing the available holes with his fingers. Bamboo flutes used in the north are longer than those used in the south. South India and Bengal are popular for horizontal flute. Vertical flutes are popular in the north and the west. These are held vertically and played through a mouthpiece.

 

Sarangi is one of the most important bowed instrument of India. Sarangi is suitable both for solo playing and group performances. Sarangi is about 2 feet long and made by hollowing out a single block of wood and covered with a parchment. A bridge is tied on the belly in the middle. The sides of the sarangi are pinched to facilitate bowing. Four tuning pegs are fixed to the hollow head, one on each side. The instrument usually has 3 main strings of guts. But in some type a fourth string made out of brass is used for drone. When played, sarangi is positioned in such a way that the uppermost part (head) is placed on the lap and the other end rests against the left shoulder. It is played with a horse hair bow which is held in the right hand. The finger of the left hand is used for stopping the strings. The most notable aspect is that strings are stopped with the sides of finger nails and not by the balls of fingers. Modern sarangis generally have 35 to 40 sympathetic strings running under the main strings. These are fastened to small pegs on the right side of the finger board and also on the top of the head. The other members of sarangi family are the Dotara, the Dhad sarangi of Punjab and the Chikara of Uttar Pradesh.

 

Sitar is one of the common stringed instrument of Northern India. The invention of the Sitar is commonly credited to Amir Khusrau, the great musician and statesman at the court of the Khilji. The name Sitar is derived from the Persian expression 'Seh-tar' meaning 'three strings'. In appearance Sitar is very much similar to Tambura. The body of Sitar is more or less spherical gourd at the lower end. The gourd is almost flat, like the back of a tortoise. Such a Sitar is called 'Kachchawa'. The finger-board of the Sitar is about three feet long and three inches wide, hollow and deeply concave, covered with a thin piece of wood. There are sixteen to twenty-two slightly curved frets of brass or silver which are secured to the finger-board by pieces of gut. The Sitar originally had only three strings, but the modern one's has a total number of seven strings which are fastened to pegs on the neck and the sides. These include the side strings (Chikari). Side strings are used both for the drone and rhythmic accompaniment. There are eleven or twelve sympathetic strings (Tarab) which runs almost parallel to the main strings under the frets. These tarabs are secured to small pegs fixed at the side of the finger-board. These strings are tuned to produce the scale of the melody. The Sitar is played by means of wire plectrum (Mizrab) worn on the forefinger of the right hand. All the styles peculiar to instrumental music namely; alap, jod, meend etc. can be played on this instrument with marked effect.

 

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