Some of the stringed instruments are described below, along with instructions regarding how
This is one of the oldest and
instruments used for accompaniment of vocal music. Being a stringed instrument, it is
both for giving support to the notes of vocal music and as a drone.
There are four strings in the tanpura. The first to the left is of steel. Sometimes
tanpura is used for accompanying a male voice, the first string is of brass or
string is called oancham because it gives out the note of P. This is tuned to the P
madhya saptak when accompanied by a harmonium. In the raga in which P is
(as for instance in Malkaus raga), this string is tuned to M shudh. In the
place, the two middle strings of steel should be tuned to S of the male singer. The fourth
of brass or bronze. It is tuned to S of the mandar saptak. (In the case of a female
the S is set to fourth of fifth black reed of the harmonium). Some
five to six strings. The normal tuning is P S S S. If there is no P in a raga, then tune M S
S S. In
case of the fifth string, the tuning will be as such: If there is N in the raga, then P N S
S S : if
there is no N in the raga, then P S S S S: if there is no P in raga then M S S S S. In case
of a 6th
string, the tuning will be as follows: If there is NI in a raga, then P N S S S S: if there
is no N
in a raga, then P S S S S S; if there is P in a raga, then M S S S S S.
Sitar literally is a
the Persian word-sihtar-which means three strings. In the beginning, there were
strings, but now seven strings are used.
The components of a sitar are similar to those of the tanpura. It has a
tabli, keel, dhurch, dand, gulu, atti gahan and sirra like the tanpura.
has however seven khootiyan (pegs) and one manka (bead).
The sitarhas seven strings. The first string on the left is made of steel. It is
Baj-ki-tar. It is tuned to M of mandar saptak. This is the string which is
frequently used in playing the sitar.
The second string is made of bronze and is called jori-ka-tar. The string
to S of mandar saptak. The third string is made of bronze. This is also
jori-ka-tar. The string is also tuned to S of mandar saptak like the
string. These two strings are tuned in the very beginning like the tanpura. The
string is made of steel. This is tuned to P of mandar saptak. The sixth string is
thin steel and it s called chikari. It is tuned to S of mandar saptak. The
string is also made of thin steel and is also called chikare. It is tuned to S of
saptak. Some people tune the seventh string to the pancham (P) of madhya
This is the plectrum made of steel or brass which is worn on the right hand
finger. When the plectrum plays on the strings, it produces vibrations which causes
When the plectrum touches the first string, the sound produced is of D and on the second is
R. Some sitars have ab extra toomba (gourd) at the end of the neck or midway. The
played with the following gat (sequences):
(a) Alaap: It corresponds to the vocal style of the raga.
(b) Jor: This is the playing of the raga on the sitar in medium tempo after the
alaap and without tal.
(c) Jhala: Playing on the chikari strings in quick tempo which
like D R R
R - is called jhala. The first string gives the note of D, and the final chikari
the tone of R.
(d) Asthai and Antra: Asthai is fixed composition of the raga. The antra is
compliment to the asthai. In the improvisation of the raga, after asthai
antra, meend (gliding) and jamjam/murki (trill) are played frequently.
Tans are also played.
Nowadays sitarists generally play in khayal style. Sometimes
is also used. Like khayal singers, instrumentalists will play in drut
tempo). They will play a new asthai and antra, generally in
then improvise at a very fast tempo until the performance reaches an exciting climax. This
is called drut gat (fast composition) and is climaxed by a fast jhala piece.
The sitar is very delicate instrument and as such it is to be kept and maintained with care
caution. The following points need to be noted:
(a) The sitar should be kept covered, preferably in a cloth cover or a plastic bag.
(b) The sitar should be kept lying on the floor, the frets facing upwards. It can also be
standing in a corner.
(c) The sitar should be cleaned frequently with a piece of soft cloth.
(d) The strings should be periodically loosened so as to reduce the tension on them.
the oldest stringed instrument belonging to the seventh
the veena. There are various kinds of veena, but mainly they belong to two
categories: north Indian and south Indian. The north Indian veena is called vachitra
veena and has no frets. The south Indian veena is more complicated and is
saraswati veena. As the name implies, this instrument is supposed to be the
Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Some of the veenas have the painting of the
the body. There are also other types of veenas with motifs of peacocks or
some animal. The veena has seven strings of brass. Four strings are tuned to S, P,
S, P and
the remaining three are drone strings tuned to S P S. The south Indian veena has
twenty-four frets fixed by wax. It may have one or two resonating gourds. It can be played
fingers or with a plectrum. There is also a superior kind of veena carved out of
of wood. The veena is played in a horizontal position as it rests on the lap of the
The sarangi is a
stringed instrument of North India. It has been in use from the thirteenth century. It can
either solo or as an accompaniment of khayal or thumri or folk-song. The body is of
wood and the lower part is covered with skin. The upper part containing the pegs is jointed
lower part. Generally, there are three strings made of cat-gut and re tuned to S, P, S in
saptak. In some cases, first string may be of metal. Some sarangis also
sympathetic strings under the main three strings. It is held in a vertical position and
a bow which is different from that used for a violin.
This stringed instrument was used in Punjab, but Guru Nanak used it s an
accompaniment for Gurumat Sangeet (Sikh sacred music). It was played by his
Bhai Mardana (1459-1519) who originally was a mirasi (Muslim musician). It is
the rebec of Persia. The rabab has a piece of hollow wood at the top and a hollow
wooden belly covered with a sheep skin at the bottom. There are two bridges, one in the
the other at the tip. The two bridges support six gut strings which are manipulated by six
the top. Some rababs have a wooden toomba (gourd) at the top. It is played
traingular wooden plectrum. Its sound resembles the human voice and it can play some gamaks.
effect of the drum-sound produced by it is very pleasing; it is eminently suitable for
This instrument closely resembles the sarangi. It is about two
and its bottom is oval. The upper part is left open and a small part of body is covered with
parchment. It has three cat-gut strings which produce notes of S, M, P. The upper ends of
strings are tied up to the pegs and lower ends to the hook below. It was used by the Sikh
their bards. It is played with a bow. Sometimes small bells (gungroos) are attached
bow to produce rhythmic jingle along the notes.