Wind Instruments


1. Harmonium
harmoniumThe harmonium is popular kind of sushir vad. The word harmonium is derived from the Greek word “harmony” which is the basis of western music and implies simultaneous sounding of several notes or the accompaniment of a melody by chords.
The harmonium has the appearance of a box out of which music can be produced. It is a reed-blown instrument like a large harmonica with mechanical bellows and keyboard. It is said that the harmonium was first produced in Paris in 1840 by Alexandre Debain. He devised a bellows worked by the player’s feet to force air into a wind-chest and then through channels opened or closed by means of a keyboard. The notes are produced by reeds made of steel. The bellows is either worked by feet or hand. When the keys are touched and bellows is inflated, the air passes through the inner reeds and produces twelve notes (seven shudh, four komal and one teevar). The harmonium has either single reed or double reeds. In case of double reeds, two notes of the same type, in two saptaks are produced simultaneously. Generally, a harmonium has three or three and a half saptaks. This instrument is very easy to handle and is very popular in North India. The beginner can easily play it and learn both vocal and instrumental music. The instrument has fixed notes and its tones cannot be changed. The harmonium can be used also an accompaniment of a vocalist. Any svara (note) can take the place of S and the raga played accordingly.
The twelve notes of the harmonium are not natural notes but are a tempered scale. In the saptak, the difference between S and R and again between R and G and so on has been to consistent and equal degree. The main defect of this instrument is that it has twelve artificial notes though they correspond to the twelve natural notes (as for instance on a sitar). With the accompaniment of harmonium-notes, the svaras of vocal music also tend to be artificial.
By playing the harmonium, the human voice becomes artificial, because according to the tradition of Indian classical music, the real notes of 22 shruties should be produced. There are certain notes in classical music which cannot be reproduced by the harmonium, for example _G_ in raga tod, M in raga Lalit, etc. Therefore, practice of svaras on the harmonium tends to make the svaras unnatural or unreal. Many classical singers frown at the use of harmonium. For Strange ways condemns the use of the harmonium and regards it as a serious means of Indian music. He remarks “Besides its deadening effect on a living art., it falsifies it by being out of tune with its itself.” [2]
It is not good to practise svara-sadhana (note modulation) on the harmonium. It is better to practise the svaras on the tamboora. When the strings are touched, they vibrate and the note continues to sound for a while, but in the case of the harmonium, the tone starts for a while, but in the case of the harmonium, the tone starts with inflation of the bellows and when the bellows stop, the note comes to an end.
Meend (glide from one note to another) and gamak (delicately mixing svaras in a raga) are not possible on a harmonium and as such, richness and excellence of melody is unavailable. This instrument is not good for accompaniment of vocal music, because it cannot reproduce the various delicate shades of vocal music. It is better to use a sarangi or bela (a kind of violin) for the accompaniment of vocal music.

2. Flute
fluteThis is very old and common wind instrument found all over the world. It belongs to the category of sushir vad (wind instrument)
In India, the flute is made of wood; however, some special flutes of ivory, brass and silver are also used on special occasion. The vedas refer to the flute as venu. In North India it is known by different names like bansari, murali; in South India it is called pillam kuzhal, pillam grovi, and kolalu. The common flute is about a foot long and has a mouthpiece and few holes. The length of the flute and the number of hole differ from one region to another. The popular flute in South India is called mukhaveena, which is a double-reeded pipe with seven holes. The bigger f lute-type instrument is called nagaswara. A new instrument of the wind-family is the shehnai. The oboe-like double reed instrument is supposed to be auspicious and is played to celebrate a marriage or festival. Shehnai concerts have become popular these days. Bismillah Khan and his group of shehnai-players have own the hearts of western audiences in Europe and America. It is possible to play alaap, tans, thumris, and light tunes on the shehnai.