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Instruments In Indian Music
(Based on an RMIM posting by Vandana Sharma)
Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all musical instruments

SITAR

Sitar

Sitar is the most popular stringed instrument of India and has been in use for about 700 years. It is fashioned from a seasoned gourd and teakwood and has twenty mental frets with six or seven playing strings and nineteen sympathetic strings below. It is played with a plectrum worn on the finger. Sitar has a long and complex heritage; its origin goes back to the ancient Veena. In the 13th century, Amir Khusru, in order to make the instrument more flexible, reversed the order of the strings and made the frets moveable. Ravi Shankar, the great musician-artist brought changes and a new perspective.

SAROD

Sarod

Sarod is another popular stringed instrument. The body is carved from a single piece of well-seasoned teakwood and the belly covered with goat skin. There are four main strings, six rhythm and drone strings and fifteen sympathetic strings, all made of metal. These are played by striking with a plectrum made of a coconut shell. The Sarod has no frets. Sarod as been found in carvings of the 1st century in Champa temple and also in paintings in the Ajanta caves. It also has a similarity with the Rabab of Afghanistan and Kashmir. The instrument was modified by Amir Khusru in the 13th century. A definite change was made by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in shape of the instrument for improving the tonal quality.

SARANGI

Sarangi

The name derives from Sau Rangi meaning 100 colours. Sarangi is played with a bow and has four main strings and as many as forty resonant strings. It is generally used to accompany singers but can also be a solo instrument.

TANPURA

Tanpura

Tanpura is a four or five stringed instrument which gives the essential drone background to all Indian music.

ESRAJ

Esraj

Esraj is played with a bow and has many strings. It is one of the major instruments of North India.

SANTOOR

Santoor

Santoor is a North Indian instrument originating from Kashmir. It has more than a hundred strings which run across a hollow rectangular box and the strings are struck by a pair of slim carved walnut mallets.

VICHITRA VEENA

Sitar

Vichitra Veena is a comparatively recent addition to the Veena family. It is a fretless stringed instrument with four main strings, three drone and rhythm strings and eleven to thirteen resonating strings. The strings are plucked by a plectrum on the index or middle finger of the right hand.

VIOLIN

Violin

Violin was introduced to India about 300 years ago and is a very important string instrument in the South of India. It is played in a sitting position and is held between the right foot and the left shoulder.

TABLA

Tabla

Tabla is the overall term for two drums, which are played as accompaniment to North Indian music and dance. The musician uses the base of the palm as well as the fingers to produce great variations in sounds. The right hand drum is tuned to the tonic dominant or sub-dominant and the left-hand drum acts as the base.

PAKHAWAJ

Pakhwaj

Pakhawaj is a long bodied wooden drum with both ends covered in skin and is the most traditional drum of North India. Played horizontally with the fingers and palms of both hands, the right hand surface is tuned to the pitch required and the left hand surface provides the base.

MRIDANGAM

Mridangam

Mridangam is similar in appearance to the Pakhawaj but the ends have a different texture. It is the most used drum in South Indian music.

DHOLAK

Dholak

Dholak is a side drum, cylindrical in shape, bored out of solid wood. Its pitch is variable and is an essential accompaniment for folk music of North India.

JAL TARANG

Jal Tarang is essentially a water-xylophone. It is made up of a series of china bowls of varying sizes and they are filled with varying levels of water. These are then played with two light sticks.

PUNG

Pung

Pung is a long bodied drum with both ends covered in skin and plays an important role in Manipuri dancing when it is played by men and women, either in a sitting position or standing position.

FLUTE

Flute

Flute is found in every part of India, carved from bamboo it is made in every possible size. It is usually played in a vertical position.

SHEHNAI

Shehnai

Shehnai is a double reeded wind instrument with a widening tube towards the lower end. There are eight or nine holes, the upper seven for playing, the lower ones for tuning. The Shehnai is considered auspicious and is played on all festive occasions in India.

OTHER INSTRUMENTS

BEEN (Snake Flute)

Been - Snake Flute

DHOL

Dhol

HARMONIUM

Harmonium

MANDOLIN

Mandolin

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