10 Popular, Traditional, Indian Musical Instruments (for Folk and Classical Music)
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.~~~ Victor Hugo
A Brief Introduction to the Traditional Indian Musical Instruments
Music has no language. It‘s a form of expression, which can be felt by the heart, and enjoyed even by those, who do not understand the lyrics.
Besides God, it is the art of music, which is the greatest treasure of mankind. Soulful music can help you, to build spiritual powers, and you can connect to the supreme almighty.
Music has immense and incredible power, to unite people, irrespective of their language or geographical boundaries.
In this article, I want to highlight some of my favourite, Indian musical instruments.
India is a land of music and dance. In various parts of the country, different musical instruments are used. Broadly, they can be listed as Sitar, Sarod, Tanpura, Shahnai and Tabla. These instruments are used in Hindustani classical music. Whereas, Veena, MrIdangam, Kanjira, and Violin are used in Carnatac classical music.
The Sitar and The Veena
1. The Sitar:
Sitar is one of the most popular North Indian classical instrument. The neck of the Sitar is crafted from teak wood, and a resonator, carved from a large seasoned gourd. It has normally seven main strings. The gourd acts as a resonator for the strings.
The Sitar has a long neck, with twenty metal frets, and seven main cords at the lower end of the neck of the Sitar. The frets are moved up and down, to adjust the notes.
2. The Veena:
Veena is the most popular musical instrument of South India, and is synonymous with Carnatac music. Its melodious tunes, have the power to invoke spirituality, and one feels close to the God, by listening to it.
It is a plucked string instrument, and has many variations in sound, shapes and sizes. It is considered to be an ancient musical instrument, and has a glorious history of being played at temples.
Grand Symphony of 1000 Sitarists source: You tube
3. The Harmonium:
A traditional musical instrument of Northern India, played along by vocal artists, when they sing. It is very commonly used by the Ghazal and the classical singers.
The harmonium has a keyboard, of over two and one-half octaves.
It works on a system of bellows. The keyboard is played with the right hand, while the left hand is used to operate the bellows.
Tabla performance by Ustad Zakir Hussain, Source: YouTube
4. The Tabla:
One of the most popular musical instrument, which is used in Sangat, that is along with the Sitar, Veena and other instruments, for beats is the Tabla.
It consists of a pair of drums- the Tabla and the Bayan and is made of wood. It’s top is made of stretched animal skin. The drums have round black spot, at the top centre, which produces the sound, or the beats. It is made of iron dust or manganese.The bayan has a metal outer cover. Tuning of Tabla is done by striking the rim of the Tabla with a small hammer.
5. The Sarod:
Sarod is another wonderful musical instrument which has a small wooden body covered with the skin. It has a fingerboard, which is covered with steel.
It does not have a fret, instead, it has 25 strings, among which, 15 are sympathetic strings. A metal gourd, acts as a resonator. The strings are plucked, with a triangular plectrum.
Live performance by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Source: YouTube
The Dholak or the Pakhawaj
7. The Dholak or the Pakhawaj:
The Dholak or the Pakhawaj is a very popular musical instrument, and can be found in many homes. It is easy to play and sing along, especially the folk or traditional songs.
It is believed that the Tabla was derived from the Dholak or Pakhawaj.
It usually accompanies Dhrupad style of singing. It is a barrel-shaped drum, with two heads, on the opposite sides, which are made of layers of skin. The heads are expanded by leather straps, which run along the sides of the body, over small cylindrical wooden blocks, which are used for tuning.
Shehnai by Ustaad Bismillah Khan, Source: YouTube
6. The Shehnai:
If you had the opportunity to attend an Indian wedding, you must have heard the Shehnai. The auspicious and melodious sound of Shehnai is synonymous with North Indian weddings and in temples.
Shehnai is a double reed instrument, with a tapering bore, which progressively increases towards the lower side. The Shehnai has finger-holes, to produce semi, quarter and micro-tones. It is played by blowing wind, into the holes with lips, in a coordinated way.
8. The Mridangam:
The Mridangam is one of the most popular classical musical instruments of South India.
It accompanies vocal artists, instrumental artists and dance artists.
Mridangam is a barrel-shaped double-headed drum, made of single block of wood.
The right head is smaller than the left, and they are made of layers of skin. It is played by coordinated tapping of palms and fingers.
9. The Santoor:
The Santoor produces the music of the hills, or so it sounds. It is a trapezoid-shaped musical instrument, made of walnut, with many strings. It is believed, to be related to the shata-tantri veena of earlier times.
A lightweight wooden hammer is used to play the Santoor, known as Mezrab. To play the Santoor, these mallets (mezrab), are held between the index and the middle fingers.
Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma on Santoor, source: You tube
10. The Sarangi:
One of the most popular and oldest bowed musical instruments of India, the Sarangi has 40 strings, among which 37 are sympathetic.
The Sarangi has a hollow body, and it is made of teak wood, adorned with ivory inlays. It is held in a vertical position, while being played with a bow. The artist has to press the fingernails, of the left hand, against the strings, to produce the melodious music.
- All of us get attracted to music as music is an expression of heart.
- Musical instruments are used to produce melodious music and are moderated by the artist so as to get desired audio effects.
- The instrumental music artists play an extremely important role in the field of music.
- The music created by the instruments when played is unconditionally harmonious and musical.
- It relaxes the mind and the senses and you feel very positive which is good for your physical and mental health.
- In this age of electronic musical instruments, we must take great care to preserve our traditional and classical musical heritage .
Which is your favourite Indian Musical Instrument?
I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music.
© 2015 Chitrangada Sharan