Sitar is of the most popular music instruments of North India. The
Sitar has a long neck with twenty metal frets and six to seven main
cords. Below the frets of Sitar are thirteen sympathetic strings which
are tuned to the notes of the Raga. A gourd, which acts as a resonator
for the strings is at the lower end of the neck of the Sitar. The frets
are moved up and down to adjust the notes. Some famous Sitar players are
Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pt. Ravishankar, Ustad Imrat Khan, Ustad Abdul Halim
Zaffar Khan, Ustad Rais Khan and Pt Debu Chowdhury.
Sarod has a small wooden body covered with skin and a fingerboard that
is covered with steel. Sarod does not have a fret and has twenty-five
strings of which fifteen are sympathetic strings. A metal gourd acts as
a resonator. The strings are plucked with a triangular plectrum. Some
notable exponents of Sarod are Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali
Khan, Pt. Buddhadev Das Gupta, Zarin Daruwalla and Brij Narayan.
Sarangi is one of the most popular and oldest bowed instruments in
India. The body of Sarangi is hollow and made of teak wood adorned with
ivory inlays. Sarangi has forty strings of which thirty seven are
sympathetic. The Sarangi is held in a vertical position and played with
a bow. To play the Sarangi one has to press the fingernails of the left
hand against the strings. Famous Sarangi maestros are Rehman Bakhs, Pt
Ram Narayan, Ghulam Sabir and Ustad Sultan Khan.
Flute is a simple cylindrical tube of uniform bore and associated with
Indian music since time immemorial. Flutes vary in size. Flute is held
horizontally and is inclined downwards when it is played. To produce
sound or melody one has to cover the finger holes with the fingers of
the left and right hand. Variations in pitch are produced by altering
the effective length of the air column. Notable flute exponents are Pt
Pannalal Ghosh and Pt Hari Prashad Chaurasia.
Shehnai is a traditional musical instrument, associated with auspicious
occasions like marriages and temple processions. 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. Ustad Bismillah Khan is the unrivalled maestro
of the Shehnai.
The most popular musical instrument used in North India is the Tabla.
The Tabla consists of a pair of drums- the Tabla and the Bayan. The
Tabla is made of wood and whereas its head is made of stretched animal
skin. Finer tuning of Tabla is done by striking the rim of the Tabla
with a small hammer. The Bayan is the bass drum and is usually made of
metal with a stretched skin head. Both drums have a black spot in the
center made of manganese or iron dust.
It is believed that the Tabla was derived from Pakhawaj. Pakhawaj
usually accompanies Dhrupad style of singing. Pakhawaj is a
barrel-shaped drum with two heads which are made of layers of skin. The
heads of Pakhawaj are expanded by leather straps which run along the
sides of the body over small cylindrical wooden blocks that are used for
The harmonium is a traditional and popular musical instrument of India.
The harmonium has a keyboard of over two and one-half octaves and works
on a system of bellows. The keyboard is played with the right hand while
the left hand is used to operate the bellows. Harmonium is more popular
in North India than in the South.
Jaltarangam consists of a set of eighteen porcelain cups of varying
sizes. The cups are arranged in a semi-circle before the performer, in
decreasing order of size. The largest cup is to the left of the
performer whereas the smallest to his right. Water is poured into the
cups and the pitch is changed by adjusting the amount of water in the
cup. The cups are struck with two thin bamboo sticks.
The mridangam is one of the most popular classical instruments of South
India. Mridangam accompanies vocal, instrumental and dance performances.
The present day mridangam is made of a single block of wood. It is a
barrel-shaped double-headed drum, the right head being smaller than the
left. The two heads are made of layers of skin. The mridangam is played
with hands, palms and fingers.
The Ghatam is one oldest percussion instruments of South India. The
Ghatam is a mud pan with a narrow mouth. From its mouth, it slopes
outwards to form a ridge. Ghatam is made mainly of clay baked with brass
or copper filings with a small amount of iron filings. The Ghatam
produces fast rhythmic patterns. Ghatam is generally a secondary
percussion instrument accompanying mridangam.
This short essay on Indian music instruments contains information on music instruments of India and traditional musical instruments of India.