Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Traditional Indian Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

The musical instruments have their own importance in the field of music. The various musical instruments of India have contributed immensely in making Indian music famous. Some of these instruments are used in Hindustani classical music that belongs to the North and some are used in Carnatic music that belongs to the south of India. The Indian musical instruments are of various types. Some are stringed instruments, some are percussion instruments and some are wind blown instruments. The music created by the instruments when played is absolutely melodious and is often used to relax the mind and the senses. Our related sections cover the different Indian music instruments in detail. 


Flute is a musical instrument that belongs to the woodwind family and produces a sweet sound. A person who plays the flute is known as a flautist or a flutist. A flute produces sound only when a stream of air is blown through it, which bounces in and out of its numerous holes. 


Tambura is an Indian music instrument, which is known by the name of tanpura in North India. It is unfretted and round-bodied, with a hollow neck and four or five (rarely six) wire strings. The strings of the tambura are plucked one after another in a standard pattern, in order to create a tonic resonance field Hindustani classical music. 


Veena, also known as Saraswati Veena is a musical instrument of South India. This classical instrument is basically a plucked stringed instrument that is used to accompany Carnatic music. It is essentially a member of the lute family. The Veena has been modified and refined over centuries and has been used since ancient times.


The Violin is not a traditional musical instrument of India. The history of violin does not originate in India. It emerged in its current form in Italy during the 16th century. It was imported from the West and was used with south Indian classical music for the first time during the 18th century.


The Tabla is an Indian percussion instrument, which dates back to the times of Persian Muslims. Actually, Tabla forms a major instrument of Indian music. The instrument used to be the part of Classical and Hindustani music, but today it is adding to the flavor of every kind of music, especially jazz.


The sitar is often referred as a plucked stringed instrument. The Sitar has delicate strings along with a gourd reverberating hollow generating a rich sound. The great poet, musician and statesman, Amir Khusrau is generally accredited for conceiving Sitar during Khilji period. 


The shehnai is a popular musical instrument in India and falls in the category of aero phonic instruments. Shehnai is believed to bring good luck that is why in North Indian marriages and processions Shenani is predominantly played. Shehnai is a tube-like instrument that gradually widens towards its lower end. 


Nadaswaram is a very famous classical instrument played mainly in the southern states of India. The world's loudest non-brass acoustic instrument, Nadaswaram is also known as Nadhaswaram and Nagaswaram. It is a wind instrument, which is quite similar in its appearance to the North Indian musical instrument, Shehnai.


The sarod is a popular Indian classical musical instrument. Sarod is similar to the Western lute in structure. It is one of the most important musical instruments amongst followers and connoisseurs of Hindustani classical music. According to many scholars the source of the Sarod seems to be the rebab, a similar instrument that is said to have originated in Afghanistan and Kashmir. It is believed that the sarod is essentially a bass rebab.


Sarangi is a bowed string instrument typical of Indian subcontinent. Sarangi forms an important string instrument in Hindustani school of classical music tradition. It is said that of all Indian instruments, Sarangi resembles most to the sound of the human voice. The origin of the name Sarangi is very interesting as the word Sarangi has been derived from two Hindi words- sau (which means 100) and rang (color).


The santoor is a trapezoid-shaped musical instrument. Santoor is usually made of walnut, with numerous strings and is said to be related to the shata-tantri veena of earlier times. A lightweight wooden hammer, used to play the santoor/ santur, is known as Mezrab. To play the Santoor, these mallets (mezrab) are held between the index and middle fingers.


Mridangam is a classical percussion instrument much popular in South India. Mridangam is the main instrument that provides rhythm to Carnatic music performances. Mridangam is also known by the name of mridanga, mrdangam, mrudangam and mrithangam.


Gettuvadyam is also known as Getchu vadyam or Gethu vadyam. It is a very rare instrument which is played in Southern part of India. Gettuvadyam is 2-3 feet long and is like a hammered lute. The Getchu Vadyam is like tambura which is supported at the neck and has four strings. Sometimes, it is used as the secondary instrument accompanying Mridangam.


Chenda is a cylindrical instrument widely popular in Kerala and some parts of Karnataka state of India. It is a percussion instrument and is also called Chende in Karnataka. Chenda usually accompanies Hindu religious art forms of Kerala. As mentioned above Chenda is used as accompaniment for Kathakali and Koodiyattam dances and rituals in Kerala.


The point about violin not being Indian is actually very inaccurate. The origination of the violin is very old and the first known traditional violins were called Ravanahatha or Ravanastron and is VERY Indian. It traces its origin back to the south (now Sri lanka). Although the point that can be argued upon is whether the Ravanastron came first or the Chinese Erhu.

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