The musical medium of choice to most of us is undoubtedly the human voice.
Using the main note from a musical instrument such as a Tanpura or a voice as a tonic we can explore every detail within a musical scale and experience the rich harmonics and micronotes that are characteristic of most musical traditions, but chiefly those from the east.
Tanpura is a string instrument that we find in India mainly in the classical music tradition. It does not play any melody or rhythm but instead gives a continuous sound of the tonic for the scale that's being used.
A tanpura uses 4 strings, and the first one is tuned in the 5th or 4th note of the tonic, but we can also find tanpuras that uses more strings such as 5 or 6.
The Sitar is one of the most popular musical instruments of North India.
The quality of it's sound, which is rich in harmonics, creates the base and atmosphere for the creation and expression of a Raga, like the canvas to a painter ready to create a painting.
We can find references to the Sitar from the 13th century. Its origin was inspired by the Persian instrument Tar and the Rudra Veena. It has been in it's current form since the 18th century.
Today there are two main variations of the Sitar, the Ravi Shankar and the Vilayat Khan. The main difference is that the Ravi Shankar style has two more (base) strings. Both of them use "sympathetic strings" (strings that vibrate when coordinated with the same frequency) offering a rich sound.
The Sitar is very versatile, making it popular for different styles of music, from Bollywood to Indian classical music.
The Surbahar, or as it's translated, ‘sound of spring’ is similar to the Sitar but larger in size. Due to it's potentially very deep sound it is preferred to play the part of Alap in a Raga. It is also one of the main musical instruments of the Dhrupad tradition.
The Rudra Veena is the oldest stringed musical instrument found in India today.
The term 'Veena' refers to a category of string musical instruments with various forms such as the Rudra, Saraswati, Vichitra, Kachua Veena, etc.
'Rudra' is one of the many names of Lord Shiva and according to legend he created this instrument.
It is said that while he was in the forest he built the main part of the instrument from bamboo. Inspired by the breast of his wife Parvati he used two pumpkins as the speakers, and through her bangles he made the frets. Then he took a piece of hair from the seven Rishis (saints) and used them as strings.
The Rudra Veena is distinguished for its sound quality standing above the other variations of string instruments, and is the main musical instrument in the Dhrupad style and in Alap.
Today there are two main types of this instrument; the traditional form, which rests on the shoulders of the musician; and a more recent variation known as the Dagar Veena which was devised by Mohiuddin Dagar that has a deeper and richer base sound .
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