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Musical Instruments  

Probably the most popular string instrument from India is the sitar. String instruments have gained popularity because strings are considered to be the best accompaniment to singing, a prime element of Indian music.

A main body of the sitar is made of wood, however, the main gourd (toomba) is made of pumpkin. The pumpkin acts as a resonator or a sound box. It consists of seven main strings and 11 sympathetic strings. The frets in a sitar are curved; a brilliant innovation which helps the artist to play different scales and vary the pitch while playing the instrument by pulling the strings on the sides. Its pitch range is three or more octaves.

The origin of sitar actually goes back to Iran. It used to be called "setar" which means three strings. However, the modern sitar as we know it was developed in India in the 18th century.


The tabla is a very popular percussion instrument of India. It consists of two drums called tabla & dagga (bayan) respectively. The treble drum (tabla) is generally made of wood and the top is covered with a stretched skin. To produce the distinct treble sound of the tabla; the artesan has to make a hard mixture in the center of the tabla ( shahi ). The skin is wrapped around the wood frame with the help of leather strings (wadi ) and round wooden blocks (gatta). The tuning is done with the help of a hammer which is struck on the gatta to tense or relax the skin. The dagga pot is generally made of brass or copper. It is the bass accompaniment of the Tabla. The tabla is about 11 inches long while the dagga is about 10 inches long.


The shehnai belongs to the woodwind family of instruments. It has double reeds to produce that characteristic vibrating sound. It is played with the fleshy parts of the fingers rather than the tips of the fingers. The shehnai is capable of producing a sound very similar to the human voice. The outer body of the shehnai is made of wood with a metal bell at the tip of the instrument. It has a pitch range of two octaves. The melody of shehnai forms an integral part of music at Indian marriages. The shehnai is about 20 inches long.


The harmonium belongs to the wind family of instruments. The basic working of a harmon-ium is a wooden box in which air is trapped with the help of bellows. There are normally two to three chambers in which metal reeds are fixed; the sound is produced when the air is forced out of the reeds. The working of the reeds is controlled by the white and black keys on the surface of the instrument. It is a constant companion for most ghazal singers.


Sarod is one of the most popular stringed musical instrument that has been used for the classical Indian music. It is quite similar to the popular instrument called rabab used in the Middle East. It is an 18 – 19 lute like instrument, four to five main strings used for playing the melody, one or two drone strings, two chikari strings and ten to eleven sympathetic strings. Most contemporary Sarod players use Roslau, Schaff or Precision brand music wire. It is approximately three to four feet long is is mainly made of wood. The strings are plucked with a triangular plectrum (java) made of polished Coconut shell, Ebony, Delrin or other materials such as bone. Among the contemporary Sarod players the name of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is quite popular.

Famous instrumentalists
Zakir Hussain
G. Ramakrishnan
Ali Akbar Khan
Hariprasad Churasiaya
Kadri Gopalnath
Ustad Allarakha
Pandit Ravi Shankar
Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib
Pandit R K Bijapure Maha Meru
N. Muralikrishnan
L. Subramaniam
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