Tuesday, October 27, 2009



The tambura is a long necked plucked lute, a stringed instrument found in different versions in different places. The tambura, tamburo, or tanpura, in its bodily shape somewhat resembles the sitar, but it has no frets, as only the open strings are played as a harmonic accompaniment to the other musicians. It has four or five, wire strings, which are plucked one after another in a regular pattern to create a harmonic resonance on the basic note.

Tanpuras are designed in three different styles:

• Miraj style: the favourite form of tanpura for Hindustani performers. It is usually between three to five feet in length, with a well-rounded resonator plate and a long, hollow straight neck. The round lower chamber to which the tabli, the connecting heel-piece and the neck are fixed is actually a selected and dried gourd. Wood used is either tun or teak, bridges are usually cut from one piece of bone.

• Tanjore style: this is a south Indian style of tambura, used widely by Carnatic music performers. It has a somewhat different shape and style of decoration from that of the Miraj, but is otherwise much the same size. Typically, no gourd is used, but the spherical part is gouged out of a solid block of wood. The neck is somewhat smaller in diameter. Jackwood is used throughout, bridges are usually cut from one piece of rosewood. Often two rosettes are drilled out and ornamented with inlaywork.

• Tamburi: small-scale instruments, used for accompanying instrumental soloists. It is two to three feet long, with a flat bed-pan type wooden body with a slightly curved tabli. It may have from four to six strings. Tamburi are tuned to the higher octave and are the preferred instruments for accompanying solo-performances by string-playing artists, as the lighter, more transparent sound does not drown out the lower register of a sitar, sarod, or sarangi.