Tanpura: Indian classical musical instruments; Here’s everything you need to know
Oone of the classical or early instruments, the Tamboura, is also known as tamboura, tamburi and tanpura. The smaller version of the instrument is known as Tanpuri. The instrument is a long-necked, fretless classical Indian instrument. It is usually 40 to 60 inches long and has four metal strings. Tuning accuracy is achieved by inserting a few pieces of wool, adjusting a few small beads attached to its strings, and lowering the bridge. In the western part of India, the instrument is made from the hollow part of jackfruit wood; while in North India it is made of calabash. It is held vertically and the player sits directly behind the instrument while playing it.
The tanpura instrument has two main purposes. It becomes the accompaniment of folk music in South Asia. It also helps to invent new tonal foundations, also known as Raga. In the court of kings, the tanpura was the major instrument for entertaining the people. The round-headed sound chamber was once filled with paintings of Goddess Ganga, Saraswati, Sita and Lord Ram’s devotee, Hanuman. The neck was decorated with figures of male musicians playing horn or bagpipes, drums and acrobats. Sometimes women with stacked matkas on their heads were painted on the neck of the tanpura.
Why is Tanpura used in music and dance performances?
Tanpura is used as a drone instrument in Indian classical music. It is not used to create a rhythm or a melody. In Indian classical music, notes are relative to each other and not fixed. You can easily identify ‘Sa’ with the next higher note ‘Re’. Therefore, Tambura is used to create the base ‘on’ tones, which is called adharaswara.
So, the main purpose behind using the specific instrument was to create adharaswara for musical performance. The performer created the rest of the music using the base notes. The instrument has some similarities with Sitar. It has no frets like the sitar. The performer continues to pluck the tanpura strings evenly throughout the performance.
History and etymology of tanpura
Tanpura has been present in Indian classical music since ancient times. However, the modern form of tanpura appeared 500 years ago. Since then, he began to feature paintings of God and Goddess on the body. According to one theory, the name tanpura is derived from the Sanskrit word “tana”. “Tana” is a musical phrase and “Pura” means full.
Another theory brings a different story to the name of the instrument. He says the name is derived from the Persian word tanbur. Tanbur is a long-necked musical instrument. The instrument was used as a major instrument in the Middle East. Tanpura is essentially an Indian adaptation of the Middle Eastern instrument.
Manufacture of Tanpura:
A place in Maharashtra called Miraj is the manufacturing center of Tanpura. The best quality Tanpura is made in Miraj. Tanpura is usually made from a special type of dried gourd grown in the Pandharpur region of Maharashtra.
There are five main parts of tanpura-
- Resonator or ‘Tumba’
- Soundboard or ‘Tabli’
- Neck joint or Gullu
- Key or ‘patta’
- Neck or ‘dandi’
Tanpura usually has four strings. There are special types of tanpura which have five strings. However, the four-string one is more authentic and widespread.
Different types and sizes of tanpura:
- Tanpura is available in different sizes, from 3 feet to 5 feet. It exists mainly in 3 variants.
- Male tanpura which is larger in size
- Female Tanpura; relatively smaller size
- Smaller than the female tanpura used as an accompaniment to sarod or sita
Setting the Tanpura:
You should tune the tanpura regularly to bring out the best sound. The best way to get the instrument tuned is through the professionals. The trader who sells tanpura can grant it for you. Otherwise, you need to have it fixed by professionals. Today, students learning to play instruments are also interested in playing electronic tanpura to amplify its sound. Electronic tanpura can play both tabletop and tanpura.