Facts About Indian Instruments

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sukanto Debnath

Indian instruments have distinctive tone colours--primarily because of India's idiosyncratic tuning system. The country produces more woodwind, string and percussion instruments than brass instruments; this is the basis for the meditative quality of many Indian songs. In the 1960s, rock bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones highlighted the sonorous sounds of India's music by using Indian instruments in their recordings.


A sitar is a long-necked lute from Northern India. It has more than 20 strings--four to seven main strings and a series of sympathetic strings that vibrate when a corresponding pitch is sounded. Along the neck of a sitar are 18 movable frets that arch over the strings.


The Chikara is a three-stringed melody instrument that is played vertically with a bow. It is typically used to play Indian folk music.


A venu is a flute that is played using the flat portion of the fingers instead of the tips of the fingers to cover the holes. Venus are made of bamboo and reed.


One of the most common drums of India is the damaru. It has an hourglass shape and two drum heads on opposite sides.


Tabla is a pair of Indian drums--one smaller and one larger. The smaller drum is played with the right hand and is made of wood, while the larger drum is played with left hand is made of brass. Each has a large black spot in the middle of its drum head. This spot is made of gum, soot and iron fillings; it is responsible for the drum's distinctive bell-like timbre.

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