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Hindustani Music…..The Magic of String Instruments

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Shubham1

 

 

Hey guys, thanks good response on my last article about thaats. Coming back to instruments, this article is going to be about the string instruments used in Hindustani Music.

String instruments are those which produce by vibration of strings. There are many playing techniques of strings instruments such as-

  1. Plucking- Instruments such as sitar and guitar are covered under this technique where the instrument is plucked with the help of either fingers or a plectrum.
  2. Bowing- Instruments such as violin is covered under this technique where the instrument is bowed with the help of a bow. Bow is made up of a stick with many hairs stretched between its ends. The 2 objects i.e. the string and the bow rub and slide against each other which produce sound.
  3. Striking- Instruments such as piano is covered under this technique where the string of the instrument is stroked to produce sound.

The pitch of a string instrument can be changed by-

a)      Changing the length of the string

b)      Changing the tension in the string

c)       Changing the thickness of the string

Some string instruments commonly used in Hindustani Music are-

  1. Sitar
  2. Violin
  3. Rudra Veena
  4. Mohan Veena
  5. Sarod
  6. Santoor
  7. Swarmandal
  8. Saraswati Veena etc. etc.

I am going to explain some of the above mentioned instruments one by one.

  1. Mohan Veena- It is a plucking instrument which is not very commonly seen in concerts. It is named after its creaMohan Veenator and the Grammy Award Winner Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. This instrument is basically a fusion of a slide guitar and a veena. It is held in the lap like a slide guitar. It consists 20 strings. Some of the famous players of the Mohan Veena are- Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Pt. Salil Bhatt and Pt. Satish Khanwalkar. You can listen to Raag Mian ki Malhar played by Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the Mohan Veena by following the link given below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQsowBYwe5E

  2. Swarmandal- Also known as the Indian harp, is now a days a common sight at a Hindustani music Concert and is used for accompanying the vocaswarmandallist. The name of this instrument is derived from 2 words- Swara- i.e. Notes and Mandal- i.e. a group, which also represents its ability to produce a very large number of notes. It contains 21-36 strings as per the discretion of the singer. The strings are hooked on to one corner of a large size wooden board and the on the other corner it is pegged to a metal rectangular peg which can be tightened or loosened (with a help of a key) as per the tuning requirement. Each string is tuned to each note of the harmonium; a singer can play the required string by striking or plucking it.
  3. Santoor- Santoor is a very very old string instrument which originated in Persia. It is a nearly squared ssantoorhaped but more of a trapezium shaped instrument which has close to 70 strings. It is played in a sitting position with the help of very light hammers with both hands. The strings are tied to both the ends of the instrument and they can be tuned with the help of a metallic key. Some of the famous players of a Santoor are- Pt. Bhajan Sopori, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Pt. Satish Vyas, etc. etc. You can listen to Raga Kedar by Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma by clicking on the link given below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjVSxpJXsCs
  4. Sarod-Sarod is very old instrument also originating from Persia like Santoor. It is known to have originated from a very Old Persian instrument Rabab. sarodBeing a fret-less instrument and is known to produce Meend which is very important in music. Meend is a glide from one swara to another i.e. singing 2 distinct swaras without singing the ones in between but just touching them softly. It is a practical concept and can’t be understood theoretically but still this was the best possible way in which I could explain it. A typical Sarod has about 25 strings but the number of strings and the physical shape
    of the instrument vary in each gharana. I am not a Sarod player but still from all the knowledge which I have gained in all these years, 4 or maybe 5 are the main strings used for melody, 2 are the drone strings, 9 are the resonance strings and rest of them are the ‘chikari’ strings. A Sarod is made up from Teak wood and the sound board is made up of a goat skin stretched across the face of the resonator. The strings of the instrument are made up of steel or from bronze which are struck with the help of a plectrum, generally made from a polished coconut shell. Some of the very famous Sarod players are Ustad Allaudin Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Bangesh and Ayaan Ali Bangesh. You can listen to Raag Bhairavi by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan by following the given link- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Afg3Jfpo8so
  5. Sitar- Sitar is a very old instrument and is a very common sight at Hindustani Music concerts. It is long necked instrument which is believed to be originated from the Veena. The base of the instrument is made from a gourd which asitarcts as a resonating chamber. There are around 18 to 20 strings in a Sitar. Six or seven of these strings run over the frets of the sitar and the rest of them known as the sympathetic strings run underneath the fret board and resonate with the strings which are being played. This instrument is played by the player in a sitting position. The player balances it in between his left foot and the right knee. The hands of the player are free to movewithout having to carry the weight of the instrument. Like other string instruments a plectrum is used in this instrument also which is made of steel. A Meend played on a sitar sounds very nice and is one of the highlighting features of sitar playing. Some of the very famous players of sitar are- Pt. Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar, Ustad Allaudin Khan, Ustad Shujaat Khan, Ustad Vilayat Khan etc. etc. By following the below link you can listen to Raga Bhimpalasi by Pt. Ravi Shankar Ji https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpGuOZkNwmw

 

This article gave you insights on the strings instruments which are commonly used in Hindustani Music. My next article will be based on the lives of some legendary Hindustani Musicians like Miyan Tansen, Pt. Vishnu Digamber Paluskar, Pt. Vishnu Digamber Bhatkhande, etc. etc. Like always please do read, share and comment on this article. Also, do suggest a topic for the upcoming articles I’ll be happy to write on it.

Thank You

Shubham Mittal :-)

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