Tanpura

Tanpura

The Tanpura is a multi-stringed instrument which provides the background drone sound. A Tanpura player plucks the 4 strings in a cyclic pattern. The second and the third strings are tuned to the base Swar (Sa) of the Madhya Saptak, the fourth and the thicker string is tuned to “Sa” of the lower Saptak. The first string is tuned to either Madhyam, Pancham or Nishad of the lower Saptak, depending upon the Raag the vocalist is going to sing. By varying the tension on the string, the Swar produced by plucking the string can be changed.

The first string in the Tanpura deserves some more explanation. If the vocalist is going to sing a Raag which contains Pancham, the first string is tuned to Pancham. If the Raag does not contain Pancham but contains Madhyam, then the first string is tuned to Madhyam. If the Raag a vocalist is going sing contains Nishad but does not contain either Pancham or Madhyam, then the first string in the Tanpura is tuned to Nishad. As you know, a Raag that does not contain Pancham or Madhyam has to have Teevra Madhyam.

With the advent of electronics, many vocalists have started using the electronic Tanpura for accompaniment. There are some electronic Tanpura models in which the player can simply touch the strings, instead of plucking them, and electronically the desired Swar is produced.