Pakistan's first web publication on classical music




Lists of String ,  Wind and  Percussion Instruments
Profiles of String instruments with pictures and sound samples

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Rudra Vina
Saraswati Veena

Vichitra Veena
Violin Common




Dilruba is a cross between the sitar and sarangi. It is extremely close to the esraj. It so close that most people are unable to tell them apart. The difference is to be found in the shape of the resonator and the manner in which the sympathetic strings attach. Still they are so similar that a dilruba player has no trouble playing an esraj and vice versa. It is no longer used in classical music.


Esraj is a cross between the sitar and sarangi. It is extremely close to the dilruba. It so close that most people are unable to tell them apart. The difference is to be found in the shape of the resonator and the manner in which the sympathetic strings attach. Still they are so similar that a dilruba player has no trouble playing an esraj and vice versa.
It is no longer used in classical music.


Vichitra Veena or Gottuvadhya is a comparatively recent addition to the Veena family. It is a fretless stringed instrument with four main strings, three drone and rhythm strings and eleven to thirteen resonating strings. The strings are plucked by a plectrum on the index or middle finger of the right hand.

Rudra Vina

Rudra vina also known as the bin (been), appears to be one of the oldest styles of vina. Such evidence is readily seen in elements of its construction, and from its depiction on the walls of ancient temples. This instrument is basically a bamboo stick with two gourds attached. It has frets which are set into wax. This instrument is quite rare nowadays.


The Santoor was originally known as 'Shata-tantri-veena', or 'hundred stringed lute'. Similar instruments are found in many countries of the world. The 'Yang Chin' in China, the 'Cimbalon' or 'Zymbalon' in Hungary and Rumania, 'Santoori' in Greece, 'Kentele' in Finland and 'Hackbrett' in Germany are all kindred forms of the instrument. When used for playing Indian classical music, the Santoor is played with a pair of curved mallets fashioned out of walnut wood and the resultant melodies are reminiscent of music on the piano, harp or the harpsichord.


Regarded as one of the most ancient and difficult stringed instruments, Sarangi originated in North India. The name is derived from the word 'Saurangi', which means 'hundred-colored', describing its ability to convey a wide range of mood and emotion. There are as many as sixty variations of the instrument. The most advanced version, is a hollowed piece of wood carved from a tree trunk. The resonator hole, where the strings are bowed, is covered with a piece of leather. It has three gut playing strings and no less than 36 steel sympathetic strings, all of which must be tuned according to the raag being played. The three playing strings are stopped with the cuticles of the left hand fingers, while the right hand bows at the bottom. Needless to say, intitial training of this instrument does require blood, sweat, and (sometimes) tears. Traditionally, Sarangi has been relegated to the role of accompaniment in vocal music, due to its brilliant sonorous quality. Unfortunately, the recent introduction of the Harmonium (akin to the accordian), along with Sarangi's own rigorous physical demands, has made the instrument an endangered species, and true masters have become difficult to find. The instrument can literally make one cry, smile, or hide.

Sarasawati Veena

Veena is also called Saraswathi veena. Saraswathi veena is the instrument associated with Saraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. The Veena is a string instrument and is made up of three distinct parts. A bowl shaped body often carved from a single piece of wood i.e. jackwood, a long neck curved downward at the end with a gourd attached to the underside; the frets are made of brass and mounted on wax. There are seven strings in all - four main and the rest to maintain the drone and rhythm. It is played with wire plectra on the fingers. This instrument is common in south India and is an important instrument in carnatic sangeet.


Sarod is a popular stringed instrument of Pakistani music. The body is carved from a single piece of well-seasoned teakwood and the belly covered with goat skin. There are four main strings, six rhythm and drone strings and fifteen sympathetic strings, all made of metal. These are played by striking with a plectrum made of a coconut shell. The Sarod has no frets. Sarod as been found in carvings of the 1st century in Champa temple and also in paintings in the Ajanta caves. It also has a similarity with the Rabab of Afghanistan and Kashmir. The instrument was modified by Amir Khusru in the 13th century. A definite change was made by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in shape of the instrument for improving the tonal quality. The history of the Sarod originally dates back to Afghanistan where it existed in it's primitive stage of evolution. The great sarod virtuoso Baba Alauddin Khan greatly refined this instrument, bringing the sarod into its modern configuration by adding many different features.


Sitar is the most popular stringed instrument of India and has been in use for about 700 years. It is fashioned from a seasoned gourd and teakwood and has twenty mental frets with six or seven playing strings and nineteen sympathetic strings below. It is played with a plectrum worn on the finger. Sitar has a long and complex heritage; its origin goes back to the ancient Veena. In the 13th century, Amir Khusru, in order to make the instrument more flexible, reversed the order of the strings and made the frets moveable.


Surbahar is essentially a bass sitar. It is substantially larger and is tuned anywhere from four steps to an octave lower than a regular sitar. Its technique is similar enough to sitar so that musicians have no trouble going from one instrument to another. The surbahar has an advantage over sitar in that it has a longer sustain and an ability to meend (glissando) up to an octave in a single fret. Therefore it is possible to play complex melodies without using more than a single fret. This instrument is very well suited to long slow alaps. The instrument's main weakness is that its long sustain causes a fast jhala to become indistinct and muddy. It is for this reason that some artists prefer to play the alap with surbahar but shift to sitar for gat and jhala.


The Tanpura is a four to six stringed fretless instrument made of wood, and usually combined with gourd. It provides the performing artist(s) with a tonic reference and enriches the background with its unique harmonic drone. The strings are tuned in a manner that emphasizes the tonic and the dominant notes of the raag. The bridge is comprised of bone, usually deer antler and is slightly curved to not only provide a buzzing sound (as the strings are plucked), but also to generate various harmonics that enhance the tonal quality of the instrument. The size (gourd and neck) of the instrument may vary depending on whether the artist is an instrumentalist, male vocalist, or a female vocalist. The instrument most probably was included as a part of a classical music ensemble since the seventeenth century.

The Tanpura player plucks the strings one at a time, in a steady, repetitive, almost orderly manner, using the index and middle fingers. These days "electronic" tanpuras have become commonplace, since they do not require an human player, are less expensive, simpler to tune, require minimal maintenance, and are easily portable. However, many artists prefer a natural instrument to an electronic one when available, and often combine the two types. Electronic Tanpuras are, naturally, used by many students for practice as in this way the student can practice for long periods of time as and when needed.


Although the violin is not native to the Indian subcontinent; it has become so popular that it must be mentioned. There appears to be no difference in construction between the Indian violin and its Western counterpart, however the technique is quite different. The most refined technique is to be found in South Indian music. Instead of holding the instrument under the chin, the musician props it between the shoulder and the foot. This gives a stability which cannot be matched by either north Indian nor occidental techniques. North Indian technique, though not nearly as refined, is still impressive.


Instruments Page: 2
  Profiles of Wind Instruments