Tanpura or Tamboora is a drone instrument. It resembles a sitar except it has no frets. This is one of the oldest and popular Saaj (musical instruments) used for accompaniment of vocal music. The word "tanpura" (tanpoora) is common in the north, but in south India it is called "tambura", "thamboora", "thambura", or "tamboora". The tanpura is known for its very rich sound.
There are three main styles; the Miraj style, the Tanjore style and the small instrumental version sometimes called tamburi. The Miraj style is the typical north Indian tanpura (tambura). This is the favourite of Sikh and Hindustani musicians. It typically is between 3 to 5 feet in length. It is characterized by a pear shaped, well rounded tabali (resonator face) and non-tapering neck. It usually has a resonator made of a gourd, but rarely one may find resonators made of wood. Being a stringed instrument, it is remarkable both for giving support to the notes of vocal music and as a drone.
There are four strings in the tanpura. The first to the left is of steel. Sometimes in a tanpura is used for accompanying a male voice, the first string is of brass or bronze. This string is called oancham because it gives out the note of P. This is tuned to the P of the madhya saptak when accompanied by a harmonium.
In the raga in which P is forbidden (as for instance in Malkaus raga), this string is tuned to M shudh. In the first place, the two middle strings of steel should be tuned to S of the male singer. The fourth string is of brass or bronze. It is tuned to S of the mandar saptak. (In the case of a female voice the S is set to fourth of fifth black reed of the harmonium). Some tanpurashave five to six strings.
The normal tuning is P S S S. If there is no P in a raga, then tune M S S S. In case of the fifth string, the tuning will be as such: If there is N in the raga, then P N S S S : if there is no N in the raga, then P S S S S: if there is no P in raga then M S S S S. In case of a 6th string, the tuning will be as follows: If there is NI in a raga, then P N S S S S: if there is no N in a raga, then P S S S S S; if there is P in a raga, then M S S S S S.
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