A Tambura is a classical four (or five) stringed drone instrument, which is a very important part of every Indian concert. It is plucked throughout the concert and serves as the reference point (basic pitch) for performers so as to enable them to render all the other notes in their proper relative positions. In recent times, various types of electronic Tamburas and digital discs are being used for convenience.


Construction: A Tambura is made of wood (mostly jack wood). It has a long unfretted neck with bone / ivory inlays. The neck has a bowl shaped resonator at the lower end that vibrates and amplifies the sound. At the upper end of the neck are tuning pegs. The Tambura has four strings that run from the bottom of the bowl to the tuning pegs over a broad ivory bridge mounted on the resonator. Fine-tuning is done with the help of beads between the lower end and the bridge. Besides, fine silk threads called "jeeva" are used between the bridge and the strings. When positioned perfectly, these threads cause the strings to "buzz" and enhance the tonal quality. This is one of the unique features of the Tambura.

Tuning: Of the 4 strings that the Tambura usually has, the middle strings are tuned to the tonic note, Sa. The first string is tuned to the fifth perfect, Pa and the last, which is the bass string, to the tonic, Sa, an octave lower. When Madhyama Sruti  compositions are sung, the playing of the first string is either completely stopped or it is tuned to the Suddha Madhyama.

Posture: The Tambura is normally held vertically on the right lap of the performer (usually not the main artiste), with the resonator being supported by the left hand. The strings are plucked in succession with the right hand, starting with the first string (usually plucked with the middle finger) and ending with the bass string, the last three being plucked with the index finger. The Tambura artiste usually sits behind the main artiste and plays the instrument throughout the concert, starting just before the concert starts and ending it after the concert ends. It can be tuned to any pitch, depending on that of the main artiste's.

Musical Expressions