GCSE Music‎ > ‎AoS 4 World music‎ > ‎Indian music‎ > ‎

Indian instruments

Indian Instruments used in raga performances

The Voice

There are many different Indian instruments but the most highly regarded is the human voice, as in Indian philosophy, it is thought that by singing it is possible to talk directly to the gods.


The Sitar

This is the most well known plucked Indian stringed instrument. It has seven principal metal strings of which two are used as drone notes. Below these are usually up to a dozen loose-fretted strings called 'sympathetic', as they vibrate when the to

p strings are plucked. This gives the traditional 'twangy' sound that makes the instrument instantly recognisable. Two common playing techniques are:

 Sliding between notes (called meend or mind) in intervals of quarter tones or less.

Playing rapid scale-like flourishes called tan. These virtuoso passages of improvisation feature in latter sections of a typical raga performance, i.e. the jhalla and gat.

The Sarangi

This is smaller than the sitar and differs in that it is fretless and uses a bow rather than plucking the strings. A bit like a violin, the instrument has a gentle tone and is ideally used to accompany singers.


The Sarod

The sarod is also smaller than the sitar but like a sitar it has two sets of strings to create a distorted effect common to the sitar. It is fretless and has a metal fingerboard so that the player can slide up and down the strings to obtain different notes. The instrument has a lower range and heavier tone than the sitar.


The Tambura

A simple instrument with only four strings and a resonator. It is used to provide the drone notes to accompany the singer of instrumentalist.


The Tabla

This is a small set of two drums of different sizes - the smaller one made from wood is called the tabla and the larger one made of metal is the baya

Both drum heads are of skin and the black centre circle is made of a paste of iron filings and flour. The drums play the chosen rhythm cycle, known as the tabla, as well as improvisatory rhythms.