Process of tuning 2

The tuning possibilities

In the world of Indian classical music, the tanpura is tuned according to the raga (mode). The most common tuning for the four-stringed tanpura is PA, sa, sa, SA. This is the only tuning necessary according to the great Dagars. At this point the question arises: does one tune to PA even if it is not at all present in the Raga? The answer to this is yes because when the tanpura is being played one is able to hear all kinds of tones and they are generally lost into the great cloud of sound that the tanpura creates. It is the oneness of this cloud of notes that overpowers the individual tones.

The second, third and fourth strings never change their tuning, however, there are quite a few variants for the first string. For example, the great vocalist Abdul Karim Khan introduced the NI tuning to the tanpura. (NB capitals are lower octave):

  • NI, sa, sa, SA  
  • NI, sa, sa, SA

It is not uncommon to see other variants when certain ragas are being performed, for example:

Taken from Harish Bakshi,

The Ragas can be divided into four categories:

[1] Those which omit madhyama. Examples: Bhupali, Shankara, Desakar

  • Pa, sa, sa, SA

[2] Those which include both pa and ma. Here we have two types: (a) Those dominated by pa. The strings are tuned as in [1]. Examples: Bhairava, Yaman.

  • Pa, sa, sa, SA

(b) Those dominated by ma. Here the first string is tuned in ma , that is , shuddha ma in mandra saptaka. The remaining three strings remain the same. Examples: Bageshri, Lalit pancham.

  • Ma, sa, sa, SA

[3] Those which omit panchama. The strings are tuned as in [2b]. Examples: Malkaus, Lalit.

  • Ma, sa, sa, SA

[4] Many evening ragas like Marva, Puriya, Poorvi; also, Sohani. Here the first string is tuned in 'N, that is , ni in mandra saptak. 

  • Ni, sa, sa, SA

The five-stringed tanpura gives another dimension altogether. It is not necessary to have the extra string for more overtones because the four-stringed tanpura supplies more than enough.  However, the extra string does give a more melodious feeling. Here are a few combinations to try. Only the first and second strings are variable:

  • PA, NI, sa, sa, SA  
  • PA, NI, sa, sa, SA  
  • MA, DHA, sa, sa, SA  
  • MA, DHA, sa, sa, SA

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