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:

  • MA,sa,sa,SA, for accompanying raga Lalit  
  • DHA,sa,sa,SA, for accompanying raga Marva

The five stringed tanpura gives another dimension all together. 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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