Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Country: Many, India.
Region: South Asia.
Description: The tanpura (तानपूरा; or tambura, tanpuri) it is a long-necked plucked string instrument found in various forms in Indian music. The tanpura is used throughout numerous forms of Indian Music. The tampura provides a constant loop, a rich pallet of timbre and colour. This is a determinant factor in the resulting sound. The tanpura played unchangingly during the complete performance.
History: Tanpura’s form the root of the ensemble and indeed of the music itself, as the tanpura creates an acoustic dynamic reference chord from which the ragas (melodic modes) derive their distinctive character, colour and flavour. Stephen Slawek notes that by the end of the 16th century, the tanpura had “fully developed in its modern form”, and was seen in the miniature paintings of the Mughals. Slawek further suggests that due to structural similarity the sitar and tanpura share a related history.
Construction: The body shape of the tanpura somewhat resembles that of the sitar, but it has no frets – as the strings are always plucked at their full lengths. One or more tanpuras may be used to accompany vocalists or instrumentalists. It has four or five (rarely six) metal strings, which are plucked one after another in a regular pattern to create a harmonic resonance on the basic notes of a key
Miraj [North Indian, Hindustani] style: the favourite form of tanpura for Hindustani performers. It is usually between three and five feet in length, with a carved, rounded resonator surface [tabli] and a long, hollow straight neck, in section resembling a rounded capital D. The round lower chamber to which the [tabli], the connecting heel-piece and the neck [dandh] are fixed is cut from a selected and dried gourd [tumba]. Wood used is either tun or teak; bridges are usually cut from one piece of bone.
Tanjore [Carnatic or South Indian] style: This is a south Indian style of tambura, used widely by Carnatic performers. It has a somewhat different shape and style of decoration from that of the miraj although the miraj and tanjore tampura of the same size. Typically, no gourd is used, but the spherical part is gouged out of a solid block of wood. The neck is somewhat smaller in diameter. Jackfruit [Artocarpus heterophyllus] is used throughout; bridges are usually cut from one piece of rosewood. Often, two rosettes are drilled out and ornamented with inlay work.