India is certainly no stranger to music. This land of mystical beauty and a myriad cultures, also plays home to some of the world’s most exotic musical instruments. India has been closely in touch with its musical side since centuries and there are a number of instruments hailing from different parts of the country. These have evolved over the centuries and are up for grabs across Indian states, each with its own unique sound and exclusivity. However, buying traditional Indian musical instruments to suite your taste and skills isn’t easy and requires as much research as possible. Before you go trekking through web space in search for your future musical instrument, look through this quick guide outlining the most popular classical instruments created in India.


Some of the most popular Indian musical instruments belong to the percussion family. Indians love listening to the beat drop, literally. This is probably why each percussion instrument invented and popularized across India and the world has a highly recognizable distinct note. Some of the most popular percussion instruments from India are:


Widely used in bhangra, qawwali, kirtan and lavani music, the Dholak is perhaps one of the most popularly used musical instruments hailing from India. This two-headed drum usually uses a screw-turnbuckle tensioning or the more traditional cotton rope lacing. As compared to the Tabla, the Dholak is a more folk-music-centric instrument and lacks the tuning of the latter.


The Naal is often crafted from Sheesham Wood and has nuts and bolts that work as tuning keys. With a size of about 20 to 22 inches, the Naal is held horizontally by the player and both its heads are used. The biggest difference between the Naal and the Pakhawaj mentioned below is the former’s length being shorter than the latter.


Also known as the Mardal, the Pakhawaj is the main accompanying music for dhrupad vocal music, a vocal genre in Hindustani classical music. The instrument has a low, mellow tone and is rich in harmonics. The Pakhawaj performer places this percussion instrument horizontally on a cushion in front of him/her and plays it cross-legged. While the larger bass-head is played with the left hand, the treble-head is beaten with the right hand. The Pakhawaj is tuned like a Tabla and the bass side is smeared with wet wheat dough for a better and clearer bass sound. As compared to the Mridangam, the Pakhawaj is smaller in diameter.


The Mridangam is the South Indian version of the Pakhawaj. The barrel-shaped double-ended drum was originally made out of clay in the early days. These days, fiberglass Mridangams are also available, which prove to be a more durable option compared to wood and clay models. While the conventional Mridangam is 22 to 23 inches long, the maha- Mridangam is 26 inches long. The Mridangam loses its tone after being played for more than two hours and needs to be re-tuned.


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The Tabla was brought to India during the reign of the Persian Muslims and is used as an accompaniment as well as a solo instrument. The Tabla compromises of two drums, the “dayan” played with the right hand and the “bayan” played with the left hand. While the dayan compliments the melody, the bayan’s produces a deeper bass tone. The Tabla requires players to use their palms as well as fingers to play the instrument correctly. While the dayan can make 12 different types of sounds, the bayan makes 2.

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