Category Archives: Instrumental

Violin

violin musical instrument

The violin, also known as a fiddle, is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola, and the cello. The modern word is derived from the Italian word violino, literally ‘small viola’.

Someone who plays the violin is called a violinist or a fiddler. The violinist produces sound by drawing a bow across one or more strings (which may be stopped by the fingers of the other hand to produce a full range of pitches), by plucking the strings (with either hand), or by a variety of other techniques. The violin is played by musicians in a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque music, classical, jazz, folk music, rock and roll, and soft rock. The violin has come to be played in many non Western music cultures all over the world. The violin is sometimes informally called a fiddle, regardless of the type of music played on it.

The violin is first known in 16th century Italy, with some further modifications occurring in the 18th and 19th centuries. Violinists and collectors particularly prize the instruments made by the Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati families from the 16th to the 18th century in Brescia and Cremona and by Jacob Stainer in Austria. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this belief is disputed. Great numbers of instruments have come from the hands of “lesser” makers, as well as still greater numbers of mass produced commercial “trade violins” coming from cottage industries in places such as Saxony, Bohemia, and Mirecourt. Many of these trade instruments were formerly sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. and other mass merchandisers.

A person who makes or repairs violins is called a luthier. The parts of a violin are usually made from different types of wood (although electric violins may not be made of wood at all, since their sound may not be dependent on specific acoustic characteristics of the instrument’s construction), and it is usually strung with gut, Perlon or other synthetic, or steel strings.

Veena

veena musical instrument

Veena is a plucked stringed instrument originating in ancient India, used mainly in Indian classical music. The name is used for several instruments belonging to different families, mainly the Rudra veena (a zither) and the Saraswati veena (a necked bowl lute) but also to other types of plucked string instruments (Mohan veena, Ancient veena etc).

One of early veenas used in India from early times, until the Gupta period and later (this is probably the instrument referred to as veena in a chapter of the Natyasastra dealing with instrumental music) was an instrument of the type of the harp and more precisely of the arched harp. It was played with the strings being kept parallel to the body of the player, with both hands plucking the strings, as shown on Samudragupta’s gold coins. It is not possible to tell exactly the number of strings of the instrument on the coin, but descriptions in early literary sources of an ancient instrument called thesaptatantree veena (7-string veena) seem to coincide generally with the type of instrument represented on the coin.

Veena can be broadly classified into several different types

With frets

  • Rudra veena, plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music
  • Saraswati veena, plucked string instrument used in Carnatic music

Fretless

  • Vichitra veena, plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music
  • Chitra veena or gottuvadhyam, plucked string instrument used in Carnatic music

Guitar

Mohan veena, slide guitar

Other

  • Yazh, or Shatatantri veena, ancient Indian form of Santoor
  • Saptatantri veena

Tabla

tabla musical instrument

The tabla (or tabl, tabla) is a membranophone percussion instrument which is often used in Hindustani classical music and in traditional music of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres.

Tabla playing is a mathematically calculated process. The right hand drum is called a tabla and the left hand drum is called a dagga or baya. It is claimed that the term tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabl, which simply means “drum.” The tabla is used in some other Asian musical traditions outside of Indian subcontinent, such as in the Indonesian dangdut genre. Playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds and rhythms, reflected in the mnemonic syllables (bol). The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed during the sound’s decay. In playing tabla there are two ways to play it: band bol and khula bol.In sense of classical music it is termed as “tali” and “khali”.

The smaller drum, played with the dominant hand, is sometimes called dayan (literally “right”), dāhina, siddha or chattū, but is correctly called the “tabla.” It is made from a conical piece of mostly teak and rosewood hollowed out to approximately half of its total depth. The drum is tuned to a specific note, usually either the tonic, dominant or subdominant of the soloist’s key and thus complements the melody. The tuning range is limited although different dāyāñs are produced in different sizes, each with a different range. Cylindrical wood blocks, known as ghatta, are inserted between the strap and the shell allowing tension to be adjusted by their vertical positioning. Fine tuning is achieved while striking vertically on the braided portion of the head using a small, heavy hammer.

The larger drum, played with the other hand, is called bāyāñ (literally “left”) or sometimes dagga, duggī or dhāmā. The bāyāñ has a much deeper bass tone, much like its distant cousin, the kettle drum. The bāyāñ may be made of any of a number of materials. Brass is the most common, copper is more expensive, but generally held to be the best, while aluminum and steel are often found in inexpensive models. Sometimes wood is used, especially in old bāyāñs from the Punjab. Clay is also used, although not favored for durability; these are generally found in the North East region of Bengal.

Mrudangam

mrudangam

The Mrudangam is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble. Alternate spellings include “mridangam”, “mrdangam”, “mritangam” and “miruthangam in Tamil”.

The mrudangam is also played in Carnatic concerts in countries outside of India, including Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. During a percussion ensemble, the mridangam is often accompanied by the ghatam, kanjira, and the morsing.

The mridangam is a double-sided drum whose body is usually made using a hollowed piece of jackfruit wood about an inch thick. The two mouths or apertures of the drum are covered with a goatskin and laced to each other with leather straps around the circumference of drum. These straps are put into a state of high tension to stretch out the circular membranes on either side of the hull, allowing them to resonate when struck. These two membranes are dissimilar in width to allow for the production of both bass and treble sounds from the same drum.

The bass aperture is known as the thoppi or eda bhaaga and the smaller aperture is known as the valanthalai or bala bhaaga. The smaller membrane, when struck, produces higher pitched sounds with a metallic timbre. The wider aperture produces lower pitched sounds. The goat skin covering the smaller aperture is anointed in the center with a black disk made of rice flour, ferric oxide powder and starch. This black tuning paste is known as the satham or karanai and gives the mridangam its distinct metallic timbre.

The combination of two inhomogeneous circular membranes allows for the production of unique and distinct harmonics.

Immediately prior to use in a performance, the leather covering the wider aperture is made moist and a spot of paste made from rice flour and water is applied to the center, which lowers the pitch of the left membrane and gives it a very powerful resonating bass sound. The artist tunes the instrument by varying the tension in the leather straps spanning the hull of the instrument. This is achieved by placing the mridangam upright with its larger side facing down, and then striking the tension bearing straps located along of circumference of the right membrane with a heavy object (such as a stone). A wooden peg is sometimes placed between the stone and the mridangam during the tuning procedure to ensure that the force is exerted at precisely the point where it is needed. Striking the periphery of the right membrane in the direction toward the hull raises the pitch, while striking the periphery from the opposite side (moving away from the hull) lowers the pitch. The pitch must be uniform and balanced at all points along the circumference of the valanthalai for the sound to resonate perfectly. The pitch can be balanced with the aid of a pitch pipe or a tambura. The larger membrane can also be tuned in a similar manner, though it is not done as frequently. Note that since the leather straps are interwoven between both the smaller and larger aperture, adjusting the tension on one side often can affect the tension on the other.

Flute

flutes

The flute is a family of musical instrument of the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge blown aerophones.

A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, a flautist,a flutist or less commonly a fluter. The term flutenist, found in English up to the 18th century, is now virtually obsolete.

A flute produces sound when a stream of air directed across a hole in the instrument creates a vibration of air at the hole. The air stream across this hole creates a siphon.This excites the air contained in the usually cylindrical resonant cavity within the flute. The player changes the pitch of the sound produced by opening and closing holes in the body of the instrument, thus changing the effective length of the resonator and its corresponding resonant frequency. By varying the air pressure, a flute player can also change the pitch of a note by causing the air in the flute to resonate at a harmonic rather than the fundamental frequency without opening or closing any holes.

To be louder, a flute must use a larger resonator, a larger air stream, or increased air stream velocity. A flute’s volume can generally be increased by making its resonator and tone holes larger. This is why a police whistle, a form of flute, is very wide for its pitch, and why a pipe organ can be far louder than a concert flute: a large organ pipe can contain several cubic feet of air, and its tone hole may be several inches wide, while a concert flute’s air stream measures a fraction of an inch across.

The air stream must be directed at the correct angle and velocity, or else the air in the flute will not vibrate. In fippled or ducted flutes, a precisely formed and placed windway will compress and channel the air to the labium ramp edge across the open window. In the pipe organ, this air is supplied by a regulated blower. In non-fipple flutes, the air stream is shaped and directed by the player’s lips, called the embouchure. This allows the player a wide range of expression in pitch, volume, and timbre, especially in comparison to fipple/ducted flutes. However, it also makes an end blown flute or transverse flute considerably more difficult for a beginner to produce a full sound on than a ducted flute, such as the recorder. Transverse and end-blown flutes also take more air to play, which requires deeper breathing and makes circular breathing a considerably trickier proposition.

Generally, the quality called timbre or “tone colour” varies because the flute can produce harmonics in different proportions or intensities. The tone color can be modified by changing the internal shape of the bore, such as the conical taper, or the diameter to length ratio. A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple of a lower register, or “fundamental” note of the flute. Generally the air stream is thinner (vibrating in more modes), faster (providing more energy to excite the air’s resonance), and aimed across the hole less deeply (permitting a more shallow deflection of the air stream) in the production of higher harmonics or upper partials.

Head joint geometry appears particularly critical to acoustic performance and tone, but there is no clear consensus on a particular shape amongst manufacturers. Acoustic impedance of the embouchure hole appears the most critical parameter. Critical variables affecting this acoustic impedance include: chimney length (hole between lip-plate and head tube), chimney diameter, and radii or curvature of the ends of the chimney and any designed restriction in the “throat” of the instrument, such as that in the Japanese Nohkan Flute.

Aside from the voice, flutes are the earliest known musical instruments. A number of flutes dating to about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.