Tanpura is from the lute family of instruments. The long-necked drone lute is commonly known as Tanpura in northern India or Tambura in the southern India. This is a four or six stringed fretless instrument with a long hollow wooden neck and rounded body.
Tanpura comes in two different sizes – the bigger one is known as “males” and smaller one as “females”. When it comes to designing the Tanpura – there are three main styles; the Miraj style, the Tanjore style and the small instrumental version called Tamburi.
It is played by plucking the strings in a successive manner. Due to its calm and delightful sound it is also effectively used in meditation, yoga and alternate healing therapies.
Then there is a modification called the Instrumental Tanpura. These are used for accompanying instruments like Sitar and Sarode. The Instrumental tanpuras are smaller than the regular ones and have a round, hand-carved, wooden back. On the other hand the Tenor Tanpuras are much larger as they are designed to play to the levels of the human voice, which is much louder than most Indian instruments. A typical Instrumental Tanpura is about 39″ long x 11″ wide.
The more strings theInstrumental Tanpura has, the more different tunings may be used and the more sustain and fullness it gives while it is played.
In Indian classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic, drone is considered to be an essential accompaniment for the musician. The drone produced by Tanpura serves the function of helping the musician stay on their pitch.
Tanpura also acts as an accompaniment for Bansuri player. IN concerts when the Bansuri/flute player is fatigued Tanpura music in the background helps the artist to stay on the pitch. Tanpura not only provides the root note it also produces a whole repertoire of rich harmonics.