There are many musical instruments in India. Some instruments are used primarily in north Indian music (Hindustani sangeet), some are used in the south Indian music (Carnatic sangeet), while others are found in folk music. Instrumental music is usually similar to vocal music but sometimes there are distinctive instrumental styles.
There is a traditional system for the classification of instruments. This system is based upon; non-membranous percussion (ghan), membranous percussion (avanaddh), wind blown (sushir), plucked string (tat), bowed string (vitat). In addition to these traditional five classes we have been forced to create a sixth class to accommodate purely electronic instruments.
This is one of the oldest classes of instruments in India. This class is based upon percussive instruments which do not have membranes, specifically those which have solid resonators. These may be either melodic instruments or instruments to keep tal.
This class of instrument is characterised by the use of air to excite the various resonators.
This class of instruments is characterised by plucked strings. In ancient times virtually all instruments of this class were referred to as vina.
This is a class of stringed instruments which are bowed. This class appears to be quite old, yet these instruments did not occupy a place in classical music until the last few centuries. The entire class of instruments has a certain stigma attached to it. Even today only the Western violin is free of this stigma.
This is a class of instruments which have struck membranes. These typically comprise the drums.
This is a class of instruments which are electronic in their operation.
We have given a brief overview of the Indian instruments. We mentioned that the instruments fall into six categories: ghan (non-membranous percussion), sushir (wind blown), tat (plucked stringed), vitat (bowed stringed) and avanaddh (membranous percussion). Tradition says that there are only five classes, but we have been forced to create a sixth class to accommodate purely electronic instruments.
© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney
For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at [email protected]