Top 10 Indian Musical Instruments
Musical Instruments are anything that produces sound. These objects are a medium through which music is created — the origin and history of musical instrument date from the beginning of the human race and culture.
There are a diverse number of instruments originating from India since ancient times. These instruments are referred to as Indian Musical Instruments which have been popular since the beginning of the 16th and 17th century. Indian musical instruments are even popular today as means of creation of soulful, melodious music for weddings, bhajans, kirtans, and other religious rituals and prayers.
These instruments are divided into four main categories – chordophones (string instruments), aerophones (wind instruments), membranophones (drums) and idiophones (non-drum percussion instruments).
If you are planning to get on for yourself, it is necessary to get all the musical instruments information, so you get a product your penny’s worth. Few of the most famous ones are dholak, tabla music, sitar music, flute or bansuri.
This article highlights some of the most popular Types of Indian Musical Instruments, which you can read about in the next section.
We have also provided a comprehensive buyer’s guide along with the detailed review of the top ten Indian Musical Instruments available on Amazon. You can also find the answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Top 10 Musical Instruments
Best hand Pumped Harmonium
Best hand Percussion Instrument
Best Hand Percussion Instrument
Best Tabla Set
Best Kartal Pair
The Spiritual Damaru
Best Vintage Finishing
Best Folk Music Instrument
Types of Indian Instruments
The Dholak is a two-headed drum that produces sound when struck by hand. It originates from South Asia and is mainly used as an Indian Folk Instrument to produce sound during weddings and prayer rituals on which one can dance or sing.
The two surfaces of the dholak which produces sound on striking are of different sizes. The smaller surface is made using goat skin for sharp notes while the larger surface is made using buffalo skin for low pitch. The instrument hence ensures a combination of bass and treble with rhythmic low and high pitches. The body of the instrument is constructed using wood like Sheesham and may have a traditional rope with screw-turnbuckle tension.
A sitar is a stringed instrument consisting of a pear-shaped body with a long, hollow wooden neck and bridge. It has a varying number of strings that come in the numbers of 18, 19, 20 or 21. The number of playing strings are six or seven while the remaining below are sympathetic strings that ensure its distinctive timbre. It produces a rich sound when the strings are plucked which resonates due to its design.
The Sitar is a very popular instrument originating from the Indian sub-continent. It has flourished under the Mughal Era since the 16th and 17th century. The name was derived from the Persian instrument called the ‘setar’ which means three strings. This Indian instrument is popular all over the world since it has appeared in popular tracks of the western bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Door to name a few.
The tabla is a membrophonic percussion instrument that consists of two single headed drums that are different from each other in shape and size. The two barrel shaped drums are called ‘baya’ or ‘bahina’ meaning left and the ‘daya’ or ‘dahina’ meaning left. The daya is a bit smaller than the baya and is played by the musicians right hand while the baya is played by the left hand. Both the drums consists of hoops and wooden dowlels to tighten the tension.
The musician requires to use his palms and fingers in various ways in order to obtain variation in the pitch and sound of the instrument. The tabla has always been an important part of the Hindustani Classical music and is still popular among Indians for bhajans, kirtans and other devotional traditions. It is also a popular qawali instrument used by sufi musicians in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
The veena is another instrument originating from the Indian sub-continent. It belongs from the family of stringed instruments and has widely been used in Indian, Carnatic and Hindustani Classical music. The veena has evolved over time in design to include lutes, zithers and arched harps.
In order to play the veena, the musician needs to wear a plectrum on the first and second fingers which he uses to pluck the melody strings at the same time the drone strings are played with the little finger of the playing hand. There are different types of veena like the Rudra Veena, Saraswati Veena, and the Vichitra Veena to name a few.
The Tanpura is another stringed instrument that resembles the body shape of a Sitar but it has no frets. Itoriginatess from India and is a popular instrument in various forms of Indian music. However, it does not play any melody, instead the instrument sustains the melody of another instrument or singer. It consists of four to five metal strings, plucked one after the other in a regular patter to produce harmonic resonance on the basic key notes.
Bansuri is a side blown flute that has its origin from the Indian sub-continent. The instrument is a single hollow shaft of bamboo consisting of two ends, one closed and another one open. It also consists of six to seven finger holes covering two and a half octave of music. The musician creates musical notes by tapping the finger holes and blowing in the blow hole present a few centimeters away from the closed end.
The damaru is a two headed drum with its body made of wood. It has a height ranging from a few inches to a little over a foot. The instrument consists of beads and knots in the leather cord which produces sound as it strikes the surfaces. You can play it single-handedly by waving the instrument using a twist wrist motion.
It is a very popular in Hinduism and Buddhism. The damaru is known to be the instrument of Lord Shiva who is said to have created the whole world using the spiritual sound produced by this instrument.
It is also referred to as Taal, Gini, and Jalra. The majira consists of two small hand cymbals made using brass or bronze that is connected to each other using a leather or cotton cord. The two cymbals are clashed against each other to produce high-pitched percussion sounds. This is very commonly used for prayers and rituals before gods and goddesses.
The body of the dholak should be constructed using good quality Sheesham wood. The small surface should be made using goat skin for sharper notes while the larger surface should be made using Buffalo skin. Ensure that the dholak is made using good quality materials so that you obtain a high-quality sound with the combination of treble and bass with rhythmic high and low pitch.
Nuts and Bolts
The dholak should have nuts and bolts attached to the body. Ensure that it is made using stainless steel so that it is rust free. This allows you to adjust or tighten the tension of the surfaces.
Go for a matte or a glossily polished finishing of the wood. This makes it an attractive looking piece to use as a decorative item at home. It should also come with a handle to help you carry it easily.
Hand cymbals are basically cymbals that are played using hands. You can choose the hand cymbal based on its design. You can go for a that consists of larger cymbals hence producing a louder sound. The kartal on the other hand, contains smaller cymbals enclosed in wooden frames producing a softer sound than manjira. However, both can be used for puja and bhajans.
Material and Construction
The cymbals should be made using an alloy such as brass or bronze so that it produces a good quality sound while also ensuring the durability of the instrument. The manjira usually consists of a cord connecting the two cymbals which should be made using leather or cotton. While the frames of the kartal should be constructed using good quality wood. Both the instruments must have a sturdy build.
The tabla consists of two drums referred to as the ‘bayan’ and ‘dayan. Ensure that the ‘dayan’ is smaller than the ‘bayan’ with a size ranging between 5-5.5 inches. The ‘bayan’ on the other hand should be bigger than the other with a size ranging between 9-10 inches.
Both the drums should be barrel in shape with single heads. The body of the barrel-shaped drums should be made using a good quality Sheesham wood with a proper finishing that adds to the overall look. The tabla set should also have loops and wooden dowels so that you can easily adjust the tension of the surface.
Go for a set that comes with cushions for the tabla set. The tabla set when placed on these cushions ensures stability allowing you to play it comfortably. It does not slide and you obtain the desired pitch and sound.
Material and Construction
The Bansuri or side flute should be made using a long bamboo shaft. It should include six to seven finger holes that will help you create musical notes while tapping. The bansuri should have a durable and sturdy construction with good quality to ensure a good quality sound melodious, sweet sound.
Check the size of the bansuri before you make a purchase. For a softer note and tone go for a bansuri with a shorter length. However, for a deep and bass sound, the bansuri should be of a longer length. The size depends on the type of sound quality you want it to produce.
The damaru should be small with a height of approximately 5 inches to a little over a foot. It should also have a light-weight design that will help you play it easily single handedly using a twisty wrist like motions. The smaller size ensure a more powerful and soulful sound that raises the spiritual energy.
Material and Construction
The damaru should have a body constructed using a good quality wood with cords made of leather attached to its waist. The end of the cord should have small beads attached to them so that they produce a sharp and rich sound when they strike the surface of the damaru.
Number of keys, reeds and stopper:
If you are a beginner or an amateur go for an harmonium with 42 keys. The more the number of reeds the more complexity of sound you will obtain. You can go for a 2-3 reed which has an acceptable reach and allows you to pump air comfortably. It should also have stoppers that allow air to pass into the respective chamber to obtain a better sound quality.
The harmonium should be made using good quality wood like teak or mahogany if you want a resonant sound. However, this would make the harmonium quite heavy. If you need to travel around a lot you can go for a harmonium made of light woods such as pine or fir. Also, ensure handles on the side for easy portability and a good finishing to enhance its overall look.
1. Handmade Wood Dholak Indian Folk Musical Instrument Drum Nuts N Bolt – Our Choice
The Handmade Wood Dholak is a great option for an Indian Percussion instrument that can be used as a decorative item and also to produce a rich vibrant sound quality. It provides a combination bass and treble with rhythmic low or high pitched sound. The quality, polished finishing are the highlights of this product.
It allows you to form your own band or orchestra so that you can play even in ceremonies and marriages. The product provides the perfect sound while also adding its artistic value to your home. It also comes in a reasonable price range making it a popular choice among musicians, be it professionals or even beginners.
- Type: Percussion Instrument- Dholak.
- Made from Sheesham wood.
- The smaller part of the dholak is made from goat skin for sharp notes while the larger surface is made from buffalo skin for low pitch.
- Weight: 5.5 kg.
- Comes with adjustable bolts.
- Has a shiny polished finishing.
- Comes with a handle to carry it.
- Allows a combination of bass, treble with a rhythmic high and low pitch.
- Produces vibrant sound.
- Easy to learn and play.
- It has a great quality that ensures the best sound and pitch effect.
- As per a user review, the sound quality could be better.
- Bolt tightner is not provided.
2. Jyotaksh Store 9 Stopper Harmonium – Best hand Pumped Harmonium
The Harmonium from Jyotaksh Store comes with 42 keys and 9 stoppers. It can be played easily by pumping air and playing on the keys smoothly, hence producing a melodious sound. This harmonium is best known for its quality and sturdy build. Apart from this it has a unique design with a black body finish.
- Type: Hand Pumped harmonium.
- The chudidaar present below 42 keys.
- Comes with 9 stoppers.
- Weight: 12 kg.
- Has 2 reed, bass male and Kapler.
- The product comes with a cover to keep it free from dust.
- Comes with handles on the side to carry it easily.
- Produces good quality, melodious sound.
- As per a user, the keys were loose.
3. DronaIndia Tambourine Hand Percussion Musical Instrument – Best hand Percussion Instrument
The DronaIndia Tambourine is made using good quality steel and bakelite while the drum head is made from nylon sheets. This instrument can accompany regular percussion sets and produce the ideal sound for concerts or dances. It comes in a circular shape with a sturdy structure. Apart from this, it can also be used in different forms of music, be it Turkish folk music, Greek folk music, Italian folk music, classical music or pop and rock.
- Type: hand percussion instrument- Khanjari- Tambourine.
- Made using steel and bakelite.
- The drum head is made with extra nylon sheet.
- Size: Height:- 2 inches x Width:- 11 inch x Diameter:- 9.75 inches.
- Net weight: 0.375 Kg.
- It is a good quality product with a sturdy build.
- It is used in many forms of music: Turkish folk music, Greek folk music, Italian folk music, classical music, Persian music, gospel music, pop music and rock music.
- Handmade by artisans of Uttar Pradesh in north India.
- Useful for concerts and dances.
- Users complained that the product was smaller compared to what is mentioned.
4. SG Musical -Handmade Percussion Instrument – Hand Cymbals Manjira Pair – Best Hand Percussion Instrument
The SG Musical- Handmade percussion hand cymbal is the best instrument to go for rituals and bhajans in front of gods and goddesses. It consists of two pairs of manjira that is made of good quality brass and a leather cord that attaches both together. You just need to strike them together in order to obtain a sweet tinkling sound during religious prayers. This is the best hand percussion instrument to go for.
- Type: Hand Percussion Instrument- Hand Cymbal or Manjeera.
- The pair of manjira is made of brass.
- It comes with leather cords attached to them.
- Width of Manjira is 0.5 inches and the diameter is 2.5 inches.
- Weight: 135 grams.
- Produces great sound quality.
- Can be used for prayers and rituals before gods and goddesses.
- Handmade by artisans of Uttar Pradesh in north India.
- A user mentioned that the finishing of the instrument could be better.
5. Trading Dukan Special Indian Tabla Set – Best Tabla Set
If you are in search for a tabla set this is a great option to go for. The two barrel shaped drums produces sharp sounds that can be used during Indian weddings to dance and sing to. The set comes with a hammer with which you can strike the surfaces instead of using your fingers and palms. The tabla set has a good quality build and the cushions allow you to play comfortably.
- Type: Percussion instrument- tabla.
- Comes with two barrel shaped drums (bayan and dayan).
- Weight: 8 kg.
- Dayan Size – 5 To 5.5 Inches, Bayan Size – 9 To 10 Inches
- Comes with a Sheesham dayan.
- Includes a hammer and a bag.
- It comes with two cushions.
- Good quality sound and build.
- The cushions provide stability while playing.
- The bayan has a shiny surface that makes it look attractive.
- As per a user review, the dayan was not tuned.
- Few users have stated that hammer was not provided along with the product.
6. DronaIndia Kartal Pair Indian Musical Percussion Instrument – Best Kartal Pair
The DronaIndia Kartal pair is another form of majira that consists of small cymbals fixed into wooden frames. The pair comes in two wooden long frames with an open space between the long handles having a wooden separator that separates two rows of three brass cymbal. This instrument is a great choice if you are looking for a melodious sound for pujas and bhajans.
- Type: Form of majira or hand cymbals- kartal.
- Consists of tiny brass cymbals fixed into two wooden frames.
- Made of wood and brass.
- Kartal size: height- 0. 75 inches x length- 8. 5 inches x width- 2. 35 inches.
- Net weight: 0. 286 kg.
- Good and sturdy build.
- Can be used in puja and bhajans.
- Handmade by artisans of Uttar Pradesh in North India.
- No such cons were mentioned.
7. Large Indian Bamboo Natural Flutes/Bansuri – Best Bansuri
The flute or bansuri from Wish and Get is made using premium and natural quality bamboo. It produces a melodious sound that is warm, sweet as well as seamless. The flute is 17 inches long and designed to meet the requirements of beginners as well as professionals. So, if you want a wind instrument for classical music, orchestral playing or studio recording, this is the ideal choice to go for.
- Type: Wind Instrument- Flute or Bansuri.
- Size: 17 inches long.
- The weight of flute: 81.6 gram.
- Key note or scale: C Transverse (Side Flute).
- It is a bamboo flute produced from the finest reeds luxury thread.
- Comes with a cover.
- Has a good frequency and complex tone that is warm, sweet and seamless.
- Suitable for classical music, orchestral playing, studio recording and other musical effects.
- Has a professional quality that is designed to meet the needs of both beginners as well as professionals.
- Crafted in India by artisans using time-honored techniques.
- No such cons were mentioned by users.
8. SG Musical Damaru Indian Folk Percussion Musical Instrument – The Spiritual Damaru
The SG Musical Damaru is the ideal percussion instrument if you are looking for a sound that generates spiritual energy. It can be played easily using a twisted wrist motion to produce sound for folk songs and dances. The damaru is a light-weight instrument that is also associated with the Hindu Deity Shiva. The drumbeats of this damaru will bring you spiritual and mental calmness.
- Type: Percussion Instrument- Damaru.
- Length of the instrument: 5 inches.
- Constructed using wood and leather.
- Consists of beads as strikers that are connected to the ends of the cords around the waist.
- The weight varies between 200-250 grams.
- Handcrafted in India
- It is a power drum known to generate spiritual energy.
- Used as an accompaniment in folk songs and dances.
- Good sound quality.
- As per user reviews, the quality is not up to the mark.
9. Handmade Folk Indian Sheesham Nut Bolt Tightened Dholak – Best Vintage Finishing
The handmade Folk Dholak is made from Sheesham and comes with two surfaces that produce rich and vibrant sounds when struck. The dholak comes in an affordable price range and can also be used as a decorative item because of its vintage looking unpolished finishing. Moreover, it has metal nuts and bolts that allow you to tighten the tension as and when required. The easy to learn dholak also comes with a secure handle that helps you carry it around.
- Type: Percussion Instrument: Dholak.
- Weight: 3.5 kg.
- The smaller surface is made using goat skin while the larger surface is made using buffalo skin.
- The body is made using Sheesham.
- It comes with nuts and bolts for tightening the tension.
- Comes with a handle.
- Produces a combination of treble and bass with rhythmic high and low pitched sound.
- Has an unpolished finishing for a rustic look.
- Great quality product that produces the best sound and pitch effect.
- Easy to learn and play.
- Produces vibrant sound and can be used as a decorative item.
- No such cons were mentioned.
10. Aone Bamboo Indian String Instrument Gopichand/Ektara – Best Folk Music Instrument
The Gopichand Ektara from Aone is an ideal option for an Indian stringed instrument if you are fond of Baul and folk music. It is constructed using bamboo and wood to produce a distinctive sound. The instrument produces a rhythm that accompanies instruments like the kartal during pujas and bhajans. Moreover, it has a sturdy build and light-weight design.
- Type: one stringed instrument- Gopichand Ektara.
- The primary material used is bamboo and wood.
- The two ends of the long bamboo shafts are pried apart and attached to the resonator.
- The resonator is made out of hollow cylindrical wood.
- Net weight: 0.160 kg.
- Height: 18.5 inches and diameter: 3.5 inches.
- It is a rhythmic instrument that accompanies instruments such as kartal, dotar.
- Produces a distinctive sound.
- Used in folk or Baul music and played by plucking with a finger.
- Light-weight and easy to carry.
- Used for Puja and Bhajans.
- No such cons were mentioned.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the types of Indian Musical Instruments?
The Indian Musical Instruments are divided broadly into four categories: chordophones (string instruments), aerophones (wind instruments), membranophones (drums) and idiophones (non-drum percussion instruments).
2. What are the surfaces of a dholak made of?
The larger surface of the dholak is made using buffalo skin to produce low pitched sounds while the smaller surface is made using goat’s skin to produce sharper notes. The body on the dholak is made using good quality wood like Sheesham.
3. What is the difference between a bansuri and a Venu?
The Venu is a Carnatic Flute that comes with eight holes while the bansuri is a Hindustani flute that comes with six to seven holes. These holes are tapped by fingers to create musical notes. Bansuri is used in North Indian music while Venu is used in south Indian music.
We now come to the end of this article. We have provided an insight related to the Indian Musical Instruments. So, if you are a musician or a music lover who has the passion for playing an Instrument that has its origin from India, this article is sure to help.
We have provided a comprehensive buyer’s guide along with the reviews of the top ten Indian Musical instruments available on Amazon. You can go for our number one choice: the Handmade Wood Dholak Indian Folk Musical Instrument Drum which you can also use as a decorative item. On the other hand, go for the Large Indian Bamboo Natural Flutes/Bansuri for a melodious and sweet sound.
You can purchase any of the ten Indian Instruments from the Amazon links mentioned below each of the products. We hope this article helps.