7 Different Types of Veena Instruments

Many Veena instruments have been influential in producing South Asian classical music. We look at different types of Veena instruments and their history.

Types of the Veena Instrument - F

It matches the sound of a human humming.

Veena instruments consist of various chordophone instruments that have graced many centuries in South Asian classical music.

Chordophone instruments revolve around making sounds through vibrating strings to create a certain type of tune.

Instruments are extremely influential to South Asian music, however, Veena style instruments highlight a sense of originality.

Its authenticity and natural sound constructed by the musician makes us appreciate how sound has evolved.

The sitar is a huge standout instrument, that has been a nostalgic sound to classical music listeners. It has created some iconic musicians such as Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan.

Ravi’s sitar playing touched many musical hearts including George Harrison MBE, from ‘The Beatles’.

Also, there are a small number of Veenas that are being developed in the 21st century. This indicates that old fashion type instruments could be re-introduced into the music industry.

Rudra Veena

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 1

The Rudra Veena is one of the largest string instruments in Indian classical music. Also, it is one of the earliest instruments to grace the classical genre.

According to Mythology, it is largely inspired by Lord Shiva from the Hindu triumvirate. The instrument embodies the Indian spiritual culture throughout the subcontinent and connects to the listener on a curative level.

Being the only rich acoustic string instrument, it is described as the mother of all string instruments.

Furthermore, regarding its sound, it possesses the power to purify both the mind of the musician and the listeners.

The instrument has a long tubular body with a length between 54-62 inches. It is also made from wood/bamboo.

Under the tube are two large round resonators, made of hollow gourds. Interestingly this is crucial for the behaviour of the sound or note.

Almost 24 brass-fitted raised wooden frets are hooked on the tube, connecting 3 chikari strings and 4 main strings.

However, it is an intriguing piece rarely featuring on the musical platforms in the 21st century.

Its subtle playing techniques and unique design require a musician to have a strong affiliation and control for mastering such an instrument.

As for this, it firmly places itself as an ambassador of the past times.

Sagar Veena

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 2

Sagar Veena is a modern addition to the existing variety of string instruments. Working in the genre of North Indian Classical Music, it also associates with Pakistani music.

In 1970, the Sagar Veena was developed by Pakistani lawyer Raza Kazim. Since then it has evolved from other instruments in both structure and sound.

During this period of time, his daughter, Noor Zehra, remains the sole Sagar Veena player. Establishing herself in Pakistan, she has successfully rendered performances in and out of the country.

The instrument is an unfretted stringed piece. Its vibrating component consists of two drone chords and nine playing strings. It also has a wooden bridge with silver transmitters and a sounding board.

Its nine playing strings, interestingly, are a merger of the three asthans in Indian music. These include the Tarasthan (highs), Madhasthan (mid-range) and Mandrasthan (bass).

The exceptional range of pitch and timbres enables the musician to broaden their musical mind.

Filled with a deep and reverberating sound, it supplies the overall quality of sound with clarity.

Focusing on the purpose of sound, the instrument has the ability to soulfully interact with the listeners. It also develops their internal processes of thoughts, emotions and sensitivities.

In 2016, Raza Kazim spoke with Sunday Sounds to discuss his thoughts behind inventing the Sagar Veena. He explained:

“As far as I am concerned, at the end of my 45 years of work on the Veena, I think it has reached a mature stage. Probably, most instruments have evolved over time.”

“If the Sagar Veena is not a victim of infant mortality, it will have its own evolution.”

The Sagar Veena is being studied and developed further at the Sanjan Nagar (Institute of Philosophy and Arts in Lahore). With its potential success, it could emerge into Bollywood music.

Sarangi

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 3

An enchanting instrument like the Sarangi dates back around to 5000 BC but is a considerable Veena type instrument. It is very popular in Hindustani music, particularly in the 17th century.

The name ‘Sarangi’ also derives its name from the Hindi term ‘Sau Rang’ which translates as ‘one hundred colours’.

The ‘one hundred colours’ meaning implies that the instrument can adapt to a range of vocal music. It was to indicate that it can produce a variety of tonal colours and emotional gradation.

Similarly to a violin, the Sarangi requires a bow. Likewise to the Rudra Veena this instrument is depicted as the mother of stringed instruments.

The label of the ‘mother’ signifies the sound seeming the closest to the human voice. The Sarangi differs from three to four main metal strings, despite having an equal number of major tuning pegs.

It also consists of several sympathetic strings to enhance the richness of the instrument.

Attractively decorated with ivory, the sympathetic strings connect through holes in small fish motifs, creating a fancy pattern into the wooden body of the instrument.

With this neat design, the bottom surface is handy for when the musician needs to adjust the strings to their liking.

In the 19th century, the Sarangi was common in traditional South Asian dances like Nautch.

Concerning its sound, the tone is quite warm, rich and sometimes nostalgic. Being heavily versatile, the instrument can be employed in numerous music forms of the 21st century.

Saraswati Veena

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 4

The Saraswati Veena instrument name comes from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Inspired by the Hindu faith, Saraswati is either holding or playing the instrument.

This particular Veena has a rich history, going back to around 1500 BC. The distinctive sound of the Saraswati Veena is both gracious and warm, whilst being loud and metallic.

The idea of melodic and rhythmic nuances of Indian raga music can be played on this instrument. It is an appealing yet tricky melody instrument to adjust to other music genres.

As its sound is therapeutic and reflective, it remains a popular instrument in the 21st century.

Its structure is around four feet in length, consisting of huge hollow resonators carved out of jack wood.

Furthermore, its hollow neck is capped with twenty-four brass frets and a tuning box. Its stylish curved slope is also finished with an ornamental Dragon’s head.

Consisting of metal main and drone strings, the metal material is vital for giving the instrument a bold, vibrant sound.

Sarod

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 5

Sarod (Saradiya Veena) is a prominent string musical instrument. It is common in the genre of Hindustani music and popular in Northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The modern form of the Sarod was in effect in the 19th century.

A classical Sarod stands at around 100 cm (39 inches) long and holds a firm wooden body with a skin belly. However, a modern Sarod has 4-6 main melodic strings.

Likewise to other Veena instruments, it contains sympathetic and drone strings to emphasise its true sound.

When playing the Sarod, a seated musician will usually hold the instrument across his lap.

Furthermore, the sound comes from plucking. With a plectrum held in the right hand – the musician strums, whilst the fingernails of the left-hand press the strings.

Being one of the most iconic concert instruments in Hindustani music, it is usually accompanied by other popular instruments. These include the tabla (drums) and tambura (drone lute).

Sitar

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 6

The Sitar stands as a large, slim Indian lute with adjustable frets, played with a wire pick. Teak and Mahogany wooden Sitars make the modern quality instruments of the 21st century.

The instrument is very popular amongst countries such as Northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Regarding its history, the Sitar blossomed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Through becoming well-known it is famous in 21st century South Asian music.

Additionally, becoming dominant in Hindustani music, it is beneficial as a solo instrument along with the tambura and the tabla.

With regards to the listener’s ears, its trademark sound is through the vibratory string on a flat bridge with a gently curved surface.

Interestingly the ‘Jawari’ sound, relates to the maintenance and requires great skill from the musician. ‘Jawari’ also translates to terms like “glimmering” or “jewel-like”.

Jawari implies that the sound of the Sitar is loud, creates buzz and is extremely musical. Throughout the centuries, the instrument has produced some classical Sitar players.

For instance, Ravi Shankar (late) and Vilayat Khan (late) stamped their authority in Indian classical music in the 20th century.

Back in 1967, in an interview with KRLA Beat, Ravi Shankar talked about how he inspired George Harrison from ‘The Beatles’. He said:

“Many people have started listening to Sitar since George Harrison, one of The Beatles, became my disciple.”

“His attitude toward our music is very sincere. His love for India and its philosophy and spiritual values is something outstanding.”

Sitar goes down as one of the most classic instruments in South Asian music, across many centuries and is renowned worldwide.

Vichitra Veena

Types of the Veena Instrument - IA 7

The Vichitra Veena is a string instrument predominantly used in Hindustani music. Also, it emerged to the spotlight, towards the beginning of the twentieth century.

However, the instrument is ancient and is therefore difficult to produce musical notes. Through wanting to produce music, a rounded glass piece is held and glided carefully by the left hand, upon the strings.

Thus, it is tricky to play a fast rhythm song on the Vichitra Veena. However, if music passages are at a steady pace, it produces a rich and beautiful sound.

In relation to its melody, it matches the sound of a human humming.

Furthermore, the design is very slick, as the narrow ends of the Veena are Peacock heads, the national bird of India.

With the Vichitra Veena being a rare instrument, there are not many artists who play this piece. Based on its huge size and its shape, it is evident to realise it is difficult to learn how to play.

Watch Ravi Shankar Play the Sitar:

video

Other Veena instruments include the Ranjan Veena and the Triveni Veena. Interestingly, they are both modern and have both been invented by musician Pandit Niranjan Haldar.

Whilst there are Veena instruments that are rare in 21st century South Asian music, it is noticeable music is evolving.

There are new Veena instruments that are developing. However, it is questionable as to whether we will see them eventually emerge into South Asian music genres.

Ajay is a media graduate that has a keen eye for Film, TV & Journalism. He likes playing sport, and enjoys listening to Bhangra and Hip Hop. His motto is "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."


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