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Dilruba

Description Of The Dilruba

The dilruba is a cross between the sitar and sarangi and is extremely close to the esraj and is a string instrument native to India. The manner in which they are carved from wood and are relatively short and squat is among the many similarities shared between the dilruba and esraj. To play both these instruments the bow is drawn across the main strings and the sympathetic strings resonate. In fact these two instruments are so similar that a dilruba player can pick up an esraj and play with no difficulty and vice versa. The main difference is in the shape of their resonators and the manner in which the sympathetic strings attach.

Origin of the Dilruba

The origin of the dilruba is offered from two suggested theories. Some believe it was developed to accommodate the female player due to the large size of the satir, making it difficult to play for women and small children. Following this theory the dilruba's smaller size and shape allow it to be more easily held and played so as not to disfigure a woman's hands. Another theory suggests that the dilruba was a result of the tenth Sikhs request to downsize the Taus to make it more portable for the Saint-Warriors.

Whatever theory points to the correct origin of the dilruba they both end with the same result, a smaller easier to hold and play instrument. It has become a favorite accompaniment of vocalists because the dilruba's higher tone compliments the women's higher pitched voices. Another favored result of this instrument is that the bow creates longer sustains.

Tuning the Dilruba

The dilruba is crafted from organic materials including wood and skin. These materials react to temperature and humidity changes having a direct affect on tuning. If you have obtained a new dilruba the first few days will prove difficult for tuning until the skin soundboard has fully settled. To begin tuning your instrument you can tune the dilruba in the key of C (Indian key of Sa).

Tune your dilruba using a tuned piano or an electronic tuner. The main strings are tuned to C, F, G - 2 octaves below middle C, and G below middle C. The Indian key equivalent is Ma, Sa, Pa, Pa. Tuning of the sympathetic keys can be done on the major scale and can be tuned as follows:

  • in the scale below middle C: F, G, G, A, B
  • in the scale of middle C: C, C
  • in the scale above middle C: D, E, F, G, G, A, B, B
  • in the scale 1 octave above middle C: C, D, D, E, F

These suggestions are a minimum suggestion, nothing is fixed. As you advance in your skill you will probably tune specific for each Raga you play. Generally there is an optimal level of tightness for each Saaj.

How to play the dilruba

There are two popular methods for playing the dilruba. One method shows a preference to the index finger and using the middle finger when the player wishes to gain speed and the other shows a definite preference to use the middle finger coupled with the index finger. With either method the player does not lock down the strings on the fret as is common among other string instruments. You only need to lightly touch the strings between the frets.

Proper body posture is important for ease of playing the instrument as well. The preferred sitting position is cross legged with the neck of the instrument resting on your left shoulder. The soundboard should be angled toward you while you draw the bow across the main strings just above the bridge. Your left hand should be free to note the strings between the frets.

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