Indian classical musical instruments – Types & Classification With Images

When it comes to Indian classical musical instruments it takes ages to discuss each one of them in one blog. Hello everyone, in this blog we are going to classify and list down some of the popular Indian classical musical instruments which come across frequently in an Indian music instrumental setup.

Indian Classical Musical Instruments Types

In the case of Indian classical musical instruments, the most accepted classification is the one proposed by Regime Herethe (Rishi Bharat). According to his classification, he divided the Indian classical instruments into four categories. They are:

1. Tantu Vadya

Tantu Vadya are those instruments which use string to produce music, in short they are the instruments with strings. In western music they are called Chordophones. The example of Tantu Vadya instruments are:

  • Tanpura: It is a drone instrument in Indian classical music. In Indian classical music, it is only an accompanying instrument that is it cannot be played for a solo performance.
  • Veena
  • Sitar
  • Sarod
  • Santoor
  • Ektara
  • Khamak
Tantu Vadya, TAT or Nakhaj Vadya, Vitat vadya - indian classical musical instruments - Veena, tanpura, sarangi

Further the Tantu Vadya can be categorized as 3 types:

  • TAT or Nakhaj Vadya: Instruments played by fingernails or plucking. These instruments have frets(Ridges) for example Veena, Sitar, etc. There are also some instruments without frets like Sarod.
  • VITAT Vadya: String Instruments played with a bow. Popular example of these are sarangi and Violin.
  • Instruments played neither by plucking or with the help of a bow. For example Santoor, which is a string instrument played by striking the strings with a spoon-shaped hammer.

2. Sushir Vadya

This is the second major category of Indian classical musical instruments which are also called wind instruments. In western music, they are called Aerophones. As the name suggests, we can clearly understand that these instruments need air/wind to produce music.

Sushir Vadya - basuri, shankh, sehenai - mouth blown & bellow blown musical instrument in indian classical music

Sushir Vadya is further categorized as following types:

  • Mouth Blown Classical Instruments: For example, Shankh that needs a lot of breath to blown inside for producing music which is a natural sushir vadya. Another example of sushir vadya is Basuri (Indian Flute without reeds). It depends only on air-columns for sound production. Another example for mouth-blown sushir Vadya is Shehnai which have two reeds to produce sound.
  • Bellow-Blown: These are the musical instruments that use bellow to blow air mechanically. For example Harmonium.

3. Avanadh Vadya/Charmaj

Avanadh vadya or charmaj vadya are also called Drums or membrophones in western music. They contain a layer of animal skin which vibrates when hit and produces sound. Some avanadh badya are played by using palms and fingers. For example carnatic instruments like Mridangam and khanjira. There are also some Hindustani instruments like Tabla and Pakhawaj which is very similar to Mridangam.

Some avanadh vadya are played by hitting the layer of skin by stick or hammer. For example chaughada and dhol.

Avanadh Vadya/Charmaj - Mridangam, khanjira, Dhol - Indian classical musical instruments

4. Ghana Vadya

Ghana Vadya are the musical instruments that are made of a solid material like metal, clay or wood which do not need further tuning. Most of them are used as side-rhythm instrument. They are called idiophones according to the western music. The major example of Ghana vadya are carnatic instruments like Ghatam and Morsing. Other examples include Manjira, Kartaal, Chimta – fire tong with brass jingles.

Ghana Vadya - Ghatam, morsing, chimta - Indian classical musical instruments

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