Newsletter September 2010

1. RiyazStudio - tabla & tanpura software
- New in our Assortment -

The digital world is developing in breathtaking speed. At India Instruments we are mainly dealing with traditional acoustic instruments from India, and therefore we don't want to run after every latest hype. However we are happy to present tools that have proved useful for musical practice in course of time.

RiyazStudio is a time-tested tabla, tanpura and drone software, which can completely replace any electronic tabla and tanpura machines. "Riyaz" means "practice", and RiyazStudio can indeed be a wonderful inspiration for regular practice with its great sounds and many functional options. The programme is easy to work with, relatively cheap and runs on all Windows systems software from Windows 98 upwards as well as on Mac or Linux systems with the necessary emulations.

RiyazStudio's heart is the tabla. When you are using good speakers with your computer, it convinces with a very natural sound and realistic phrasings. Each one of the nine available classical Indian rhythm cycles (tala) can be played in four different speed levels (laya) and each speed level has several variations to choose from. Speed can be adjusted exactly in beats per minute on each level, of course. The position of each beat can be visually displayed by a graphic sequence as well as by a numbered count.

The tanpura sounds great, too. Here you can choose between the standard tuning with a fifth (Pa), an alternate tuning with a fourth (Ma) and special tunings for the three ragas Puriya, Marwa and Gujari-Todi. RiyazStudio is completed by the drone, which can provide just the tonic, the tonic and fifth or the tonic and fourth as a permanent sound.

Tabla, tanpura and drone can be switched on and off separately. The volume can be adjusted continuously and individually. The basic tuning is the same for all three functions, based on the western chromatic half note scale from low g up to high c. Micro tuning off these half note steps is possible as well. Having the tanpura and drone sound an octave lower than the tabla is another option.

A screenshot and further technical and musical info is available here

  • RiyazStudio, practice software for Windows with tabla, tanpura and drone functions - 39.- Euros installation CD and registration code for two computers

2. Easy Harmonium - book & CD
- New in our Assortment -

The book Easy Harmonium with accompanying CD is a perfect solution for anybody looking for new spiritual songs, but unable to decipher western staff notation or chord symbols. The 35-pages book presents the texts of nine Krishna-bhajans and various melodies for the Hare Krishna maha mantra. The clou: The names of three notes are given above each text section - these notes played together form a matching chord for the melody of the respective section! A keyboard illustration with note names above each piece makes it easy to find the right keys on the harmonium. The book is rounded off with English translations of the bhajans and with 11 black and white illustrations.?

And how do you learn the melodies? Just listen to the CD and sing along until you've got them! The bhajans and melodies on the CD are sung so beautifully, full of emotion and with so many variations by a well-sounding female voice that listening is a real pleasure. Because of the CD this media package is also an interesting source for more experienced musicians and of course for all Krishna devotees, too.

Details on the content and further teaching materials for harmonium are available here

  • Easy Harmonium, book 21 x 29 cm with 35 p. in spiral bindung, 11 illustrations, including audio-CD - 15,- Euros (plus shipping cost)

3. North Indian dotara - chant instrument
- New in our Assortment -

The North Indian dotara is a simple instrument with two strings. It is traditionally used by spiritual singers as an accompaniment to their devotional chants. The open strings are plucked in rhythm with the singing and either tuned to the tonic or to the tonic and another fitting note. This creates a sound space that supports the singing and gives rhythmic passages a nice movement. The playing technique is so simple that it does not require any learning or practice and does not distract from the chaning. The subtle sound makes the instrument ideal for singing at home alone or in very small groups. Its light weight and simple structure make it perfect for outdoor use as well. With some aptitude you might also be able to play a few melody notes by pressing the strings against the neck of the instrument.

The body of our North Indian dotara is made of dried gourd. Its top side is cut off and covered with goat skin, like a sarod, dilruba, esraj or sarangi. On the skin there is a small wooden bridge that carries the strings. The neck of the instrument is a long straight wooden bar that goes right through the gourd. The strings are attached to its short end, and its long end carries the two pegs for tuning. The back of the gourd has several small resonating holes.

Thanks to its large gourd resonator and goat skin cover, our North Indian dotara has a particularly fine, full and warm sound. The quality of workmanship and materials of our supplier Paloma is fully convincing as well.

  • North Indian dotara Paloma, pictures and dimensions on our website, including cloth cover - 99.- Euros (plus shipping cost)

The North Indian dotara is not to be confused with the Bengali dotar. The latter is a melody instrument with usually four strings and reminds of a little sarod in terms of construction and playing technique. Infos and pictures of the Bengali dotar

video of an Indian street singer with a North Indian ektara, similar to our North Indian dotara but with just one string and a closed gourd resonator without goat skin.

picture of medieval Indian mystic poet-singer Mirabai with a North Indian ektara, similar to our North Indian dotara but with just one string.

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