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String Instruments: 9 Unique Western and Indian String Instruments

String instruments are characterized by the ones which are played using the vibration of strings when a performer plays them. They are also known by the names Chordophones or string instruments.

String Instruments

These string instruments are played, by either playing the instruments with the plectrum or making the instrument vibrate with a wooden hammer, or using a bow to play the instruments.

The earliest traces of string instruments were found in 13,000 BC in cave paintings and were believed to represent a hunting bow with string on it. From this specific single-stringed bow multiple stringed instruments started to get their initiation.

Indian String Instruments

The Indian subcontinent is an amalgamation of varied cultures and performing arts. Music has also been a great field where the richness of Indian culture has been portrayed in the best fashion. It also constitutes the multitude of string instruments that have been completely taken in Indian music. The basic feature of Indian musical instruments is that it has both sympathetic strings as well as played strings.

Some of the most popular Indian String instruments which are used in Indian music are:

Sitar

Sitar is one of the widely used string instruments in India. Mostly played with traditional classical music, sitar got its recognition abroad because of the famous Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. The presently used instrument of sitar has its root in the 18th century. This hugely celebrated Indian string instrument has 18-21 strings most of which are sympathetic and only 6-7 strings are playable attached with movable frets.

Sitar

Veena string instrument

Veena is the oldest Indian string instrument. Sitar, as a matter of fact, evolved from this musical instrument. This makes Sitar and Veena look very similar. This instrument has a fixed number of melody strings and sympathetic strings, unlike Sitar. Veena also has 24 frets. This musical instrument can also be referred back to the earlier Mythological texts of India like the Vedas. Veena has also been considered to be the instrument that was played by Goddess Saraswathi.

Veena string instrument

Surbahar

This Indian string instrument is much similar to a sitar but has a lower pitch. This has four playable strings and ten sympathetic strings. This instrument is also called the Bass Sitar. To add to the uniqueness of Surbahar, it has four rhythm strings.

Surbahar

Sarangi string instrument

Sarangi is a difficult Indian string instrument to play. It constitutes of three playing strings. The playing of these instruments needs the fingers. The lower portion of this instrument has goatskin or the leather around which the player plays to produce sound.

Sarangi string instrument

Dotara

This is a north Indian string instrument that is specifically used for folk music. This has two strings only and is a very simple instrument. The body is made mainly from dried gourd and goatskin. Dotara constitutes an open string which is played in an open rhythm. The uniqueness of the instrument is that these instruments are generally hand made. Dotara is a bit different from the Ektara which is played in Bengal. Ektara is an instrument that is a bit more complicated as it has four strings.

Dotara string instrument

Western String Instruments

There is a wide range of string instruments that are common in western countries mainly Europe and the Americas. These Western string instruments have become renowned all across the globe and are used along with all modern forms of musical performances.

Some of the significant western musical string instruments are discussed below:

Cello

Cello falls under the category of the bowed-string instrument and emerged as Western string instrument. This instrument has four strings whereby this instrument is used for mainly solo performances without music. Cello has its origin in the Italian violoncello. This specific instrument got widespread from northern Italy whereby the three sizes of the violin family in c. 1530 got dominant, the violins, violas, and the cellos.

Cello string instrument

Violin string instrument

Violin is a chordophone instrument also popularly called the fiddle. This western string instrument first emerged in the 16th century in Italy. This instrument also got modified in the 18th and 19th centuries and infused powerful music and pitch in this instrument. The body of the violin consists of different kinds of wood while the strings are made of steel or constitute other synthetic substances. Violin is a part of various musical orchestras and ensembles. The instrument is universal now as it has equally got absorbed in Indian music as much as it has its fame abroad.

String instrument – Violin

Guitar

The guitar is considered to be one of the most played string instruments. These are either played with the plectrum or with fingers and fingernails. These instruments are played even by beating on the board in the lower part of the guitar. There are various types of guitars like acoustic guitar, jazz guitar, classical guitar, Spanish guitar or nylon-string guitar, and so on. The guitar came into existence in the 12th century.

Guitar

Harp string instrument

It is a triangular instrument whose body constitutes wood. There are various kinds of harps and originated from countries like Iraq, Iran, and Egypt and later got popular in Pakistan, China, and India. This instrument was spread in Europe during the medieval ages. In the American countries, this instrument got popular in folk music. The origin of this instrument became popular in 3000 BCE. The strings are made up of wire or gut and are fixed at specific angles to the wooden frame.

Harp String Instrument

The type of harps ranges from the Celtic harps, Claviharp, Epigonion, Pedal harp, Triple harp, and so on. Harps from the very beginning of its origin got various modifications done on it. Across various places around the globe, the harps are given various forms and unique modifications.

Summary

Both Western and Indian string instruments are widely used in their countries of origin and have also been now a part of the world at large. Especially the western instruments like the guitar, the violin, the harp are widely used as an accompaniment of Indian music as well as across all the nations across the world. Music heals the heart, so it cannot be limited to their areas of origin but has begun to win the hearts of all. The use of Indian string instruments is very unique but has won the hearts of people across the globe. 

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