Classification of musical instruments
When we talk of the classification of musical instruments, the first thing that comes in our mind is the traditional four-fold classification. This classification has been very elaborately described in 'Sangeet Ratnakar'. Many papers have been presented on the subject and many research works have been published in the pursuit of this topic. Therefore, I will not go into the details of this traditional classification. In this paper, I would like to draw the attention of the distinguished audience to the limitations of the aforesaid classification. Prof. Lalmani Misra, in his remarkable book on musical instruments, "Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya", had for the first time felt the need to reclassify the musical instruments. In fact, he proposed some new categories in the same book. However, the conservative world of our musicologists did not take note of this very urgent matter. So the proposition was not included in the discourses of musicologists except that the research scholars, who took up the subject of categorizing musical instruments, referred Prof. Misra's innovative suggestions. Hence, the need of the hour is that the traditional four-fold classification of the musical instruments should be discussed and analyzed in this context and if the scholars feel that some changes are required in the ancient classification, we should opt for the same.
The ancient classification is stood for around 800 years now. We are aware of the fact that many new musical instruments have come into being in due course of time. There are many musical instruments which cannot be accommodated in any of the four categories. Prof. Misra has suggested many new categories for such musical instruments. For example, Sarod, which is considered to be a stringed instrument, uses a layer of skin to amplify the sound. Likewise, Jaltarang is considered to be a chime, [Ghana] instrument. We are aware Jaltarang is a full-fledged instrument which is capable of solo performances. Therefore, it does not sound proper to include this instrument in the Ghana category. There are many such flaws in the traditional classification of musical instruments. Therefore, I propose a new classification. This proposed classification should be discussed and debated in a very healthy manner. After the discussions, if the distinguished scholarly presence thinks it proper, it can be adopted for the future classification of Indian musical instruments.
Proposed Classification of musical instruments:
Therefore, on the basis of the above description, we can reclassify our musical instruments in the following categories:
1 Tat, The stringed musical instruments,
These instruments can further be classified as:
- The musical instruments, which are played with a bow, [Vitat],
- The musical instruments, which are played with the help of a plectrum or a striker of any kind, [Tat].
Group A can further be categorized as:
A1. Musical instruments with frets, like Dilaruwa etc,
A2. Musical instruments without frets, like violin, Sarangi, Israj etc.
Group B has a variety of musical instruments which come in different shapes and sizes. Therefore, it needs further categorization:
B1 The musical instruments with gourd like Sitar, Veenas of different kinds etc,
In this group, some musical instruments have one gourd and some have two. The instruments having one gourd can be classified as: B1 [a] and the musical instruments having two gourd, can be included in B1 [b]
B2 The musical instruments which have a gourd-like thing, but it is not the natural gourd; it is made of wood. Such musical instruments which have an artificial gourd and not a natural one can be included in this category. For example, Guitar, Sarod etc.
B3 This category will represent those musical instruments which do not have frets. For example, Sarod, Sarangi etc.
B4 The musical instruments whose tonal quality is modified to the satisfaction of the artist by means of a process called "Juvaari". In this process, the bridge is very precisely given a desired shape on the point on which the string passes by. This results in the production of harmonics, which determines its tonal quality. Instruments like Sitar, Tanpura may be included in this category.
B5 The musical instruments, which are put in a position whereby, the strings face upwards. These include, Santoor, guitar which is used in Hindustani classical music, Swaramandal etc.
B6 musical instruments which have a keyboard attached to them. These include, Banjo, piano etc.
2 Avanaddha, The percussion musical instruments:
These musical instruments can also be further categorized as follows:
- The drums facing upwards. For example, Tabla, drums used in the Western bands and the military bands.
- The vertical drums which are layed in a position whereby the artists strike them from left and right. For example, Dholak, Pakhawaj, Mridang etc.
Both A and B categories of the group 2 can further be divided as:
II. The drums which are not capable of producing a musical note.
This category has many different kinds of musical instruments. Therefore, it needs further classification:
- Simple [wooden, bamboo or metallic] cylindrical shaped musical instruments having wholes to increase or reduce the chamber of vibrating air. This will represent various kinds of flutes, [metallic or bamboo], algoza etc.
- Metalic rounded and twisted chambers, which have very narrow whole from the blowing end and a big, bowl-like end from which the air is released. For example, clarion, bigulls etc.
- This group will represent the musical instruments which have an air-tight bag in which the air is filled. For example, bag-pipes, Shahnayee etc.
- Some musical instruments have metallic chambers. But these instruments have keyboards attached to them. These instruments do not have reeds. For example, Clarionette, saxophone etc.
- This group of musical instruments will consist of the reed instruments. For example, mouth-organ, harmonium, mellodika, accordion etc.
This group can further be categorized as:
E1 The bellowed reed instruments; which have a bellow attached to them in order to blow the air.
E2 The musical instruments wherein, the air is blown through the lips.
This group of musical instruments has a variety of items. In fact, these are not very complicated instruments. Whatever looks to be helpful in order to create or inhance the rhythmic pleasure, is included in this category. Be it a piece of wood, metal, stone, or any kind of synthetic material. For example, Manjeera, Khartaal, Chimta, Jhaanj, Cymbol, Triangle, Qabbakas, Ghungharu, Khanjari, Bells, Stone-chimes etc. here, Khanjari attracts our attention. Khanjari should be included in the group of the percussion musical instruments. However, it has its limitations and there is nothing very special about it. Therefore, it is counted in this category.
These musical instruments can be classified on the basis of the material they are made of. For example, metal, wood, stone etc. these can further be classified as having two or more parameters from the above categorization. Like Khanjari has the metal as well as wood. Khartaal is also made of wood and metal.
This category will represent such musical instruments which have two or more parameters from the main categorization.
Here, let me clarify that the chimes have been categorized in 4 Ghana, The bell/stone/wooden chimes. However, This group is different from that category. Simply, because the category 2.5.4 Ghana, The bell/stone/wooden chimes, represents only those musical instruments which help in the enhancement of the pleasure of rhythm. Whereas, this category of group 6 Tarang, the chimes represents those musical instruments which can be played to create melody and these instruments can be played in solo performances also. For example, Jaltarang, Naltarang etc.
In this era, amplification of musical instruments has been extensively been experimented with. That is why, a special category is required for them.
Electronic musical instruments are different from that of the amplified musical instruments. These instruments have an electronic chip implanted in them in order to produce sound.
Now-a-days, the natural and the traditional materials are being replaced with the synthetic ones. The reason being, the unavailability of the natural material. For example, the gourd for Sitar and Tanpura, is not easily available these days. That is why, the artificial alternatives are being explored. Likewise, the bridges of these musical instruments are being replaced with the synthetic bridges. Moreover, new musical instruments are being made with the synthetic material. Like Plastic drums, Plastic flutes etc.