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What is a tanpura

Advanced Soul Healing


Navah singing with the Tanpura

The Tanpura

This string instrument from India (known under other names, like Tambura, in other parts of India) is used to create a 'drone'. This is one cord that is played continuously. If tuned well, the vibrations of the (4) separate strings that touch the 'bridge' slightly, create harmonies in the form of higher and higher 'overtones'. This creates a kind of 'gate to Heaven' that helps us connect to the higher dimensions and G*d. This sound is also used by the soloist as a basis for playing or singing in tune. Because of the continuous ground-note and the overtones, the music has to be very different from 'regular Western music', which is mostly in so-called 'tempered tuning'. That tuning is actually systematically slightly 'out of tune', thereby impairing its ability for healing and connecting to the 'higher realms'. See 'Pure Tuning'.

As in many other non-Western cultures, in India a way has been found to make music using pure intervals. The basic principle is that every piece of music being played, uses the same 'basic note' or 'key-note' throughout the whole piece. This basic tone is being played continuously, on and on, on the tanpura

This key-note is used for making pure intervals with. But not only the basic note is being played, also the note one octave below, and one other note within the octave (mostly the 5th or 4th). And, what is most special, the instrument is designed in such a way, that if it is really tuned well, it creates very many, very clear and loud 'overtones', and this way it provides a very colorful and dynamic harmonic resonance field. This special overtone-rich sound is achieved by applying the principle of 'jivari' which creates a sustained, "buzzing" sound in which particular harmonics will resonate with focused clarity. 'Jiva' refers to 'soul', that which gives life. What is implied is that an 'animated' tone-quality is the idea which the tanpura embodies. The principle of jivari can be likened to the prismatic refraction of white light into the colors of the rainbow, as its acoustic twin-principle at work.

How this overtone-rich sound is produced.

To achieve this effect, the strings pass over a wide, arched bridge-piece, the front of the bridge sloping gently away from under the strings. When the string is plucked, it will have an intermittent periodical contact with the bridge at a point close to the front edge. This intermittent grazing of string and bridge is not a static process, as the points of contact will gradually shift, When the string is plucked it has a large amplitude, moving up and down and contacting the bridge on the down-phase. As the energy of the string's movement gradually diminishes, the contact point of the string with the bridge slowly creeps up the slope to the top of the bridge toward point zero when the string has finally come to rest. (depending on scale and pitch, this can take between 3 and 10 seconds) This dynamic sonic process can be fine-tuned using a cotton thread between string and bridge. By shifting the thread minutely, the whole dynamic process of the grazing contact is also shifted to a different position on the bridge, thus changing the harmonic content. Every single string produces its own cascading range of harmonics and at the same time builds up a particular resonance with the harmonics of the other strings.

The importance of the the tanpura.

So the continuous sound of the tanpura is not only being used for making pure intervals, it also gives this 'tapestry of overtones' that can be used for very precise intonation of every tone, and if you 'look' on the energetic level, the spiraling-up of these extra-strong overtones creates a very clear connection up into the higher dimensions, a 'gateway to heaven', and to your soul..

(see also ).

Sound Sample

The Tanpura with a nice background
Navah's hand playing the Tanpura
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