Tambura | Tambura Music, Meditation & How to Play
About the Tambura
Known for being a folk instrument in Bulgaria and Macedonia, this is a unique looking stringed instrument. Each of these countries has their own version of this instrument that is used in their traditional music, which are very distinct from one another.
The Bulgarian Tambura
The Bulgarian Tambura stands out because it has 8 steel strings in 4 doubled courses. These courses are tuned without octaves in unison, tuned in D3, D3, G3, G3, E4, E4, B3, B3. The Bulgarian Tambura has a metal tailpiece as well as a floating bridge. The body of the instrument is usually carved from one block of wood, which also makes this instrument quite heavy. Its body is often more shallow and flatter than the Macedonian Tambura.
|Name||No. of Strings||Courses||Tune|
|Bulgarian Tambura||8 Steel Strings||4 Doubled Courses||D3, D3, G3, G3, E4, E4, B3, B3|
The Macedonian Tambura
The Macedonian Tambura only has 4 steel strings in 2 doubled courses. For the most part, it is tuned in A A and D D however it can be tuned in another pitch but it needs to have the same relative intervals of a 4th. This will especially be the case when the melody that is based upon an A tonic and an A drone. There are other variations that you need to be aware of including how it can be tuned in G G and D D. There are some occasions where the octave strings can be found on the lower course. The body of this instrument is often created in the same way as lutes are, using staves. It has a much more rounded and bowl-like body when compared to the Bulgarian variety.
|Name||No. of Strings||Courses||Tune|
|Macedonian Tambura||4 Steel Strings||2 Doubled Courses||A A and D D or G G and D D|
In both cases, there are 18 or 20 frets that are located on the long and narrow neck. A lot of the more modern varieties of this instrument have their frets arranged in the typical Western 12 note scale. In the past, these instruments used the Farkas system though they can still be made in this traditional manner.
There are other Tambura that are used, including in the Indian culture.
In a lot of cases, you will find that this can be used in folk music from the specific cultures that the instrument has come from. It is also used for creating the ideal music for meditation, creating soothing tones that relaxes the listener.
How to Play the Tambura
In order to play this instrument, you will use a plectrum. You will play short tones that are created by plucking the strings of this instrument from the top down. You will play long tones with fast tremolo. There are various ways to play this instrument. If you are a single Tambura player or you have a vocalist joining you, these instruments are played in the traditional manner.
The traditional way of playing this instrument requires you to play the melody on the highest course and use the other courses for the drone. There is a more modern way to play this instrument, something more commonly used when you are playing with a group or as part of an orchestra. In this manner of playing the Tambura, the performer will play their melody using all of the courses.
How to Buy a Tambura
Buying a Tambura can be quite hard. Many places use the names Tambura and Tanpura interchangeably, which makes it a bit harder. It will be quite hard to get a hold of a Tambura in a physical shop, but there are some websites that do sell them.
Some of these webshops are listed down below (this is not sponsored in any way. It is only to give a helping hand):
If you cannot find a Tambura to your liking on one of the listed websites, then another popular website that sells some Tamburas, is Amazon. The selection is somewhat modest, but you might find exactly what you are looking for:
(Keep in mind that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase via those, the website gets a small portion of the sale, which will help greatly in keeping it running).