Suresh Vyas: Continuing the Living Tradition of the Maihar style of Classical Indian Music

The Sarod

The Sarod is a fretless stringed musical instrument of the lute family, used mainly in Classical Indian music. The sarod is known for a deep, resonant and introspective sound. Being fretless it is able to produce the continuous slides between notes known as Meend (Glissandi), which is important to Classical Indian music.

The design of the instrument depends on the school (gharana) of playing. The Sarod played by the musicians of the Maihar Gharana was designed by Allauddin Khan and his brother Ayet Ali Khan. This hand-crafted instrument is made of a single piece of wood, and has 25 strings. The main strings that carry the melody are always tuned to Ma ("fa"), Sa ("do"), lower Pa ("so") and lower Sa, giving the instrument a range of three octaves. Besides there are two chikari strings (always tuned to Sa of the upperoctave). The Chikari strings act as a drone as well as are used for rhythm. The Taraf or sympathetic strings, 15 in all, are tuned according to the Raga being played, thus adding to its resonant, reverberant timbre. The remaining four strings are called Jawari strings (or drone strings) and are tuned according to the Raga being played providing a backdrop for the ambiance of the Raga.

The wood used to make the Sarod is called the Indian Mahogany or 'Tun'. The sound-box or belly has a goat skin stretched across it. The Sarod has a second sound-box made of brass which is fixed to the top end of the neck.

The Sarod is played by sitting on the floor and holding the instrument across the lap. The strings of the sarod are plucked with a triangular hand crafted coconut shell plectrum, also known as a Java, while the fingernails press the strings to create the melody.