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CheesecakeTomek

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Posts: 513
Reply with quote  #1 
dear friends,

a good friend of mine is looking to buy a serious vocal tanpura and take the plunge into that ocean. she is trying to keep her head straight with the things there are to consider, and I thought that perhaps some of the members here can offer some advice.

the main thing, obviously, is what sa does it tune to. i have heard two methods for this, one that calls your lowest comfortable note Pa, and another that calls this note low Sa. pros/cons? does this apply mainly to the style of singing?

is this the main point that decides whether one should get a male or female tanpura, or is there anything else to consider. can one be restrung to match the other, and is there any detriment in doing that?

full-size gourd vs. ... i don't know, "regular" size? is this just a resonance and "big sound" factor?

how about those flatbacks, like Scott Hackleman's personal tanpura? anyone hear one in person? I listened to the sound sample he has on his website. it's a great sound, but a different sound. I might call it tighter. however that classical full-on buzzing/growling vocal tanpura sound is unbeatable! Is this sound quality out of reach for these traveler tanpura's?

anyways, these are the main concerns. is there anything else to consider? much appreciation for any and all thoughts

best,
tomek
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martin spaink

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Tomek,

About the string-swapping option: I've been doing that a lot, but within certain limits, mind you. With any size instrument, there will be a rather slim comfort-zone with one set of strings. For example, I have a large old Miraj male, that I use for my own vocal practice, set up with strings heavier than usual as I like a low pitched Sa, somewhere around B- Bflat. Say from the middle of the comfort zone I can move up and down a full tone, that's it. If I tune down to anu mandra G# I have to tickle her very lightly or the karaj string goes out of tune. If I take her near C# she starts getting that edge in her tone. I have nevertheless used her to accompany Aruna Sairam who sings from F, but then obviously I change to a different set of strings and put on a nice rosewood bridge, as it calls for a different jivari-set up and all that, and I don't want to spoil a nice jivari for another pitch that I won't be keeping to. Same thing for accompanying a bansuriplayer at E. Now if I had had a ladies', I could have restrung her to accomodate E or F. Since speaking lengths and instrument bodies relate as in 1 : 3/4, the sound will be different. We already know you're asking for a ladyfriend of yours, so she'll be more likely to end up in the F-A area, right? I would think it does not really make sense to get a big male and string it up towards that higher pitch. That would be a bit like taking a viola and stick violinstrings on it and play violin parts, better start with a violin, then, eh? So growling sounds go with big instruments and low pitches, it just can't be helped.

I'd have a good look around and settle for a well-made ladies tanpura, and spend time on getting the jivari, the set up and the tuning as close as can be to perfection, that'd be my recipe for a good relation.
regards and say hi to your friend!
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CheesecakeTomek

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Posts: 513
Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you, Martin. Glad to have you weigh in as I have long been fascinated by everything you have to offer tanpura-wise.

Maybe you can offer some advice on identifying Sa? My friend's lowest comfortable note is around a G. Should she call that Pa, or low Sa, or...

Not sure what the convention is and what to consider one way or another. On one hand it seems a silly thing to get caught up on, on the other hand it makes all the difference!

Help us move passed this little bump...

Thanks!
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martin spaink

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Reply with quote  #4 
Hi again,
Well usually the lowest secure note is a very good candidate, if all else is free. Otherwise it would depend on your preferred style of music and its pecularities. In Dhrupad, it is fine if you can touch karaj, but you are also expected to work yourself up to tar shadja.
So that maybe more important than touching anu mandra Sa? Is she somewhat experienced or just beginning? Voices take some time to settle with regular practice. There's lots of recorded tanpuras all over the www in probably all possible pitches, so she can practice and gain important data on her own voice before putting her money down.

good luck, martin
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CheesecakeTomek

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Posts: 513
Reply with quote  #5 
She is a very nice singer, but new to ICM (been studying sitar for about a year). I heard her sing a few phrases in Yaman with a tanpura tuned to C# and it sounded very natural. I will suggest that she try different Sa's, though, because why not, the technology allows us this. Thank you for your input, it is a big help!

Best,
Tomek
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