Basic Knowledge of Musical Instruments

Veena is the most authentic of all Indian instruments and its origin can be traced to India’s Vedic period. This Indian instrument went through a very extensive period of evolution. The whole evolution process can be categorized in seven main stages.

  • The first stage is called the Harp stage. In this stage, Veena was nothing but a musical bow with strings of different lengths tied to it which when plucked produced different sounds and became the Harp. But unlike the Western harp, the Indian one had no front pillar.
  • The second stage of evolution saw the harp with a resonator where a gourd was fixed to the bow to amplify the sound. In the third stage came the tuning pegs in which the strings were tied to the pegs on one end and to the bow on the other end that made it possible for the player to increase or decrease the tension of the strings by turning the pegs. Then the idea of pressing the string at various places to produce different sound came and the Lute emerged.

It was only in the 8th century that the first veena with two large gourds emerged and this was the fourth stage of its evolution. These can be seen in paintings of Ellora caves. The next stage of the evolutionary process was the discovery of Nissari veenas which consisted of plain fingerboard without frets and was played with a bow or by plucking. These can be seen in paintings in Ajanta caves. The Saari Veenas were discovered in the sixth stage. This new form veena had frets for the left half of the fingerboard. Paintings of these veenas can be seen in South India’s Halebid and Belur sculptures. In the seventh stage came the modern veena . This is the veena with 24 fixed frets and a Meru. Modern Veena is widely used in today’s contemporary world. An area of life-long learning, Veena-playing is an area of life-long learning and may be this is the reason due to which this art is facing challenges in a world of increasing pace.

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