by David Courtney working tools


Dilruba is a cross between the sitar and sarangi.  It is extremely close to the esraj and the mayuri vina.  It so close that most people are unable to tell them apart.  The difference is to be found in the shape of the resonators and the manner in which the sympathetic strings attach.  Still they are so similar that a dilruba player has no trouble playing an esraj or a mayuri vina and vice versa.

The construction is very interesting.  The neck has approximately 18 strings.  The approach to tuning is somewhat similar to the sitar.  Like the sitar, almost all of the playing is performed upon only one string.  There are a number of metallic frets.  It has a series of sympathetic strings which are tuned to the notes of the rag.

The dilruba is popular in north-west India.  It is found in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

TECHNIQUE - The technique is also a cross between the sarangi and the sitar.  It is bowed with a bow (known as gaz) in a manner very much like the sarangi.  It is bowed with the right hand while the left hand fingers the strings.

There seem to be two schools concerning the fingering of the dilruba.  One approach shows a strong influence of the sitar.  For this approach, there is a strong preference given to using the index finger.  Like the sitar, one occasionally invokes the middle finger to gain speed.  This approach seems to be slightly more common in North Eastern India.  The other school of seems to show a distinct preference to the use of the middle finger coupled with the index finger.  This approach seems to have the advantage that if one requires speed, one can occasionally use either the index or the ring finger to go in either direction.  It is interesting to note though that the proponents of the this school seem to be less disposed to invoke such shortcuts to their technique.

In either case, one does not solidly lock the string against the fret as one would do with the sitar or most other fretted stringed instruments.  One only has to lightly touch the fret against the string.  This allows one to alter the intonation with ease.  One has no problem raising or lowering the pitch at the fret simply by where on the fret you wish to place the finger.  In short, we can think of the frets of the dilruba as being mere guides for correct finger placement.

The layout of the strings of the dilruba is very similar to the sitar.  This is shown in the illustration to the right.  However unlike the sitar, there is no need to move the frets whenever one is playing a note that does not have a fret (e.g., Komal Re or Komal Dha in the middle register.)  When one needs to play these notes, one merely has to place the finger in the appropriate point midway between the frets.

The meend is also produced in a fashion very differently from the sitar.  For the dilruba, one need only slide the fingers up and down along the string in order to produce a meend or any other ornament, where on the sitar one pulls the string laterally across the fret.

the frets of the Dilruba


Pages for Dilruba
Other Pages
  • Rosin - Detailed look at the rosin



Selected Video

Nature's Path




Dilruba - Aarti Tune


Dilruba - Raag Asavari Tune


Dilruba - Mishr Rageshri - Mehrvan Sahib Mehrvan


Dilruba - Raag Dhanasri


Raga Saugandh Alap


Raga Saugandh Vilambit


Raga Saugandh Drut


Dilruba Alap and Bandish- Raag Bhairo




© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at david@chandrakantha.com