July 5, 2007

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji ki Fateh!

Over the past few months I have received emails asking me for details on dilrubas. I myself have also been looking and asking loads of people on what makes a good dilruba.

In this post I attempt the following questions.

· How much should a dilruba cost?

· What to look out for when buying a dilruba?

· Who makes the best dilrubas?

· The role of Strings?

In the past few years there has been a sudden demand for dilrubas. Thus a number of music stores now manufacture and sell this beautiful instrument. A simple google search of the word “dilruba” will give you an idea about the popularity of the saaz.

How much should a dilruba cost?

Price, I believe is one of the factors responsible for the popularity of the dilruba. It is important to note that price is not directly proportional to the quality of the instrument. Most dilruba’s are sold in the range of Rs 7,000 to Rs 9,000 for the basic models. A hard fiber glass case costs around Rs 2,000 while a cloth one costs about Rs 300. This makes the dilruba one of the cheapest stringed instrument of the Sikhs. Make sure you ask for extra string . Min one roll each for main strings and I roll for the tarab strings. Also ensure they give you rosin and a bow.

What to look out for when buying a dilruba?

Due to an increasing demand, a lot of manufactures are now making dilrubas. Like most Indian instruments every manufacturer makes the dilruba according to their own styles. As a result we have dilrubas in various sizes and shapes (sound box). This is not much of a problem. The main problem here is the quality workman ship. Many instruments are sold without paying attention to the final details. At this point we must keep in mind that these instruments are extremely sensitive thus attention to detail is essential in the making of a dilruba.One of the most important part of the dilruba is its main bridge. The quality of the sound depends a lot of the bride (there are other factors like shape of sound box and strings too). In most cases the bridges are not carefully made or placed. I have experienced this 1st hand. David Courtney has done a write up on bridges and bridge modifications. Click here to read it.

Next we talk about the sound box. The sound box should have some depth and should not be too narrow. Unfortunately I can’t provide you with measurements at this time. The stem or the fingerboard must also be proportional to the size of the sound box.

A broad deep sound box will give the instrument a richer tone and there will be greater resonance. A flatter and narrower sound box will give the instrument a sharp sound. The two dilrubas in the pictures are a good example of what I am trying to say.

Who makes the best dilrubas?

Moving on to makers. This question is a very complicated one and there is no 1 answer to this. There are two major players in the market. One being Gurdial Singh based in Jhallander and the other being Raj musicals in Delhi. The other makers are Manoj Kumar, Bina Musicals, Delhi Music, Bharat Music, Nagi etc.

Gurdial Singh

Apparently amongst the finest sounding saaz are made by them. Unfortunately, unless you know them in person or have some contacts do not expect to get a beauty. If you get one consider your lucky! Also you need to know what you want and don’t want in your saaz if you are buying from them. In addition it is recommend you collect the saaz in person, or have a knowledgeable person do it for you. They are notorious for selling you what they want to rather than what you want. Apart quality, they have very little value for time. If they say 3 weeks there is no guarantee they will deliver in 3 weeks. They make take a month may be more. This to most of us is really important cause we don’t live in or near Jhallander.

Raj Musicals

Most commonly used dilrubas are made by Raj. They generally deliver in time. However, in the bargain, they compromise on the finer details of the saaz. Thus   you may get a saaz that may have a small deffect in it, the bridge may be little faulty or the strings may not be the correct ones etc.

Manoj Kumar ( just added)

Over the past few weeks I have received emails asking me about the Manoj Kumar dilrubas.  I have spoken to a friend who has played the instrument and the feed back I received was that he would rather play a manoj kumar dilruba than a raj dilruba. The sound is more sarangi like.

The workmanship, I can assure you is awsome. My esraj was made by them. They take a whole month to make the saaz, but what they make is extra ordinary.

One thing to note is that Manoj Kumar dilruba’s come with 6 main strings not 4 like dilrubas frm raj or gurdial singh..if you want only 4 please let him know when you place the order.

Finally the moment of truth… which one is the best? I really don’t know. You have to evaluate your self and make the decision.

Other brands

I don’t know enough to talk about them.

My dilruba is made by Nagi. Now heavily modified. It sounds alright…I am still working on getting it to sound mellow lets see what happens. I would not recommend this saaz unless you want to experiment with string and bridges etc ( read: ready to spend lots and lots of time…).

You might wonder why did I buy it?

I needed an instrument at that time and this one was available in Singapore so I did not have to pay for shipping (almost as much as the instrument itself !). Most importantly I did not know any of the above things.

Role of Strings

Strings play a key role in the sound quality of the dilruba. At this point I must mention. If you have just gotten your saaz please don’t change your strings just as yet. The wood needs time to get resonant. With time and regular reaaz your saaz should sound better.

Only when you have decent control over your bowing and you can play some basic compositions. You will be in a position to judge the quality of the sound. So till then unless you snap a string please don’t change them.

David Courtney has written a detail page on strings and tuning as well. Click here to read it.

Wow! I guess that was the longest post in a long time. I hope this post helps you identify a good dilruba and improve the sound quality of your dilruba.

Ps. If you have more infomation about Dilruba in terms of structure please let me know.

Happy Practicing..

Guru Ang Sang!