About the Bansuri | David Philipson - Bansuri
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The bansuri with its pastoral associations and as the chosen instrument of Lord Krishna, is one of the oldest musical instruments of India. It is mentioned in the Vedas and is depicted in the Buddhist art of 2,000 years ago. One Sanskrit verse credits the bansuri as the source of Swara Gnana - the wisdom of music.

Lord Krishna and Radha Devi

Lord Krishna and Radha Devi

The bansuri ( bans [bamboo] + swar [a musical note] ) is a transverse alto flute made of a single length of bamboo and has six or seven open finger holes. There are no keys to produce sharps and flats, therefore all accidentals and microtones, as well as meend (glissandi) and other ornaments, so important in Indian classical music, are produced by a unique fingering technique.

Although the bansuri is among the most ancient musical instruments of India, its status as a concert instrument for north Indian classical music is a relatively recent phenomenon. This favorite instrument of shepherds and folk musicians for thousands of years was brought into the fold of Hindustani classical music by the legendary maestro, the late Pandit Pannalal Ghosh.

Previously the bamboo flute of North India had been a soprano instrument usually no more than fourteen inches long and was used for short classical pieces, light music or accompaniment. Pannalal Ghosh's innovations in the development of the bansuri included the creation of a larger instrument of more than thirty inches in length, (thus giving the bansuri its characteristic somber-yet-sweet tone and register, so suitable for Hindustani classical music), and the addition of the seventh finger hole (which extends the range of the instrument, while also allowing for the more accurate rendition of many ragas) and the development of the bass bansuri. Perhaps Pannalal Ghosh's greatest contribution however was his insightful adaptation of the classical vocal style and its presentation on the bansuri. A consummate artist who's virtuosity was equaled by the depth of his understanding, Pandit Pannalal Ghosh singlehandedly elevated the status of the bansuri to that of an instrument capable of expressing the sublime and wondrous nature of the classical vocal style.
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(photo courtesy of Pt. V.G. Karnad / Dr. Vishwas Kulkarni)

The hand positions invented by Pt. Pannalal Ghosh for the seven finger-hole bansuri and the bass bansuri.

Sa (Do) is played with the first three finger holes closed.

Shuddh (lit.= pure) Ma (the unraised fourth degree) and all other flattened notes (Komal Re, Komal Ga, Komal Dha and Komal Ni) are played by uncovering the necessary portion of the adjacent lower finger hole.

On a bansuri with seven finger holes Tivra Ma ( TivraMa-26 ) in the middle and upper octave can be fingered with all the finger holes closed or with all the finger holes open. When using the all-holes-closed Tivra Ma in the middle and higher octaves, the first finger hole is uncovered, or partially uncovered to produce the correct intonation, depending on the behavior of the particular instrument.

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The names of the notes in the Sargam system of Indian music corresponds to the European Solfege system. Here is a chart which shows the names of the degrees of the Bilawal 'That' (parent scale) in Sargam and the corresponding names of the degrees of the major scale in Solfege:

A line below the note lowers the note by a half-step. This is known as a Komal swar: Re, Ga, Dha, Ni.

A vertical line above the note raises the note by a half-step:. This is known as Tivra Ma: TivraMa-26 .

A dot below the note means the note is in the register below middle Sa: lowSwaras etc.

A dot above the note means the note is in the register above middle Sa: highSwarasetc.

Sargam Solfege
1. Sadhjya abbreviated as Sa corresponds to Do
2. Reshab abbreviated as Re corresponds to Re
3. Gandhar abbreviated as Ga corresponds to Mi
4. Madhyam abbreviated as Ma corresponds to Fa
5. Pancham abbreviated as Pa corresponds to So
6. Dhaivat abbreviated as Dha corresponds to La
7. Nishad abbreviated as Ni corresponds to Ti

You can mail-order student and concert quality bansuri from , master craftsman and senior disciple of Pt. G.S. Sachdev.


Mr. Kirti Shah of oneworldflutes.com offers a variety of bansuri made by many different master craftsmen, including fine seven finger-hole instruments made by Subash Thakur and Jeff Whittier.

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