First of all, congratulations on deciding to learn to play the National instrument of India, the Veena! A good decision which brings a lot of pride indeed! One of the most popular and sought after South Indian musical instrument is the Veena. The resonance of this particular instrument is so powerful that it could cause you to go through several emotions – be it happiness, sadness, fright or divinity, just by its own sound and the way it is played and it needs no help of other instruments to create these emotions inside you. Having said this, we must also know what makes a Veena to sound so powerful and stimulating.
When a Veena player plays extraordinarily well, you must have heard others saying that there is magic in his/her Veena. This is true to some extent. Not every Veena can sound so divine. So what is this magic which causes it to sound so nice? The secret core component which makes a good Veena is the wood with which it is made up of! So the very first thing that you need to examine is the quality of the wood. Apart from this, I have also stated some of the important details about every component of veena so that you will have a good overall knowledge about all the things to look out for and enquire at the store while purchasing it.
1. The built
Veenas are predominantly manufactured in Tanjore , Mysore, Rajamundhry and Bobbili. Amongst these, the Tanjore veenas are the most famed and time-honoured. They consist of two major varieties namely, the Ekanta and the Ottu Veenas. Ekanta veenas are carved out of a single piece of wood. Whereas, the ottu veenas are those which are made by joining three pieces of wood together. The Bobbili veenas too are acclaimed ones but they came much later than the Tanjore (Thanjanvur) veenas.
These veenas are made out from the woods of matured Jack fruit trees. The Jack fruit tree wood is considered best suited for a veena to have a long-standing life because this wood can sustain well in any climatic condition and are resistant to termites. It is noteworthy that the Jack fruit wood used to manufacture veena is considered more good if it is atleast 20 years old wood. Hence, the older the wood, the better it is!
The veenas manufactured in Mysore are made of Rose wood which are next best to Jack fruit wood.
Another important thing to take notice about the built of the veena is that it can produce better sound if the weight of the veena is lighter. This is because a light weight veena can resonate more well than heavy ones.
2. The Frets
Another main component to be examined while purchasing a veena is the ‘Fret’. There are totally 24 frets that are embedded in black wax on wooden tracks. The Tanjore veenas have frets made of brass metal, while those from Bobbili are made of bell metal. It is important to make sure that these frets have a fine and smooth finish for the hand to freely run over them while playing the veena. Also ensure that they are fixed and molded properly and are placed evenly. If you find any fret protruding even a bit out of the wax, avoid purchasing it since even a slightly misplaced fret could cause the sound to lose sharpness.
3. The resonator gourd
The large head of the veena is the resonator which consists of the bridge. This bridge which stands about 2 inches off the sound board, that is, the face of the veena, gives the veena its signature sound. The bridge is coated with a thin piece of brass which is curved at one end. It is this curve of the sheet which gives the veena its distinct resonant sound. There is another curved piece of brass attached to the bridge that holds the 3 rhythm strings.
4. The strings
There are totally 7 strings on the veena. Out of these, the 4 main strings or the melody strings on the top are used for playing the notes. They are made of steel, copper, brass or bronze. These strings are attached to four wooden tuning pegs on the left side and pass the bridge on the resonator gourd on the right side of the veena. The other 3 strings, called as the rhythm strings, which provide the drone, pass over the subsidiary bridge and are suspended on the sides.
5. The tuning pegs
There are 7 tuning pegs, each corresponding to a melody or to a drone string in the veena. Just ensure that these pegs have a fine, smooth and firm finish and fit perfectly in the cavity of the veena. This way you can be sure that it will be easy to fine tune your strings and the pegs will also stay put at the settings you made.
6. The secondary gourd
The secondary gourd which is placed at the backside of the neck of the instrument is made of aluminum or brass and is usually decorated or painted with a solid colour like green or gold. Nowadays, we can find that these are also made from light-weight cane or even paper.
Hope this article would have helped you to gain a comprehensive knowledge about the details which would come handy while buying a Veena. If yes, then I would be glad that my mission has been accomplished! Please do drop in your comments and queries which would help all of us to gain more and more insight about this wonderful musical instrument. Thank you and Goodluck!