Tuning of Mridang

in Mridangam, Tuning

Tuning of mridangam is an art and it requires years of hardwork and patience to learn the same. The basic requirements before tuning a mridangam are: a pitch-pipe, a small stone called ’kaalu’ and a wooden stick called ’pullu’.

Before tuning a mridangam, one must know that there exists a term called Nadhaam which means a sound that has superior sound quality and pleasing musical movements. There may exist two kinds of Nadhaam on the right head known as Chaapu Nadhaam and Meetu Nadhaam.

For having optimal sound quality in a mridangam, it is required that the chaapu and the meetu nadhaam must have same sound and the sound of thoppi(left head) might either be equal to chaapu nadhaam or an octave lower than that.

Following are some of the steps for tuning a Mridangam:

  1. Play the pitch-pipe and the chaapu and select the pitch you want.

  2. Compare the pitch of pitch-pipe with mridangam.

  3. If the pitch of mridangam is lower than that of pitch-pipe, hold the wooden stick(pullu) on that point between the straps and strike the top of stick with kaalu downwards.

  4. Check the sound and repeat the process until you get the required sound.

  5. If the pitch of mridangam needs to be lowered, hold the stick at bottom of head and strike it upwards from bottom with the help of stone.

  6. Again repeat till you get the desired sound.

For matching meetu and chaapu, the black spot needs to be added or removed. Play both the chaapu and meetu nadhaam. If meetu is higher than that of chaapu, add small amount of black patch to center and repeat till both of them match. If meetu is lower, black patch has to be removed gradually and carefully so that the head is not affected.

If the thoppi and the chaapu do not match then along with pullu another stick is used, It is smaller in length( around 8 inches), 1 1/2 inches wide and is tapered at one end. If the pitch need to be increased, then pullu is used just like it is used in above process. If it is to be lowered, then the smaller stick is used.

Bass sound can be generated by application of black paste on thoppi. This black paste is prepared by mixing sooji(semolina) and water. It must be applied in successive layers and removed after each use else it might be damaged by insects.

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