I am viewing this tutorial

and am unclear on

Please clarify two things

What is purpose of Tanpura (I got Tanpura Droid) playing in background. Is it to create an ambiance which practising, or is it much more?

How do I set Tanpura. I set the pitch to A-scale, since I have an A-scale flute, but what do I set first string?

Do I keep it at Sa, or do I change it every time I am going from one scale to the other, i.e. I start practice by doing 5 deep blows of Sa, 5 of Re, 5 of Ga .. Ma, PA, DHA, NI, SA

2 Answers 2


One plays the tanpura in the background to help fix the pitch of your playing. Since you have a flute that is set to the A-scale, set the tanpura to the pitch A. Set the first string to Pa.

The reason for choosing Sa and Pa to be played on the tanpura is that these notes are "fixed" in all ragas, so having a constant drone playing these notes in the background gives you a base which you can rely on to fix your pitch while playing the flute.

I might add that @Rusi is not incorrect in saying that what note is played on the first string of the tanpura depends on the raga being played. However, it is enough to keep this as a general rule as a beginner that the tanpura is set to the pitch you are playing and that the first string is set to Pa.

Do not change the tuning of the tanpura as per the notes you are playing: that would defeat the purpose of having the tanpura. The tanpura is not an accompaniment to your music, in the sense that it does not follow the notes you play. It stays constant in the background to provide a base for your playing. Use the Sa and Pa played on the tanpura to understand the positions of the remaining notes (Re, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni) as well, in relation to Sa and Pa.

This is the primary function of the tanpura. However, I do not deny that playing the tanpura also lends a pleasant ambience.

  • Very comprehensive explanation ..... gives you a base which you can rely on to fix your pitch while playing the flute. Does this includes notes playing at higher octaves?
    – Marium
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 13:22
  • @Marium Yes, this includes playing notes at higher octaves as well.
    – user38256
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 14:14

In Indian classical the tanpura never changes (or should not).

A teacher of mine reminded me:

How utterly opposite are the words tanpura and it's supposed translation : drone

Drone signifies boredom, monotony

Tan-pura literally means infinite fullness of sound

The first string depends on rag but is usually the fifth

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