Beginner: Tuning

My site’s been hacked & I’ve lost quite a bit of written content.

If you are still keen on learning what I have to share, please let me know.
I’m willing to recreate the whole thing on a more modern, easier to access platform.

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13 thoughts on “Beginner: Tuning”

  1. Dear brother,

    I’m particularly new to Esraj, I bought one 2 weeks ago.
    Now I want to tune it, so I got an online tuner who gives me the frequency of the played note.

    I would like to know what is the frequency for C0 (first note of the scale), sometimes called keys, that you use for your tuning.

    Here is were I wanted to start:

    So I use this chart to get my note

    …. but I got no reference !

    So I wanted to tune in Ma Sa Sa Pa, I would like to know what is the frequency of these note, so I would be able to tune.

    Second question: what is the approximate depth of the skin stretched across the soundbox when esraj is tuned: I would like to know if there is a way to see if it’s too stretched (too deep)

    Best regards, I like your blog !


  2. Hi Gabriel.
    Wow – very tough question.
    Honestly, I have no experience tuning using an electronic tuner and knowing the exact frequencies for each key.

    I have some reference files you can download to compare – I have edited the page above. Please keep them private.

    These will give you reference for the Base key ( SA ) you are using ( choose any 1 ) but for the other notes, you have to compare from the video for now.

    Thank you for the question.
    I now know I must make a DETAILED tuning workshop for beginners and put it up quickly.

  3. As for the skin .. For my own esraj – it sinks in quite deep. I get scared sometimes too.
    I will try to find a way to measure and get back to you by tomorrow night. I wont be able to check today.

    General rule of thumb:
    If you don’t tune the strings too tight – especially all the sympathetics …. and if you keep your instrument well insulated from drastic changes in temperature and humidity – you should be safe.

  4. Many Thanks !

    Now I’m tuned…. wow I’m not good at all! I’ll need to follow your lesson.

    So I found what is the frequency of the files you’ve sent:

    A#: 231 Hz
    C: 264 Hz
    C#: 275 Hz
    D: 295 Hz
    D#: 312 Hz

    So that mean, the middle C of your scale is C3 in table(264Hz)

  5. Now I think my bow is a cheap one:
    Hair are made in plastic and are not stretchable.

    When I play, there a lot of scratchy sound when I change of speed or orientation… (I did not touch to hair with my finger !)
    Does a real bow make thing sound better ?

    How do I know If cellophane is a good one… mine seem to stay on the string (I don’t know if it’s normal)

    thank you for your help !

  6. hi again Gabriel,

    * yes, a better bow will make a difference in the sound – it wont be as scratchy.
    * you can get a medium quality Cello bow from any music shop which sells string instruments. – there’s no need to get an expensive one.
    * real hair, will surely sound better than nylon/plastic.
    * all bows will be different , so you can choose something you like .. long or short , heavy or light.

    Rosin / Cellophane:
    * mine collects on the string too – I think it’s normal.
    * about once in 2 months, I use dry tissue paper to clean the string (only the section which comes into contact with the bow) by scraping the rosin off.

  7. Skin:
    The skin on my esraj at the bridge is about 2mm – 4mm (0.4cm) lower than the edges.
    It is about the same on my friend’s Esraj.

    If you’re buying a new esraj – make sure there’s a small second layer of skin that runs across the soundbox and under the bridge for reinforcement

  8. Hello,

    I’m brand new to the esraj and these online instructions. My primary questions are: What are the correct size strings for the main four: One chart has the string sizes (facing the esraj from left to right) Pa Bronze (.002), Sa Bronze (.025), Sa (C#) Bronze (.016), and ma (.012); another has (same scenario): Pa Steel (.026), Sa Steel (.009), Sa (C#) Steel (.019) and Ma Steel (.013). Is it preference? I don’t have an electric tambura or reference CD for tuning so I’ve been using a chromatic tuner.

    Also, My esraj’s sympathetic string pegs look very rough, should I sand them to make them fit better? Is there a way to build a sympathetic board with regular tuners? Diagrams? I hope that’s not taboo!

    I live in Ventura, CA. and am learning alone and so any referrals about any teachers nearby would be greatly appreciated. I’m thinking it may take a while to just basically get my instrument set up to play well.

    Many many thanks

  9. Hi, ( I have emailed you this response as well )

    String Size: – There’s no “correct” size . The manufacturing of Indian Musical Instruments is done by small family-run workshops. Each manufacturer will have their own specifications.
    In fact I’ve even seen 3 instruments by the SAME manufacturer with totally different specifications.

    My opinion is: Unless someone sets up a huge factory to produce these instruments, builds them to 1 specification, and takes over the market completely – I don’t think there ever will be total standardization in Indian Instruments.

    Tanpura reference files – have been provided above.

    Tuning Reference for each note: I see you signed up for the more detailed tuning reference … there is a good quality recording on there which should help a lot.

    Sanding wooden tuning pegs – I’ve never done this before, and nobody I know has mentioned doing it – so I can’t give you a good answer.

    Modifications to the sympathetic board: I’ve sent you photos of my Esraj for your reference.

    Teachers in California: Have you looked up the Ali Akbar Khan College of music ?

  10. Dear Manop,

    Many thanks. I see your esraj DOES have tuners for the sympathetic strings. Could you suggest where I would purchase these types of tuners. I’m just thinking it might be much easier to put in some work to have tuner’s rather than tuning pegs.

    Also, I have a tanpura loop, in C Sa-Ma-Sa. Is there a way to get a recording of the tanpura that is used in the video demonstration of tuning in D#? Then I could just follow the tuning on the video.

    Thanks again,


  11. Hello again,

    Three other questions if you please. What gauge strings do you have on YOUR esraj; the four mains and Pa, Sa (nearest the sympathetic strings) Sa and Ma (played string)? Also the gauge of your sympathetic strings. And I also have the trepidation that my string tension is putting too much pressure on my bridge and skin.

    When I try to copy the first tuning video I can tune all four main strings, but when I start tuning the first sympathetic strings it feels WAY too tight and I feel the strings might break.

    Peace & many thanks,


  12. Hello there, sienna here from California. I have enjoyed many of the lessons and I am currently working on Rag Yaman. I am making good progress and getting clear sounds however….I am tuning to D#

    I am having a big problem with re-stringing the sympathetic strings on my esraj. When I first downloaded your lesson on tuning (over a year ago) I broke 5 strings…so I was able to get the shortest string up to dha (C note in D# tuning) and then 7 or 8 strings down the scale till I started breaking strings. The lowest (longest string) I was able to get to Pa (A#). I have been playing the esraj with out all the sympathetic strings.. I just bought a roll of string from Ali Akbar College/Store and was trying to get all the sympathetic strings going again and now I am really in a mess as I have broken even more. I used to play mandolin, banjo…etc so I am used to stringing an instrument. What am I doing wrong?? When I listen to Manav tuning I am thinking that there is NO WAY I can get those strings at that high of a pitch. In the instructions it is mentioned that if the strings are too tight to try P to P or Dha to Dha… seems that I’ll have to go as low as G to G.
    Can you help please? I hope that I am clear enough in my explanation that you can understand my dilemma.
    Thank you so much,

  13. Hi Sienna,
    I think I understand. The sympathetic strings cant take the tension if you tune as per the video.
    As mentioned in the post above , the sympathetics on my teacher’s esraj are tuned MUCH higher than my own esraj.
    You may also have to tune your sympathetics much lower as you said. It’s ok.

    for reference:
    mine are tuned starting from the low PA to the high RE .. that’s it . ( Sa = D# )

    Even if you have to start tuning from the low GA ( or lower ) , it’s fine too. depends on the string . If it still makes a decent sound at the low GA , then it’ll work.

    Another option is to Tune up all 12 notes in the octave Pa, Dha Komal, Dha shudh , Ni Komal, Ni Shudh , etc.
    that way the higher strings wont be so tight.

    Hope that helped,

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