VINA MAKING AT BRHADDHVANI

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There are vinas and vinas… Makers and makers… Sellers and sellers… Buyers and buyers…

Ekanda vina, which is a vina made of one piece of wood, is preferable. Ottu vina (a vina made of more than one piece of wood) is alright, but depending on the type of wood used for the vina, there is a likelihood of the different climates affecting the vina while tuning, especially when one travels. Jackwood is preferable; it is traditional and lighter compared to other types of wood. However, other types of wood can also be used, e.g., red cedar wood. But the wood should have been well ‘seasoned’.

A sound hole on the top of the kudam is good to slightly increase the resonance. Karaikudi Sambsiva Iyer introduced this on his vinas made by the famous Narayana Achari of Tanjore.

HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD VINA?
 

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VINA FRETTING
 

"After getting back home from a All India Radio concert performance in the late 80s, a noteworthy vina player called me to know which maker fretted my vina so that he could go to the 'fretter'. I told him the fretter's name was Karaikudi Subramanian and he laughed. The correct fretting of vina was a spiritual struggle which I went through consistently from the 1960s. The struggle ended in 2016!"

Dr. Karaikudi S. Subramanian

We need to know only one thing about the vina when we are buyers - fretting! Anyone can ‘fret and fume’ to fret a veena, but it is really an art to fret. You must be fully trained to fret or get it done by an expert who knows the practical difference between ‘equal tempered intonation’ and ‘just intonation’. The vina must be fretted in ‘just intonation’. The research on this is substantial and unique at Brhaddhvani. Dr. Karaikudi S. Subramanian has experimented on this for decades and has developed a process which can align the frets perfectly to make any number of vina players play together in unison. The fretting of the vinas made at Brhaddhvani is unique and is a direct result of the discovery and original ideas emerged from Dr. Subramanian's decades long research.

Some basic requirements for a perfectly fretted vina:

  • The twelve svarasthanas should be precise according to ‘just intonation’ and not ‘equal tempered intonation’ according to western calibrations in tuning, which are standardized and available in different kinds of apps. Western music uses what is called ‘equal temperament’. Here is the definition of equal temperament taken from Wikipedia:

An equal temperament is a musical temperament or tuning system, which approximates just intervals by dividing an octave (or other interval) into equal steps. This means the ratio of the frequencies of any adjacent pair of notes is the same, which gives an equal perceived step size as pitch is perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency.

Equal tempered intonation suits polyphonic music which has multiple parts and based on harmony.

Just intonation or pure intonation is the tuning of musical intervals as whole number ratios (such as 3:2 or 4:3) of frequencies. Any interval tuned in this way is called a just interval. Just intervals (and chords created by combining them) consist of members of a single harmonic series of an implied fundamental.

Just intonation is natural and pure tonal arrangement in the 12 tone system based on the ‘single harmonic series’. For example the vibrations of the third note GA (GA2) is lesser than the equal tempered ‘major third’. If one uses an app with the equal

tempered Western tuning system, it will be slightly flat affecting other tonal relationships. 

  • The 12 svarasthanas should be precise in 96 places covered by different octaves through the 4 main strings on the veena tuned to Sa-Pa-Sa. If there is one vina like that, it would be a wonderful achievement! This way when vina players of the same school play together, it will be ‘monophonic’ (assuming that the players are capable of tuning their instruments perfectly). Otherwise it would be ‘cacophonous’.

  • The vinas should be fretted in such a way that there would be minimal space between the string and the fret without the vibratory string hitting the fret and clutter the resultant tone. This is a difficult area to handle. To get a clear sound some 'fretters' could quickly push it down and eventually pushing the subsequent frets and thereby making the distance between the strings and the frets deeper. This is what is called 'amukku melam', which is more difficult to play. 

  • It would be better if the carvings are minimal and aesthetic. 

 

At Brhaddhvani, we support vina and tambur craftsmen (they are mostly one and the same). The craftsman here Natarajan Achaari takes extreme care to make good vinas under the direct supervision and scrutinization of Dr. Karaikudi S. Subramanian right from the choice of wood, cutting, seasoning, crafting the finished product and up to perfect fretting (in all 96 tonal positions)-in ‘just intonation’. Dismantlable vinas are made with care to fit into high quality suitcases to be taken as check-in luggage when travelling. This will avoid paying heavily for check-in of other types of instrument boxes made to the shape of the vina.  

To know about Brhaddhvani's decades long association with and patronisation of craftsmen, please visit the page "Craftsmanship".

 
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All vinas ...

  • are exclusively fretted by Dr. Karaikudi Subramanian

  • have a specialised fine-tuning mechanism attached to the nagapasam (an original contribution of Dr. Karaikudi Subramanian)

  • have both traditional pegs and guitar pegs installed 

  • are carved in either jackwood or red cedar wood (as per preference)

EKAANDA
VINA

BASIC

Non-decorative with minimal carving and a fiberglass kudukkai or paper mâché kudukkai (plain or ornate as per preference).

MEDIUM

Non-decorative with minimal carving and a wooden kudukkai.

PREMIER

Decorative with minimal carving and wooden kudukkai.

Vina made of single piece of wood

OTTU VINA

Vina made of more than one piece of wood

BASIC

Non-decorative with minimal carving and a fiberglass kudukkai or paper mâché kudukkai (plain or ornate as per preference).

MEDIUM

Non-decorative with minimal carving and a wooden kudukkai.

PREMIER

Decorative with minimal carving and wooden kudukkai.

DISMANTABLE VEENA

Dismantlable vina fitting into a luggage trolley which could be taken as a check-in-luggage.

TYPES OF VINAS
 

 
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... to order a custom made vina or tambur from Brhaddhvani.


The proceeds go entirely to the welfare of craftsmen.

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SUPPORT CRAFTSMEN

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused extensive deterioration in the already challenging livelihoods of craftsmen. They are forced to risk their health and safety in order to secure their living. We at Brhaddhvani are committed to create a safe environment for them to earn their living. We are grateful to all those who connect with our cause