History of Conventional Santoor

History of Conventional Santoor

The Santoor is an Instrument with approximately 100 strings which originated in the Himalayan Valley of Kashmir. Originally known as “Shata Tantri Veena” (Sanskrit version of one hundred strings), which has close relatives in British and American “Hammer Dulcimer”, Chinese “Yang Chin” and the east European “Cimbalom”.

Santoor, which originated from Vedic “Vana Veena”, is characteristic of Kashmir Valley and is neither seen or played any where played. The “Vana Veena” also had strings and was played with sticks. In the orient the fundamentals of this instrument is no doubt very ancient. It seems that the origin goes back to Assyrians and Babylonians.

An instrument, which at the same breath could give the audiences a feel of melody and rhythm naturally, had much to offer in terms of musicality. The emergence of Santoor as a popular Indian classical instrument has of course been due to the presence of stalwart Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. However, its roots are necessarily from the Durbars of Sufi heretics of Kashmir, where its folk origins were interspersed with Hindustani classical music.

How does it sound?

.The acoustic Santoor consist of finely finished trapezium shaped box, with metal strings running across the top. The strings are usually grouped in three strings per note, called course. Each of the courses is supported by a small bridge, which alternate either side of the top. Each course sounded by striking it with a pair of wooden mallets. Usually the tonic (can be mentioned as pitch) of the conventional Santoor is D (440) and it resonates the beautiful melodic sound which has similarity with Jaltarang, Xylophone and Harp. It always attracts listeners by its captivating sound quality and so for that it has widely used in film music of India.

Persian Santour

Santours are tuned according to the dastgah (Iranian) or maqam (Iraqi) played. The traditional Iranian santur has 9 treble courses divided into octaves, and one row of 9 bass courses tuned an octave below the treble side.

Conventional wisdom says that the santour is the dulcimer’s ancestor, opinions might vary on this issue. The word “santour” is very old, deriving from the Aramaic “psantrin” (and Greek “psalterion”), but what exactly that instrument was is a good question. The earliest Persian miniatures (16th century A.D.) show a plucked instrument. By the 17th century, however, the modern Santour was in use as a court instrument in Turkey, Iran, and presumably Iraq.

Greek Santouri

“Santouri” is the Greek name for the instrument. Turkish musicians adopted the t,ambal played by Romanian Gypsies about 1840 and played Turkish court music on it (perhaps the best-known player was santouri Edhem Efendi, 1855-1924). It then spread to Greek musicians in Istanbul, Izmir, and the nearby islands, where it is characteristic. It has died out among Turkish musicians.

The santour of Iraqi/Iranian origin was, in 1920, still played by Jewish musicians in Constantinople, but otherwise, the main santour in use at that time was essentially the Greek santouri. In Turkey, they will tell you that the santour is a Greek instrument, while in Greece, they call it a “Turkish” instrument.

Hammered Dulcimer

The hammered dulcimer or hammer dulcimer is an ancient trapezoidal music instrument with several courses of strings. It is played by striking the strings with hammers.

Dulcimers originated in the Middle East, probably during the first millennium A.D. The instrument was brought to Europe from the Middle East during the Crusades, and similar instruments have spread around the world. Dulcimers have many names in many lands: dulcymore, tiompan, tsimbaly, santour, yang q’in, hackbrett and cymbalom. The name “dulcimer” is derived from Latin, meaning “sweet sound“. Hammered dulcimers were popular in England during the reign of James I, when the Bible was translated into English as the King James Bible.

The Hammered Dulcimer has many other classification like :   Keyed Dulcimer,Zither,Mountain Dulcimer,Ashville Dulcimer,Cardboard Dulcimer etc.


The “Cimbalom”, musical instrument of the Hungarian Gypsies, may be tracked back in history to the Orient and the Middle East. An early known instrument in Arabia was called the “Kannun” (or Qanun ), which was a musical sourdbox with metal or gut strings strung across one or two bridges. If was played by ‘striking the strings with a pair of metal mallets.

One of the first modifications of the Kannun was the “Psaltery” which became extinct in history by later modifications invented by the people in the various countries of Europe. Sizes and shapes varied and the manner of playing Also changed. In Greece, Turkey, and Persia the “Santure” was developd, in Russia, we find the “Gusli“, in Germeny, the “Hackbrett“, in italy, the “Cemballo“; in England, the”Dulcimer“, in Austria, the “Zither“, and in Hungary and Romania the “Cimbalom”. Most of these instruments are played with a pair of sticks or mallets, The Santure, the Gusli, and the Zither are:played by plucking the Strings, (pizzicatto), and resting instrument on players lap.

The largest of these instruments is the Cimbalom.(also cymbalom, cymbalium and czimbalum). It is the national musical instrument of Hungary and is used in the Classical and Folk Music as frequently as Piano.

The instruments have 4-1/2 to 5 octaves, a clear treble and strong bass. The musician creates tones by striking the strings with 8-inch long wooden or metal mallets. The tips of the mallets can be left bare, creating a sound similar to that of a banjo, or they can be covered with varying thicknesses of cotton, creating sounds that range from bright to very soft. Damper bars and a foot pedal moderate the vibrations. Music from classical to gypsy and jazz to rock can be played on the cimbalom.

Yang Qin

The yangqin is a Chinese hammered dulcimer with a trapezoidal soundboard. The soundboard studied by the author, which is crowned to a height of 4 cm in the center, is supported by seven unequally spaced transverse ribs. Vibrational modes of the soundboard in the frequency range 100–700 Hz have been studied by impact modal analysis as well as by scanning with an accelerometer as the soundboard is driven by a small shaker.

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