Origin of the Santoor
The Santoor most likely originated in Persia. The Persian
word, Santoor, is said to mean a hundred strains. It is believed that
traveling musicians spread the Santoor across Europe and Asia. Instruments
of the santoor style are known from Turkey, China, Greece, Germany, and
Hungary among other countries. The Indian Santoor is the oldest known
string instrument of India. While it had originally been part of the classical
music in Persia, it was a highland folk instrument in India. During the
Vedic period the strings were made of dried grass, these were later replaced
by gut strings and today the Santoor has metal strings.
Description of the Santoor
The Indian Santoor is a flat shaped instrument in the form of a trapezoid.
The wider side, and therefore longer strings, has the bass notes. The
narrow side, with shorter strings, has the high pitched notes. The strings
are arranged in courses. Each course has three strings. String tuning
pegs are found on the right side of the santoor. There is one tuning peg
for each string. This allows each string to be tuned individually; although,
all 3 strings in one course are usually tuned to the same note. The courses
run over movable wooden bridges. The Bridges do not run down the middle
of the soundboard; rather, they alternate left-right-left-right down the
soundboard. Because of this the courses’ playing surfaces are raised,
alternately right-left down the soundboard. These raised playing surfaces
are struck or stroked with light wooden hammers.
The DulcimerShofar Indian Santoor has 16 left and 15 right courses. Each course
has three strings. Two light wooden hammers are included to play along
the metal strings providing an exotic sound. The red lacquer body is inlaid
and the instrument is shipped with a case.
Tuning the Santoor
Place the santoor in front of you with the wide side near your waist.
This is the playing position. Set the bridge on the first course 8 inches
in from the right side. On the next course, set the bridge in 10 inches
from the left side. Now move to the last course and set the bridge in
4 5/8 inches from the left side. The bridge for the second to last course
is set 4 ½ inches in from the right side. You can now line up the
remaining bridges. When you are finished the bridges will be in two rows,
a left row and a right row. Remember, the courses alternate from right
to left over the bridges. The first three strings are tuned to E. Tune
from the longer strings (bass notes) to the shorter strings (pitched notes).
Playing the Santoor
The Indian Santoor is usually played while seated, with the instrument
in front of you. It can also be played while standing if it is placed
on a dulcimer stand (sold separately). While playing, the wide side is
closer to the player and the shorter side is pointed away. Both hands
are used to play the strings. The strings can be gently hammered, or stroked.
With skill and practice one can glide the strikers on the strings. The
tones will differ depending on where the strings are played. The tone
closer to the bridges is different than when played away from bridges.
Another variation to the hammered play is to have the palm of one hand
muffle the playing of the hammer in the other hand.