(Sound sample & photos below)

The first instrument I ever built - ages ago - was a 
simple Indian Tamboura. A Tamboura is the usually
4 stringed gourd-bodied droning instrument against which
sitars, tablas etc play. It's the equivalent of the bass
used in western music. Very unlike the bass, the sound of
a Tamboura is wonderfully rich with overtones and harmonics
produced by a unique, but simple bridge.

Anyhow, my early Tamboura was built out of some scrap
paneling -- a hollow neck & an old construction helmet for
a resonator! It actually sounded pretty good.

Got to thinking the other day that one could make a Tamboura
quite easily and at very little cost along the lines of my
"Doodle Bass".

The results sound nearly as good as the "A.B.Satarmaker" 
brand Tamboura I bought in San Francisco during the 60s! 
Very nice sound, with good volume.

This home-made tamboura is identical to Doodle Bass 
version #2 EXCEPT it uses wire strings and the bridge 
is completely different --- otherwise it is exactly 
the same.

So, to build one of these home-made jobbies:

Click here for photos
Click here for to hear this simple tamboura. Note: this is how the instrument is played
- it is not noted or fingered, but is only the background instrument against which
the sitar, sarod, tablas etc play
- First, spend an evening building a Doodle Bass version #2. 
  Don't build the bridge or put strings on it.

Click here for Doodle Bass construction article

- Now make a bridge like like in the photos (dimensions not 
  at all critical).

- Position bridge for about 40 inch string-length (don't glue
  bridge down) 
- String the instrument like this --- 1st and 4th strings 
  are #8 music wire (misplaced my micrometer, so can't 
  measure diameter at this time -- think it's somewhere 
  around .020" or .022"). The two middle strings are.010" 
  music wire. 
Click here for an inexpensive source of this wire
  Music wire (aka piano wire) is available from Elderly 
Click here for Elderly's webpage
  Most piano tuners can supply it too.
- Once strung, tune up the strings ("1st string" is in same
  position that the thinnest string on a bass or a guitar 
  would go:
  1st string: G 
  2nd string: C
  3rd string: C
  4th string: C (an octave below the two middle strings) 

- Now to get the distinctive "buzz" ---- loop 2" of kite 
  string (or similar) under each string. While constantly 
  plucking a string, slowly move the kite string fore & 
  aft until the desired overtones/harmonics are heard. This 
  setting is pretty fussy but stays once set. Repeat the 
  process with the other three strings. If the kite string 
  loop ends up being too close to either side of the flat 
  (ideally, the string loop should be about midway on the flat), 
  you have two choices:
  1) Try moving the bridge either way an inch or two. This 
     usually changes the flat/string angle. Experiment.
  2) Put a shim (preferably thin wood) under one 
     edge of the bridge. This will change the flat/string 
     angle. Experiment. Make sure that you keep the strings 
     in tune as you perform the above operations. Once the 
     correct flat/bridge angle and kite string loop has been 
     adjusted, the instrument seldom needs tweaking.
- The thing is best played by plucking (pinching each string 
  between index finger & thumb, raising it slightly then quickly
  releasing it). Regular picking (with index finger in a sideward 
  motion) also works, but I don't think it sounds as good. 
- The most pleasing playing I've heard is like this:
  1st string, 2nd string, 3rd string, 4th string, pause, then
  repeat over and over and over. If you consider each plucking
  "one beat", then the pause equals two beats.
- The instrument is not "fretted" or otherwise played with the left
  hand at all -- it is totally a drone instrument.
Very neat sound if adjusted properly. 

Variant spellings include: tambura, tampura, tamboura.

Dennis Havlena - W8MI
northern Michigan

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