Bulbul Tarang – Indian Music School

Bulbul Tarang : Introduction

Bulbul tarang

Bulbul tarang

The bulbul tarang literally “waves of nightingales”, alternately is a string instrument from India and Indian and Pakistani Punjab which evolved from the Japanese taishogoto, which likely arrived in South Asia in the 1930s.The instrument employs two sets of strings, one set for drone, and one for melody. The strings run over a plate or fretboard,while above are keys resembling typewriter keys, which when depressed fret or shorten the strings to raise their pitch.

How to play Bulbul tarang?


How to make Bulbul tarang instrument?



The melody strings are commonly tuned to the same note, or in octaves, while the drone strings are tuned to the 1st and 5th of the melody strings. Tuned in this manner, the instrument is uni-tonic, or unable to modulate to new keys. The melody strings may be tuned to different pitches if desired, however, rendering it multi-tonic, but more difficult to play. The bulbul tarang is most commonly played as accompaniment to singing. Similar to the Autoharp, a chord can be selected when a key is depressed, and the strings are often bowed or strummed with a pick.

Related instruments

The Indian version is sometimes known as the “Indian banjo” or “Japan banjo”, due to its descent from the taishokoto; similar instruments in Germany and Austria are known as akkordolia, and in Pakistan as benju. In the Maldives it is known as a kottafoshi, and as medolin (pronounced “mendolin” after the mandolin) in the Fijian Indian diaspora.

A more complicated and electrified version is known as the shahi baaja.


  •     Kapil Sharma from Mumbai
  •     Western players include Hala Strana, Henry Threadgill and Air.

 Bulbul Tarang Overview

The Bulbul Tarang (aka Indian Banjo) is a 15 string instrument common in India and Pakistan. The instrument employs three sets of strings – a double set of melodic strings and two sets of drone strings.

The melodic strings contains a bass- and treble string. We deep-sampled both of strings individually and combined with multiple velocity layers on each string and round robin on the sustains.  The drone strings are divided into group of 10 and group of 3. We deep sampled these guys too at multiple velocity layers and 10 round robin pr. layer.

The bulbul tarang (bulbul tara for some) is a musical instrument that is difficult and easy at the same time. Difficult because hardly anyone makes or sells it any more. Easy because it’s simple to play with a limited tone range, so even a child can learn it in a matter of minutes.

Not surprisingly, the few who now own a bulbul tarang would have, in all probability, acquired one during their childhood. K.G. Jawahar, for instance, got his about 40 years ago. For Rs. 7.

He’s now 54 and on a mission to introduce it to youngsters before becomes music history. A bank employee, Jawahar has been playing the bulbul tarang at institutes and orphanages in the state regularly.

“If someone calls me, I go. I don’t charge any fee. I play without an accompanying instrument as that would overpower the bulbul tarang,” he says about the piano-style keyboard instrument that he carries in a case labelled ‘Bul Bul Rani Jawahar’, named after his late wife.

“In old Tamil films such as “Parasakthi” (1952) and “Andha Naal” (1954), without the bulbul tarang there would be no song,” reminisces Jawahar.

  1. Balachandar’s 1963 movie “Bommai”, whose song ‘Neeyum bommai, naanum bommai’ marked K.J. Yesudas’ debut as a playback singer in Tamil films, featured the bulbul tarang prominently. “Someone asked the director why the mendicant in the film played the bulbul tarang. Director Balachandar replied, ‘The poor man can only own a bulbul tarang’.”

The Bulbul also contains a variety of other deep-sampled articulations, including drone strings in both minor and major scales, muted notes on melodic strings, tremolo, trills and a wide assortment of FX. Additionally we also added a large phrase collection to the library focused on strums. The strums comes both as multi-samples and as phrase-samples, so you can create the ideal soundscape depending on your needs.