Introduction to the Chitravina with Akshay Vaidyanathan

My conversations with Akshay have been so enriching, energizing and just a galore for any instrument lovers . Akshay has created his own version of the Chitravina in an attempt to find and produce an amplifying and rather unique sound not typically heard on a traditional Veena. 

He has designed and commissioned a chitravina made of carbon fibre that also includes a redesigned bridge and top. This particular instrument weighs just 3.2 kg as opposed to the traditional 6.5kg ! He hopes to refine these ideas further and apply them to other instruments like the tambura. 

Here is a closer look at the Chitravina made of Carbon Fibre:

Not to mention, Akshay is also a competent singer and teacher trained in both Hindustani and Carnatic forms of Indian classical music.

Here is a little snippet of his vocal capabilities:

Now, let us briefly break down some of the nuances of the Chitravina and how certain features have helped in refining the sound!

The conventional Chitravina is a 20/21 string fretless instrument predominantly played in South India. For context, the traditional Veena has only 6 strings. The strings are divided into the main melody strings, drone strings and the sympathetic strings. When tuned appropriately, the sympathetic strings can add a nice polyphonic element to the overall sound.  It is also played with a slide. Akshay uses a wooden slide to play his Chitravina. 

Akshay has also made changes to the bridge by thinning out the top and changing the thickness of the strings. Normally, there is a separate bridge for the main strings, sympathetic streams etc. but Akshay has actually condensed all these under one bridge. This reduces the overall weight and also enhances the overall resonant sound of the instrument. 

Traditional bridge(s)

Akshay’s modified bridge

Here is Akshay playing for our Across The Borders gig on December 19th, 2020! He plays three raags/raagams: NaataKurinji, Nayaki, and Yaman/Kalyani.