Chapter 3: How to hold your bansuri?
[ How to hold your bansuri? ]
Today’s discussion is about how to hold your bansuri. There are rules, concepts and ideas in holding positions of instruments that are strictly followed in the training of every gharana. The first lesson of learning an instrument, is learning the way to hold it properly. Holding the instrument incorrectly may very well result in added difficulty in achieving skills. In terms of learning bansuri, it is no different.
The term “gharana” is frequently used in Indian classical music. It has derived from the word “ghar” which translates to “home” or “school of thought”. Gharanas are specific styles or approach to music, which are popularly named after the family or location of origin. Every individual has a different body structure and hence, every flautist/instrumentalist will eventually modify the way they were taught during the start, according to their convenience.
However, it is very important that every student strictly follow the guidelines first before any experiments, as this eliminates additional difficult in the primary learning stage. With a bit of persistence, students will be up and playing in very less time.
There are plenty of ways to hold the flute which are all logical in their own perspectives. Just like the postures change in the European/western or Indian style of playing, the perfect posture is also determined by the structure of the fingers and body of the player. Therefore, the ultimate posture for an individual to hold the bansuri, is mostly based on an idolized way which is customized later on.
The three distinct styles developed by Pt. pannalal Ghosh, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt. Rajendra Prasanna are accepted as standards throughout Bansuri players globally. We will have a closer look at each of these styles. Before holding the Bansuri, Students must first determine the position of the flute according to their dominant hand.
Normally, the flute would go towards the right from the blowing hole for a right-hander person. In case of a left-handed person, the position of the flute will be mirror and will be on the right side from the lips. The first three holes of the Bansuri will be blocked with the dominant hand, the last three will be blocked with the fingers from the other hand.
The Pannal Ghosh system: Pt Pannalal Ghosh is crowned as the father of Modern Bansuri. His research and practice brought bansuri the acceptance to be played as a solo instrument. According to his way, the holes of the Bansuri must be blocked with the tip of the fingers. This provides additional reach to the fingers, which can be quite useful for individuals with comparatively shorter fingers along with making it easier to reach an additional hole with the pinky, that are available on some models of Bansuri.
The Rajendra Prasanna system: Pt Rajendra Prasanna was an infamous flutist from the northern part of India. Besides being a revolutionary Bansuri player, the maestro was a noted Shehnai Player as well. The holding style he adapted to is very similar to that of the Irish wooden flute or the clarinet. The holes of the bansuri have to be blocked using the belly (soft muscle in the middle) of the fingers to gain a solid grip. This way is also advised for individuals with relatively small and wide fingers.
The Hariprasad Chaurasia System : In the international arena of Bansuri playing, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia needs no introduction. The master flutist has played the prime role in popularizing the Indian flute all over the world. Most Bansuri players in the world follow the ways taught by him. To hold the Bansuri according to this technique, the area of the fingers to be used to block the holes with needs to be lowered ( in comparison to the finger tip way of Pannalal Ghosh). In this way, the dominant ( index, middle and ring) fingers will be placed at slightly different heights from each other.
Counting from the blowing hole, the first three holes will be blocked by the dominant hand. The soft area right under the first joint (from the tip) will be used of the index and middle fingers, to cover the first two holes. The third hole however, will be blocked by the tip of the ring finger. The second set of the holes (4,5 and 6), will be blocked like the exact same way as the dominant hand for the first three holes. The “thumb hole” becomes easier to grip and control as well. This technique of holding the flute is known to bring optimum balance and grip in the long run.
The scale of the Bansuri needs to be determined. Flutes can generally be found tuned to any scale. The tonic of any scale is called “sa” in Hindustani classical music. The first three holes (counting from the blowing hole) need to be blocked leaving the rest three open, followed by a small force of air through the lips will gradually produce sa.
New students of bansuri will find parts of this journey difficult. Bansuri is an amazing instrument; a lot can be achieved with a little persistence. Bansuri Gurukul has a video tutorial of the topic on its YouTube channel and Facebook page which we welcome the reader to view, to understand the topic better. Good luck!