Dilruba Hacking

One of the nice features of buying cheap, non-“virtuoso” style Indian musical instruments (or any musical instruments, for that matter, but Indian instruments seem to have the biggest low-budget marketshare) is that I don’t feel too terrible “hacking” them.  Yeah, it’d suck if I screwed up my new dilruba, but I paid about $200 for it so it’s not the same kind of risk I’d be taking if I were trying to do something with one of my good fiddles.  But I am the guy who’s attached a pickup to a $25 tumbi, rebuilt a bulbul tarang from scratch, and fitted a drum microphone to the inside of a dholak, so I have some experience at this sort of thing.

So I’ve made some changes to my new dilruba.


The first thing I wanted to do was improve the action of the instrument slightly.  I’ve checked a few of the dilruba sites (yep, they exist!  Although the Rule34 implications terrify me) and most of them recommend improving the bridge.  The bridge that comes with these cheap instruments is essentially a big slab of carved bone, heavy and not especially well-carved.  So I took the dremel to it to give the bridge a bit more arc, and then took the power drill to it to punch out a few holes and reduce the damping mass of the whole thing.  Once I’m feeling a bit more confident I’ll probably get a bit more aggressive on that front, but I probably pulled a few grams of mass off the bridge already and it’s made a notable improvement in tone.  And the change of the bridge arc gives me a little extra playability – I’m not constantly unintentionally hitting my drone strings.

I still need to get a better bow, though.


20110721-081131.jpgThe other change was less intrusive, but also weirder and more nonstandard.  The traditional way to play a dilruba is sitting on the floor, with the base resting on a table cushion, or a foot, or something similar.  Which is fine and all, but what if I wanted to play while sitting in a chair, or standing up?  Or just walk up to the thing and start playing?  Nontraditional, and I’m sure Guru Gobind Singh would be appalled, but hey, this is me we’re talking about.  Taking a cue from the Steinberger upright bass and cello, I decided I needed a stand mount.

This posed a few problems.  While I had no problem with the idea of attaching things, I was not at all prepared to disassemble and muck about inside the instrument.  That would be a recipe for disaster, since I am not much for the woodworking.  However, grating something to the outside seemed like a good option.  And I had a lot of leftover drum mounting hardware from some of my previous attempts at building drum controllers and the like.  At first I thought about using a cymbal mount, but I couldn’t come up with a good way to hold everything steady and keep the whole instrument from rotating along the z-axis.  Then I found a tom bracket and post – it was kind of perfect – it mounted flush to the bottom of the instrument, could be clamped down hard to keep things in place, was able to be height-adjusted based on where I wanted the instrument to be in space, and had a ratcheting adjustment so I could angle it however I wanted.  Perfect!

Well, it turned out to be a little bit bigger than I’d hoped – so it overshoots the tailpiece by about a half an inch, but I’m willing to live with that.  I can still play it sitting on the floor, and it clamps in nicely to a cymbal tripod so I’m set there.

Interesting way to spend an evening, I’ll say that much.