FAQs

FAQs

What is a Shruti Box?
What is the Shruti Box used for?
How do I play the Shruti Box?
Will the Shruti Box stay in tune? And how are they tuned?
What if my instrument goes out of tune?
What is the optimum way to use the Bowring Foot Pedal?
How do I amplify a Shruti Box using a microphone?
How do I prevent unwanted mechanical noise while playing?

What is a Shruti Box?

The Shruti Box is a bellows-operated portable reed organ. It is played by hand or by foot using the Bowring pedal, and is part of the ‘free-reed’ family of wind instruments, including the harmonium and accordion. Designed to create and sustain a simple drone chord in a chosen key, the Shruti Box is traditionally used to accompany the singing voice and other musical instruments.

What is the Shruti Box used for?

The Shruti Box is a versatile musical instrument that can be played by anyone and works well with a range of musical styles. Singers use it as an accompaniment for song, chanting and improvisation. Instrumental musicians use it to provide sustained drones to play over. Voice coaches find it helpful for encouraging people with low confidence to sing and express themselves more freely. Educators find it useful for demonstrating musical basics such as notes, chords and harmony. Storytellers use it to create enchanting backgrounds for their narrative. Music therapists use it to create a relaxed mood and to support vocal expression.

How do I play the Shruti Box?

The M1 Shruti Box is easy and satisfying to play, requiring minimal instruction to get started. The double-sided bellows system provides good control of volume and sustain. Notes can be changed on the fly and chords made in any key.

The instrument works by moving air through small metal ‘free’ reeds fixed to an internal wooden reed-board. The air pressure causes the reeds to vibrate, creating sound. The reed-board comprises 13 reeds, tuned to a chromatic scale, spanning one octave. Each reed has a corresponding key located on the front keyboard. To play, turn the keys to open the sound holes for the desired chord. Turn the catch to release the bellows and rest your lower palm on top of the instrument. Wrap your fingers around the back panel and draw it towards and away from you to move air through the reeds. Move the bellows slowly for a quiet, pulsating drone; faster for a louder, vibrant sound.

Optimum playing positions: if sitting on the floor, stand it by your left or right hand side so it acts as an arm rest; if sitting on a chair, play it on your lap or stand it on a small table positioned by your side; it can also be played while standing.

Will the Shruti Box stay in tune?

The Shruti Box uses the same metal reeds fitted in harmoniums. These are tuned by the careful removal of metal from the sensitive reed tongues which vibrate and make sound as air passes through.

At our workshop in Wales, UK, we repeatedly tune, fine tune and voice each reed before shipping. This process effectively sets the pitch so the tuning is fixed and should be stable for years of use. N.B., the tuning of any musical instrument made from organic materials i.e., wood, metal, can be influenced, albeit temporary, by extremes in temperature and humidity.

What if my instrument goes out of tune?

It is rare that a specific reed goes out of tune. However if it happens, you can return the instrument to our workshop for re-tuning. This service is free if within the first year. Alternatively, enquire at your local music shop and ask if they offer a tuning service for free reed instruments such as accordions, mouth harps, harmoniums etc.

What is the optimum way to use the Bowring Foot Pedal?

If the pedal is set-up correctly you should find that there is minimum effort required to get a long sustained drone on your Shruti Box. First, make sure the folding wooden riser-mount is fully extended before playing. Push the black cable through the hole in the wooden top block attachment fixed the the top frame of the Shruti Box. Then clip the plastic cap fixed to the end of the inner travel wire into the wooden peg fixed to the top of the rear bellows board. Make sure that the black cable doesn’t loop or snake between the pedal and instrument as this will have a negative effect on performance. Operate the pedal with a smooth action keeping the foot on the pedal as you both press and depress. For further visual cues check out the videos on the Bowring pedal page of our website.

How do I amplify a Shruti Box using a microphone?

The Shruti Box is a wind instrument which generates sound waves within turbulent air movement. If positioned directly in front of a microphone the wind-force will hit the microphone diaphragm and create distortion. To remove this undesirable effect you can either add a wind shield, possibly like the kind used for vocal microphones, or position a cardioid microphone slightly higher than, and pointing towards the keyboard, at a distance of at least 200mm. Recommend experimenting with distances.

How do I prevent unwanted mechanical noise while playing?

Unwanted mechanical noise such as clicks or thud sounds can be made by an incorrect playing technique, or stiff bellows gussets. Both are easily remedied:
A) PLAYING TECHNIQUE. Caused by drawing in and then and quickly releasing the bellows. The correct playing technique is to draw the bellows and then release them slowly with the hand in contact with the bellows board at all times (analogous to using a clutch when driving a car). Alternatively if the bellows are drawn and released too fast this can also create unwanted mechanical noise. The solution is to slow down and ensure a slower, smooth and full draw and release of the bellows.
B) BELLOWS GUSSETS. Shruti Boxes and other bellows operated wind instruments utilise flexible gussets on the corner edgers of the bellows. On our instruments there are twelve gussets in total. Two of these are located at the top corners of the rear board bellows and eight are on the underside corners of the front board bellows. The function of the gussets is to hold the bellows panels in place as they draw air in and move air out through the reeds, making sound. The gussets are plain violet coloured on the M1 and red on the M2 and M3.

Can’t find what you looking for? If you have a specific question in mind please get in touch.

Woman playing shrutibox seated