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Jun 21, 2019 - 6:23:16 AM
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72 posts since 2/7/2017

The tumbi is an Indian folk instrument possibly from Punjab. It's basically a tiny one-stringed fretless gourd banjo with some interesting differences. It might the most ancient Indian stringed instruments, or it was invented in the 1970s. When made with an Indian gourd (Tumba), it's called a Tumbi. When made with a wooden pot, it's called an Iktara or Ektara, which means literally one-string. It's played with the first finger at the scoop, both up and down stroke, often with a special pick of the same kind used in sitar playing. When I first saw this instrument, I had to make one! It's so easy and fun to play. Also louder than you might think. I made this version using oak for the neck, a monkeypod wood bowl with no sound hole, mesquite peg, goat skin tack head, and some purpleheart pegs to hold the pot to the neck, the string is anchored there, a high E metal guitar string (.20 mm). The pyramidal bridge is spectraply colored birch plywood, and there is a hole for the string rather than a slot. The peg is typically on the top. There is no nut. Scale length is 16.5".


Edited by - OldTymeBanjo on 04/11/2021 07:12:15

Jun 21, 2019 - 6:59:48 AM

72 posts since 2/7/2017

Here is a video featuring the use of this instrument in Indian popular music.

Sep 20, 2019 - 7:30:41 AM
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72 posts since 2/7/2017

So I made a new Toombi! I wanted a larger "tenor" style. Combined some Indian folk construction and old time banjo features and am quite happy with the results, it sounds great and is fun to play. I used figured spalted western maple for the neck, a teak vintage wooden oversized teacup for the pot, some laminated purpleheart and maple left over from a previous banjo project for the peg, spectra-ply bridge, goatskin head, decorative tacks from Michael's. I had to experiment a bit with the bridge, as certain heights and weights left an audible "dull" spot in the middle of the range. The bridge has a hole rather than a slot, which keeps the string on. I copied this idea for the nut. There is a purpleheart insert where the string feeds through instead of a tailpiece, and a leather pad that the string is threaded through.

Jan 30, 2021 - 10:33:45 AM

72 posts since 2/7/2017

So I made a couple more...

Apr 10, 2021 - 10:19:48 PM

72 posts since 2/7/2017

Tumbi #5. Figured maple neck, 20" scale, laminated purpleheart and maple peg and bridge, peg is off-center to allow the single metal string to be centered, python skin head, pot is from a vintage oak goblet. Neck is epoxied to the pot on the inside with a little fiberglass. 


Edited by - OldTymeBanjo on 04/10/2021 22:23:13

Apr 10, 2021 - 10:23:44 PM

57150 posts since 12/14/2005

Hey, thanks for putting that where I could see it all.

Looks like fun.

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