1. Voice is the only living instrument, a special boon by nature to human beings.
  2. It is the only instrument whose timbre or the tonal quality can be changed and altered according to the will of the performer.
  3. It is the only instrument whose pitch range can be altered by practice and exercise.
  4. Being a living instrument, it is never grouped in any category.
  5. It is the only instrument which can be cultured.
Musical Instruments (Vadya) are classified in different ways in different parts of the world.

We will see here the Indian classification methods.

Indian Classification

Musical Instruments (Vadya) are broadly classified in 4 groups:
  1. Tantu Vadya i.e. the stringed instruments (where string=tantu and Vadya=musical instrument)
    1. Tata i.e. plucked strings.
    2. Vitata i.e. bowed strings.
  2. Sushir Vadya i.e. the wind instruments.
  3. Avanaddha Vadya i.e. percussion instruments made of leather, mostly the drums.
  4. Ghana Vadya i.e. percussion instruments made of metal.
Tantu Vadya

These are the musical instruments that are stringed.
Music is played either by plucking the strings or bowing the strings. The strings are the initial vibrators.

Tata Vadya

Stringed instruments which are played by striking the strings.
They are struck either by fingers or with the help of some plucking aid.
They have a drone or wooden board as a resonator.
The drone is usually made of pumpkin shell.
Some of the instruments are:

Sitar: It has a drone. It usually has 3-4 strings for playing. Strings are plucked by a wire finger plectrum called ‘mizrab’ or ‘nakhi’. It has metal frets. It is a solo instrument played for classical concerts. It has extra strings tuned properly called as 'taraf' strings, the sympathetic strings. They are a peculiar feature of this instrument which give a beautiful timber to the instrument.

Tanpura: It is also called as Tambora. This instrument is played for accompanying the soloist or classical musical ensembles. It plays the role of harmonizing, accompanying some other instrument or vocal music, to enrich the music. It resembles the sitar in its shape and look, but, the tanpura does not have frets. It has 4 strings, which are tuned to the tonic key of the classical performance. The strings are plucked by fingers.

Sarod: It is a very recent instrument, having a history of around 150 to 200 years. It is solo, classical instrument. It has a metal board, without frets. It is played with a pick made of coconut shell. This instrument also has sympathetic strings.

Santoor: It has a wooden board. It was initially a folk instrument of Kashmir Valley. This instrument has been improvised in recent days, by Pt. Shivkumar Sharma. It is a very popular classical instrument.

Ektara: Its other names are ektaar, ektari veena or the one stringed lute. It is a folk instrument. It provides rhythmic as well as drone accompaniment to folk music. Saints and devotees have often used ektari for rendering their devotional songs. A variation of the ektara is the folk instrument tuntuna.

Saraswati Veena: this is an important solo instrument of Carnatic or South Indian Music. It resembles the sitar, though it does not have sympathetic strings. It is many times just simply called as Veena or Vina.

Mohan Veena: This is one of the latest instruments. It is an improvised form of an arch top guitar, made suitable to play Indian Classical solo music. Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt has developed this instrument.

Vitata Vadya

These are the stringed instruments which are played by bowing.
The sound quality of these instruments resembles human voice.
Some of the instruments in this family are:

Violin: It is one of the most popular solo as well as accompanied instruments. Though its origin lies in the west, it is well accepted in India since long. It is used in North Indian as well as South Indian classical musical ensembles as well as light music concerts.

Dilruba, Israj, Sarangi:These are very similar type of instruments. The difference lies in the shape of their resonators. All these instruments are played solo or for vocal accompaniment. Its bow is called the ‘gaz’. The dilruba and Esraj or israj have frets like the sitar. But, the fingering is quite different. Dilruba is more popular in Punjab whereas Esraj in Bengal. The Sarangi does not have frets. Its playing style is more like a violin. It is very difficult to play. Sarangi is a popular accompanying instrument for Kathak dance.