The tanpura is a long necked plucked string instrument used in North Indian Hindustani music. It has 4 or 5 strings which are plucked to create a constant drone and is used when accompanying instrumental or vocal performances. The body of the tanpura resembles that of the sitar but without frets and strings are played open.
Tanpuras come in different sizes, the male tanpura which is large and female tanpura which is smaller. Male vocalists pitch their tonic note (Sa), often to about C#; female singers usually a fifth higher, though the tonic may be any note, as there is no absolute pitch in the Indian classical music systems.
The tanpura does not feature in the melodic part of the music but supports the main melody and supports it by providing a dynamic and colourful harmonic resonance. It also is not part of the rhythmic part of a performance. Whereas other instrument may play with the tempo the tanpura remains constant throughout the performance.