Krsna Kirtana Songs est. 2001 www.kksongs.org
Care and Maintenance
Esraj is a very delicate instrument and it takes a lot of responsibility to own and care for such a precious instrument. Here are some good tips to follow when taking care of your esraj
1) Get a case for it!
A carrying case is worth the money for not just the esraj but for any musical instrument you purchase. It looks more organized and it can be "sheltered." Especially when you are transporting it from place to place. Also with a carrying case, put some padding on there. I use spare bed sheet for this.
2) Do not leave the instrument in a room where there are extremes in temperature.
The one thing to really worry about in the esraj is the fact that there is a goat-skin belly where the bridge and all the strings go through. There is nothing under to support it. Too hot of the temperature sucks up the moisture and it becomes very tight. While this is great for the sound, too much tension on the goat skin sound-board will cause it to break. If it is too cold, the sound will be dull and the bone bridge will also break through the skin.
3) Do not leave it unattended!
Little kids visit my home so often. When I know they are coming, I hide it! Kids love experimenting. Don't let your instrument be their first project!
4) Be practical in tightening.
If you read my tuning page, I mentioned how tightening the strings produce an even sweeter sound. However, don't tighten it so much. If you do, you'll have the bridge collapse or the tensions of the strings will push the bridge down through the skin and break it. If you are accompanying someone of a higher key than what your esraj can handle with your playing style, you might have redo your frets and retune your string to "ma" or whatever note in order to match accordingly. It's better to retune your entire instrument several times than to break your current instrument and pay God knows how much for a new one. It's better to buy a new instrument than get a re-head done in America.
5) Restring every six months.
If you play it every day, restring your esraj every six months. If you play it seldomly, I'd stretch it out to eight. Restringing the esraj is a very difficult task, as there are so many strings. If you know an expert at this, seek help first. When working with the sympathetic strings, number the peg and its corresponding hole. NOT ALL PEGS SIZES ARE THE SAME! You'll be amazed how people forget this and complain afterwards why their pegs don't fit anymore! Once unassembled, string the sympathetic strings first. Then string the main strings. Also, give it a time to rest in.
6) Lastly, treat it properly
Esraj is an esraj. Play it like an esraj. Slide up and down for minds (glissandos). Do not pull the string as you would do if you were playing a sitar. Also, don't try to pluck the instrument and fret it like a sitar either. You won't get that sympathetic vibration that you get with a sitar or sarod. Another reason why you wouldn’t want to play it plucked it as because, the pressure and dynamic movement one fretting notes will force the bridge down towards the goat-skin and can cause it to break!
UPDATED: June 20, 2009