The SwarShala Indian music software includes Tumbak and over 80 other perfectly sampled virtual Indian instruments.

About Tumbak:

As a part of the membranophone family of musical instruments, the Goblet Drum has seen widespread use in Egypt, North Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and Eastern Europe. The Iranian goblet drum is known as Tumbak. Regionally, it is also known as a Zarb or tombak. To play the Tumbak, the player needs to place it diagonally across his torso. Then, the player uses his fingers and palms of their hand on the drumhead to get the desired music in the pitch they want. Some Tumbak players wear metallic finger rings to generate extra percussion while playing the Tumbak.

The single-headed Tumbak stands at 43 inches (about 3 feet and 7 inches) high. The diameter of its head is around 28 centimeters. Woodcarvers carve the body of the Tumbak from a single large block of wood. It would also be knotted or marbled. The carvers sometimes carve designs or patterns on the shell of the Tumbak. Such skilled carvings on the Tumbak give them a vintage look. The shell’s bottom is carved to be thicker than the top, but the overall thickness of the shell is around 2 centimeters. The carvers connect the top to the throat, a hollow base.

On the top, the skin of a goat, camel, calf, or sheep is stretched and fitted with thumbtacks, glue, or both. The Tumbak players could find the full bass tone and numerous treble tones due to the relatively wide opening at the top. On an experimental basis, a Tumbak with adjustable tunings was made. However, the production of such Tumbaks means that the players need to adjust the head tension and be attentive to the temperature and humidity. To reach the specific desired pitch, a Tumbak player would have to dry, dampen, heat, or cool the membrane.

The Tumbak players traditionally play two or three contrasting timbres in an antiphonal style. A skilled Ttumbak player could alleviate the pitch by applying pressure using their fingers. But, the variations of finger tapping and clicking those timbres might decrease the overall focus on the pitch.

While the goblet drum has seen extensive use in various regions, the modern-day variation is mostly associated with Iranian music. Initially, Tumbaks were considered as an accompanying musical instrument. The Persian musical instrument was pushed into the limelight as a virtuoso solo instrument by the works of Hossein Tehrani (1912-1974) in the 1950s. He also introduced “beating methods” and different “sonorities” in his style of playing the Tumbak. The works of Ramin Rahimi, Nasser Farhangfar (1947-1997), and others have also contributed to the cause. The students of Hossein Tehrani have carried on his legacy of playing the Tumbak as a solo instrument. His renowned students include Jamshid Chemirani (born 1942), Amir Nasser Eftetah (1925-1977), Mohammad Esmaili (born 1934), and Jahangir Malek (born 1931).

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