Wondering which is the Best Harmonium in India?
Or which are the Best Harmonium Brands that you can go for?
Harmonium is probably the most recognizable instrument from India. Almost every other household has an old and rusty Harmonium that was handed down for generations.
While it is similar to a piano with regard to how it is played, the mechanics behind the Harmonium is completely different. Unlike a piano, which is a stringed-percussive instrument, the Harmonium is essentially a wind instrument.
Traditionally, it has a solid wood construction with moveable bellows that pump-in air to generate sounds.
In this regard, the Harmonium, as an instrument, is closer to the Flute or Harmonica.
With various groups of horizontal and vertical reeds, air-chambers, and scale changing mechanisms, etc., it is one of the most complex acoustic instruments in the world in terms of construction.
What are the Different Types of Harmonium?
Primarily, there are only two types of Harmoniums in India: Kolkata and Delhi Style. These Harmoniums are different from each other in terms of construction, tone, volume, size, weight, and price.
Kolkata Style Harmonium
Kolkata-style harmoniums are much more complex in terms of construction as compared to Delhi-Style harmoniums.
They have 3-4 reed banks and have a range of 3-3.75 octaves. There multiple groups of reeds which have both horizontal and vertical orientation.
These harmoniums may have a scale-changer functionality that can allow you to change keys (scales) without having to alter your finger-position. Beginners may find this extremely useful.
These Harmoniums are usually made of solid teak. They have a fuller and richer tone owing to the greater number of reed banks and larger body size. In this regard, they are much closer to the sound of reed organs. However, due to the complexity of construction, they are expensive.
Kolkata-style Harmoniums are commonly used in Hindustani classical, Ghazals etc.
Delhi Style Harmonium
Delhi-style Harmoniums are ideal for beginners looking for a quality instrument within a limited budget.
They are equipped with 1-2 reed banks that have a horizontal orientation.
The range of a Delhi-style harmonium is slightly less than their Kolkata counterparts at 2-3.5 octaves.
However, they do not have a scale changer feature.
|Reed Bank/Orientation||2-4/Horizontal and Vertical||1-2/Horizontal|
|Tone||Full and rich with ample low-end||Mid-range boosted, lacking low-end|
Best Harmonium Brands in India
Below are some of the Best Harmonium Companies in India:
The Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Harmonium Production house produces premium quality, custom-made harmoniums. They mainly deal in Kolkata-style Harmoniums.
Their Harmoniums feature German Jubilate reeds which are known for excellent quality and tone but are extremely hard to find. Custom-designed back-plates and jaalis are also provided.
Legendary sitar and sarod maker Hemen Chandra Sen’s legacy, Hemen & Co. is proof of why you should never judge a book by its cover.
This tiny little shop in the city of Kolkata has been visited by some of the most famous musicians in history, right from George Harrison, Jethro Tull to Pandit Ravi Shankar. Hemen & Co. is also known for making some of the Best Harmoniums in India (Kolkata-style).
Their instruments are sold all across the world.
Pal Music house mainly focuses on Delhi-style Harmoniums, keeping in mind the needs of a beginner.
They also manufacture some premium quality Harmoniums that are targeted at intermediate level players and performers. Their instruments are also available for online purchase on e-commerce platforms like Amazon.
Xoz Harmoniums are good quality, budget instruments aimed at beginners. They only make Delhi Style Harmoniums suitable for Kirtans and Bhajans.
The Harmoniums are made of locally sourced wood, keeping in mind the price-point. These are available on e-commerce sites like Amazon.
Sur O Baani is a Kolkata-based instrument maker that specializes in Harmoniums. They have been in the business for a few decades now. Sur o Baani takes great pride in its handcrafted Kolkata-based harmoniums that are aimed at performing artists and beginners alike.
They also ship to countries like UK, US, and most European countries. Sur o Baani instruments are available on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and also on their own website.
5 Best Harmoniums in India
This Harmonium from Pal Music House is an excellent choice for beginners on a really low budget. It has a decent build quality with locally sourced wood for the body. The lacquered finish is definitely not the best but for the price, it is totally acceptable.
It has a 2-fold bellow and, therefore, does not have incredible sustain, but for the price tag, it is justified. With a total of 39 keys, it has a decent range of 3.25 octaves and is suitable for supporting vocal practice.
This instrument features 2 reeds with 5 stops and 2 drones.
There is no coupler or scale-changer on this Delhi style Harmonium. Tone-wise it is somewhat mid-boosted and lacking in the bass department.
It is factory-tuned to A=440Hz and, therefore, can be used to play along with other standard instruments and records. The keyboard has a lockable cover. The reed chamber has a jaali that can be removed to increase the volume projection even more.
This Harmonium from Xoz is best for those who are looking for a lightweight and portable instrument on a shoestring budget.
The build quality is good, although the body is constructed with locally sourced wood. The finish could have been a little better but it is hard to complain with this kind of a price tag.
Like most budget Harmoniums, it has a 2 bellow fold. This means that the sustain is not great and the bellowing hand needs to do more work.
With 39 keys, it has a decent range spanning 3.25 octaves. There are 7 stoppers which is good enough for beginners.
There is no coupler or scale changer. This Harmonium has a melodious tone but falls short in the bass department. It is pre-tuned to A=440Hz.
This is a slightly more premium product from Pal Music House. It has a sturdy construction and is made from locally sourced wood but is lightweight and portable at the same time. The quality of finish is quite good.
It has a 5-fold bellow and, therefore, has good sustain. It also has a wide range of 3.5 octaves with 42keys. This instrument has 2 sets of “Bali” reeds and has 9 stoppers in total. Overall, this is a good investment for any beginner.
This Harmonium is fitted with a coupler. However, only 5 bellows may cause the instrument to run out of breath when multiple keys are pressed simultaneously while the coupler is activated.
It also comes with a carry bag. The instrument is tuned to A=440Hz and the tuning stability is also very good.
This is another one from Xoz in a slightly more premium category. The construction is superior as the wood used is of a much better quality than the budget counterpart.
The overall finish looks and feels good but lacks somewhat in the area of build quality. This instrument can be folded and hence it is easy to carry around.
It has a 7 fold below which provides long and deep sustain which makes playing much easier. It’s range spans over 3.5 octaves with 42 keys. It has two reeds and has 9 stoppers. Feature-wise, this is certainly ideal for any beginner.
This model as features a coupler which is always handy for supporting vocals. Having 7 bellows ensures that it does not run out-of-breath easily.
Although, pressing too many keys together while the coupler is activated is still not recommended. The instrument is tuned to A=440Hz and is known to hold tune pretty well.
|Tone||Full and rich with ample low-end|
Sur o Bani is a Kolkata-based manufacturer that sells some of the best quality harmoniums in India. The only Kolkata-style harmonium on the list, this is a truly marvelous instrument for its price.
It is constructed from seasoned Burma teak wood and is very sturdy but heavy at the same time. Due to this reason, it might not be the best option if you are looking for a portable Harmonium.
It has a & fold bellow with incredibly long sustain. This is the only Harmonium on the list fitted with Palitana reeds. It has a set of 3 such reeds that provide a sweet texture to the tone with ample low end for that organ-like sound. It has 9 stoppers.
This harmonium is for beginners who want to take their playing to the next level and are looking for a long term investment that would last for 15-20 years at least. It has a range of 3.75 octaves.
This model has both a coupler and a scale changer. This reduces the learning curve for beginners. It is tuned to a standard A=440Hz. This is ideal for practicing Hindustani classical.
The winner of the budget category is undoubtedly PAL MUSIC HOUSE® Wooden Harmonium. The reason for this is that it not only provides a decent range of 3.5 octaves but also a superior build quality at a modest price-point.
Our choice for the Best Harmonium in India! Our winner is undoubtedly the Sur o bani Changer Harmonium. It is the best choice for anyone who is serious about the craft and wishes to take it to the next level.
Not only does this instrument have a great tone but its sturdy construction means that it will last for a couple of decades, if not more.
Guide to Buying a Harmonium Online
A Harmonium is a complex instrument with many different parts and features. Therefore, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of different aspects that need to be considered before making a purchase.
This is perhaps the most important aspect because the build quality is what ultimately determines how the instrument sounds and feels.
The first thing to consider is the wood quality. Hard woods like teak last longer but add to the weight of the instrument. Pine wood, on the other hand, is lighter and lasts for a fair amount of time. Irrespective of the wood, the construction should be feel solid and well-made.
The quality of the bellows is also very important. They are made of cardboard and are covered with leather. When cheap materials are used to make the bellows it directly affects the tone and sustain.
The biggest advantage of the Indian Harmonium over Reed Organ is its portability. A good Harmonium should be compact in size and should be lightweight in construction.
In general, Delhi-style Harmoniums are more portable than Kolkata-style Harmoniums due to their lightweight build and smaller size. Collapsible variants can be packed into a suitcase for easy carrying.
Tone is subjective, as is the case with all instruments. It is hard to classify tone into good and bad as it is a matter of personal preference. However, poorly constructed Harmoniums often lack life in their tone. As a general rule of thumb, the richer and fuller the tone, the better.
Range of a Harmonium is measured in octaves. The difference in frequency between the lower “Sa” (“Do”) to the upper “Sa” of the same scale is called one octave.
Kolkata Harmoniums have a range of 3-3.75 octaves and Delhi Harmoniums have a range of 2-3.5octaves. In layman’s terms, the greater the number of keys, the wider the range of the instrument.
An increase in the range also impacts the size and weight of the instrument. Therefore, a wider range is not always necessary. A 3-octave Harmonium should be sufficient for most beginner needs.
The size and number or folds of bellows determine the amount of air that can be pumped into the instrument with a single stroke.
The greater the size and number, the higher is the volume and sustain of the Harmonium. However, it also increases the cost of manufacturing. For beginner purposes, 7 bellows are sufficient.
The responsiveness of the harmonium is measured by the time taken to produce a note(sound) after a reed is pressed by the player.
Good quality Harmoniums are very responsive and sound the note almost at the same instant at which a key is pressed. Leaks in the folds of the bellows, poor construction of the air-chambers, etc. are some of the factors that can limit responsiveness.
How long a note can be heard when a key is pressed once after a single stroke of the bellow is called the sustain.
A longer sustain is essential for smooth playability. The greater the number of folds in the bellow, the longer is the sustain.
Although good quality harmoniums have a longer sustain even with lesser number of bellows.
Reeds are metal strips that vibrate when air flows through them. It affects tone and tuning stability.
Reeds are usually made of brass or copper. Palitana reeds are known to be of the finest quality.
Reeds are also produced in parts of Punjab and Delhi. However, they lack the craftsmanship of the Palitana reeds.
As far as the number of reeds is concerned, 2 reeds should suffice for beginners.
Drones and Stops/Knobs
Drones are levers on the front side of the Harmonium. These drone levers are tuned to the “Sa” (“Do”) of different scales. Their basic function is to generate a droning sound at pitch corresponding to the lever that has been pulled out. A harmonium with 7 or 9 stoppers is good enough for most applications.
A coupler is a feature of the Harmonium that is similar to Drones. The only difference is that, when activated, it produces a note that is exactly one octave above the key that is being pressed.
If more than one key is pressed simultaneously, a drone sound that is an octave above is produced for each note. This leads to a fuller and organ-like sound.
However, a coupler can cause the instrument to consume a lot of air when many keys are pressed at the same time. This is because a lot of air chambers are opened. This can cause the sound to saturate and sound weak because the air intake can exceed the capacity of the bellows.
A scale changer is a functionality that beginners find very useful. In a scale changer Harmonium, the keys can be shifted from left to right in order to keep the relative position fixed but alter the pitch of the keys.
In other words, if the player has learned a song in the key of C, then they do not need to alter finger positions to play it in a different key. Instead they could adjust the position of the keys to change the pitch.
However, as a beginner, it is recommended that you learn the conventional way of playing first. Otherwise, you would find it difficult to play in a different scale or key on a Harmonium that does not have scale changer.
It is important to note that many traditional Harmonium makers in India do not follow the standard A=440Hz reference because of outdated equipment.
Therefore, in order to play in tune with other instruments it is vital to get it tuned to this reference before purchasing it. However, if you intend to use it simply as an aid for your vocal practice, then it should not matter much.
Can a Harmonium be tuned?
A Harmonium, just like any other instrument, has to be tuned. However, it cannot be tuned without professional tools and know-how.
It cannot be tuned while playing like a guitar or ukulele. Once in tune, it rarely drifts because it is not affected by heat and humidity as much as a piano or guitar.
Also Read: Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars in India
Who invented the Harmonium?
The Harmonium is a member of a family of reed organs. Surprisingly, the first of such reed organs was invented in Vienna, Austria.
It gained a lot of popularity in the West until the Electric Organ was invented, after which the Harmonium faded out of existence.
Later, it was reinvented in Kolkata (British ruled India) by a man named Dwarkanath Ghose. His company, Dwarkin and Sons, became known for producing the Indian version of the Harmonium that was portable and smaller in size.
This version had hand-held bellows instead of foot pedals. It became immensely popular in India and was used for both Hindustani Classical as well as Kirtans and Bhajans.
What is Harmonium called in English?
The Harmonium is known by many names in English, namely, Pump Organ, Reed Organ, Melodeon, etc. However, none of these are exactly like the Indian Harmonium.
All of these instruments, including the Harmonium, fall into the category of Pump Organs. This is because air is pumped into the instrument in order to produce sound.
These Harmoniums are usually constructed from Pine wood. They have a mid-boosted tone lacking some of the low-end. Delhi-style Harmoniums are lighter and more portable due to their simpler design.
Delhi-style harmoniums are commonly used for Kirtan, Bhajan and other devotional music.
Some Words of Advice…
Although Harmoniums are less affected by temperature and humidity changes as compared to Piano, it should be remembered that they are made of wood.
Therefore, it is imperative to store it in a moderate environment as extreme heat and moisture can end up affecting the tuning stability and life-cycle of the instrument.
It is also a good idea to check the tuning from time to time using a different instrument or a tuner app on the smartphone. However, any attempts at tuning the instrument by yourself should be avoided unless you have the knowhow.