Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Shruti Box Makes a Perfect Gift

Today I found out I have a new nickname: Shruti Box Queen. Since I often play a shruti box in public, and they have a wonderful and entrancing sound, I do get a lot of questions.
"How does it work?" (A drone instrument, a shruti box uses metal reeds, like an accordion or a harmonium) "Is it hard to learn?" Nope, simple. "How much do they cost?" About $300 usd. "Where can I get one?" Ah, there's the rub. When I bought my second one, after playing my first one into the ground, it was pure serendipity. I was in Louisville, KY and my friend Margaret Ann took me to a cool music store that no longer exists. The sweet owner man was very nice, and I walked around (cue Bernard Herrmann score here) and there she was, looking cute as a button, at eye level standing next to her sister. I played them both, and then walked away and looked at every other instrument in that store. Then I went back and chose the cuter sister; let it suffice to say I still love her.

Today I got another email from a friend introducing me to a friend who wants advice on purchasing a shruti box. This happens every couple of weeks, and I sometimes think I should start a wholesale business for all the odd instruments I play, but then I wouldn't have any time to play them. I've decided to offer up this little primer now because it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Where to buy a shruti box:

My place of choice to purchase a Shruti box if you are in the USA is I haven't dealt with them personally, but I've heard from at least six people that Ron is a real mensch and nice to work with. He sells the type of shruti I use (small, walnut, keys arranged in two rows like a keyboard). I've sent about a dozen people to him, and they're all happy droners. I'm also hoping he stays in business long enough to use him when I wear out my current shruti.
If you are a man and want the box for personal use, buy the M-1 (ain't he sweet?), a male shruti box (notes are G-G). If you want it for mixed use, i.e. with a choir or women's voices, buy the female version above (notes are middle C-C above). Women, just buy the female box (pictured above), unless you've already got one and want to play with another one without waiting for your prince to come. My friend Donald has the M-1 and I definitely covet the pretty purple paper and range.
WARNING: Do not cheap out and buy a shruti box from Lark in the Morning, no matter what, ever! They are a good place for some things (my Bowed Psaltery is from them - not the best by far, but good), but NOT A SHRUTI BOX. Two of my friends bought from them and I played one of them a couple of weeks ago. It was awful and they wouldn't take it back. I appreciate the fact that it's a lot cheaper, but OMG, just say no! Better to get the Shruti Box App for your Android or iphone (Google Shruti Box App).

A good shruti box calls to you from across a crowded room (cue Rodgers and Hammerstein here), and will transform your singing life (once you have found her, neh - ver - let - her - go...). Yeah, like that.

Keshav Music in NYC is a fine option for classic Indian shruti boxes, with lots of options. Keshav works best by appointment, and yes you need one, even for regular business hours, because it's best if you can go there and try the box in person. Patience is the operative word with them, but you can get a fine, classic shruti box.

I don't have any firm leads on international suppliers yet, but when I get some info, I'll add it as a comment.

I'm sure I still know lots of folks who have lived their entire lives without hearing the words "Shruti Box" and are completely well-integrated individuals. However, if you feel like you might be missing something wonderful from your life, YOU MIGHT NEED A SHRUTI BOX! Practice singing every day with a true friend that will not judge you, but will keep you honest... a shruti box can be your best friend, especially to help you get comfortable with close harmonies. It's also sweet for improvisation practice and working with the modes.

(I don't receive any remuneration for any shruti boxes sold anywhere on the planet.)


  1. Thanks for posting this .... very helpful.

  2. This was awesome and fun to read. Seems that it is hard to find a shruti to try out...I was very curious about your comment about the smart phone APP...???? B

  3. Dear Ms. Bingo Betsy,
    Just buy one from Ron and be done with it. Ron's shrutis are consistently good and I haven't heard ONE COMPLAINT from a lot of people who now own them. An appt. with Keshav Music in NY is your best bet if you want a classic one (4x3 rows) but is a pain if you don't live near NY (don't order one from them without playing it first, they're not consistent. If you're really curious, you'll Google Shruti Box App...

  4. So awesome, thanks for the advice!! So sweet and funny and I ended up connecting W ron just now- He's Amazing... Many Blessings to You!!! Keep in touch, In LA- ❤❤❤��