WHERE TO BUY A BANSURI

WHERE TO BUY A BANSURI

So you want to learn to play the Indian Bansuri but you are not sure where to go to buy one. Here are a few suggestions.

WHICH BANSURI SHOULD I GET?                                                                                      

It is important to know that there are many sizes of bansuri flutes. They range in size from about 25 cm (10 inches) long to about a metre in length. The smaller flutes have a high pitch that can sound very sweet but sometimes quite squeaky and the larger flutes have a deep, rich, mellow tone.

The standard bansuri used in concerts is an E bass bansuri and is about 75cm (29.5 inches) and this is most often used by professionals in concerts for classical Indian music. Almost all professional players use this one as their main concert flute. This flute has been made standard because it has a good sound when playing the lower notes and a good sound when playing the higher notes (without the highest notes sounding too squeaky). F bass is also used by some in concert and is a particular favourite of G.S Sachdev. Each flute has its own advantages. It is considered that G bass, with its sweet mellow tone, is perfect for devotional music and D bass perfect for meditation because of its deep soothing tone.


Hariprasad Chaurasia & Prasad bhandakar with concert E bass flutes

However, if you have small hands you will find it very difficult or in a small number of cases impossible to play the E bass flute because the fingering holes are so far apart. Even for people with large hands, it can take some time to get used to playing the E bass flute. It is often recommended to begin with a smaller flute therefore. 
I would recommend one of the following bansuris for beginners.

C natural medium flute (approx 49 cm/19 inches) - This is a great flute for beginners and ideal if you have small hands

G natural bass (approx 65cm/25.5 inches) - for larger hands. G bass is a lovely flute with a nice deep tone.

A natural bass (approx 23.5 inches) - This is a medium sized flute suitable for most sized hands. It's also a good one to begin with, being between the C and G flutes above.

Nonetheless, you may have a personal preference. When I began learning I preferred the higher sounds of the C medium flute but now I tend to prefer the deep melow sounds of the larger flutes which can sound very relaxing. I particularly like playing my E bass, D bass and especially my G bass.
To give you a better idea, visit the link below to listen to audio samples of different size flutes.


WHERE CAN I BUY A BANSURI FLUTE?                                                                             

Again, this depends on how interested you are in learning the bansuri, what you hope to achieve and also what you can afford.


Flute made by Ramesh Bakale and redecorated by myself
When professional players want a new flute, they will visit a reputed flute maker and spend much time going through maybe 50 or more different flutes to find the best one. They will check that the tuning is accurate, that they can get good clear notes in all registers (good high notes, middle and low), they will check that their are no defects in the bamboo and that the flute performs well playing various melodies. They will then select the best flutes from that maker. 
Many professionals also seem to get flutes from various makers, rather than just one. This means that many flute makers boast about being the maker for Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia or Ronu Majumdar, whereas in fact they are one maker out of several. I should also point out that many of the most famous players will use a flute for concerts for a very short period of time - maybe 2-6 weeks before then using a new flute. Hariprasad Chaurasia is a fine example of this.

If you want the perfect flute, the best way is to go along with an expert or your teacher who will guide you into selecting the best flute.
This is not possible for everyone of course and sometimes it might be necessary to buy one directly over the internet. A maker will know almost immediately whether you are a professional or not. Most beginners will order a flute with no mention of whether they play right or left handed, how they blow etc.
I have heard stories of people ordering flutes and being sent right handed flutes when they play left handed, flutes which are slightly out of tune or flutes with cracks or small defects. Of course, flute makers are more likely to keep their best flutes for reputed professionals, people who visit and test the flutes in person or keep the best flutes for themselves. You can't really blame them for wanting to do that given that many beginners will give up the bansuri so it is normal that they should give the very best to those who they know the flutes will go to good use to. This however does not mean that you will get a bad quality flute. The flute makers below all make superb quality flutes and people will tell you different stories of who is the best maker and the makers themselves will sometimes look down on the flutes made by their competitors. In reality, all makers below are very good.

This flute was decorated by myself
It is however possible that sometimes you will get a fantastic flute in the post and other times you could end up with one that is not brilliant. 
In my opinion, it is important to begin learning with a flute that is in tune, because your ears will adapt to this tuning and you will judge all other flutes on the tuning of what you have got used to. I think that even as a beginner it is best to begin with a professional flute, although this is down to the choice of the player and how serious they wish to take their learning.

Take into account also that no flute, not even a professional one is truly 100% perfectly tuned and often you will hear one professional say "the note you are playing is out of tune or flat or sharp" and then another player well tell you that it's fine. Ear training is very important in Indian music, but I have noticed that many players argue among themselves about notes and their tuning. The only solution is to train your own ear over time and go by instinct. Professional players are usually able to adapt their playing slightly even if a flute has a note that is slightly out of tune.

Remember also that every flute has its own characteristics and so it is up to you to find the characteristics you like best in a flute - and this is why it is impossible to say which flute maker is the best - because it depends on the player and his or her preferences. Different makers create slightly different sounding flutes.

Here are some professional, reputed flute makers who I have been using and who are the makers for many professionals. I give details of their flutes and quality and my experience as a customer. I would recommend Anand or Subhash's flutes for beginners over other makers as they are easier to play.

When buying a flute from the makers below, feel free to tell the maker you are a friend of Craig or that you got their details from www.bansuriflute.co.uk, since most of the makers know me quite well and are aware I recommend them on this website.

PROFESSIONAL BANSURIS

Subhash Thakur: (pictured right) Subhash is an excellent and very friendly flute maker based in Delhi. Subhash and his team make excellent professional quality flutes with nice mellow, smooth sounds and perfect tuning. Subhash has years of experience as a flute maker and offers excellent service and his prices are reasonable compared with some makers. Once making an order with Subhash, you will usually get the professional flute in the post, all nicely wrapped and protected within a week or so - the flute is usually dispatched the day after placing an order, given that Subhash has a good stock of flutes he makes. His service is very fast and efficient, probably the fastest of all makers listed. Expect to pay around $160 for an E bass flute plus postage which will be insured.
Subhash is Ronu Majumdar's favourite flute maker. Other players frequently using Subhash's flutes are Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shashank Subramanyam, Pravin Godkhindi and Naveen popularly known for his works for A.R Rahman and one of the leading flutists in the Indian film industry. Pictures of Subhash's flutes below.
Subhash is a very trustworthy maker and a good man.
You can visit Subhash's website here: http://www.flute.in/
  

Anand Dhotre (pictured right) is another friendly maker based in Mumbai, India. Anand's flutes are of very high quality. His bansuris have a beautiful sweet tone and are very melodious and easy to play. Ronu Majumdar sometimes gets his flutes from Anand Dhotre too along with other professional players. Anand has satisfied me every time with his flutes.
In terms of customer service, I cannot fault Anand. Once posted from India, flutes arrive in perfect condition within literally 3-4 working days. Orders can take up to 1-2 weeks to process, depending on how busy Anand is. I have been continuously impressed with his flute as they have very neat, clear notes.
Anand's prices are also excellent. For an E bass flute, you can expect to pay $120 (approx £72 at time of writing) plus postage.
Take into account also that packaging, postage and paypal fees will be added to the total cost - the price for postage is sometimes quite high but this is because Anand uses courier to send the flutes which is why they come within days. Pictures of Anand's flutes below
You can visit Anand Dhotre's website here: Anand Dhotre







Harsh Wardhan (pictured right): Also based in Delhi, Some of Harsh's flutes are of exceptional quality and are played by many professionals (particularly those who follow Hariprasad Chaurasia) and are considered by some to be the best quality flutes available. He is reputed to be the favourite bansuri maker for Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and many of Chaurasia's students use his flutes also. The flutes sound vibrant, very bamboo-like and give off beautiful tones but I must point out that his flutes have a very airy sound which is sometimes a good thing but can also sometimes be a bad thing because it makes it harder to play smooth sounding music. Some players prefer the airy sound. I personally like both smooth and airy styles but I find the smooth playing (as with Anand or Subhash's flutes) more pleasant for melodies.  
I must also state from my own experience that not all harsh's flutes are excellent and I have come across a few flutes on which I have struggled to get a good note above Dha in the middle register. Sometimes Harsh also sells flutes which are second hand for the same price as if they were new but will not tell you that. If you meet him in person, select with great care. Harsh's flutes sound quite different to other makers' and although they have a beautiful unique airy sound, sometimes the sound on them is not as clean and soft as on other makers' flutes but this is really my personal opinion. I do happily keep some of Harsh's flutes as well as flutes from other makers and switch depending on the style of music I wish to play. 

The bamboo Harsh uses is quite beautiful - I don't know where he gets it from but it's quite unique compared with the bamboo I have seen from other users, sometimes darker in colour and with a beautiful texture. The service is not as fast as Subhash or Anand Dhotre's. Delivery can take from 2 weeks to a month or more since Harsh does not use courier post. The bigger flutes seem to sound better than the smaller ones from Harsh (in my opinion) - at least from the ones I have tried so if going for medium or alto flutes (anything higher than an A bass), I would recommend using a different maker such as Anand Dhotre or Subhash but again this is just in my own opinion. 
Harsh's flutes are rather expensive (in my opinion his prices are unjustified and probably due to pride from selling to Chaurasia). I must also mention that I have had a few small defects in his flutes - some small cracks in one and an uneven cork in the top of one flute, although having no effect on sound quality. Harsh kindly sent me another flute with no cracks for free to replace the cracked one.
Expect to pay around 185 euros for an E bass bansuri plus postage. Pictures of Harsh's flutes below. 
You can visit his website here: http://www.wardhan.com/Bansuri_Shop.html


Ramesh Bakale is an excellent and friendly maker, based in South India. He was recommended to me by Naveen Kumar - the flute player for A R Rahman who does many Bollywood film tunes, although Naveen tells me he has not played his flutes (at time of writing) - but says he likes the bamboo Ramesh uses. Pravin Godkhindi is also a regular customer of Ramesh.
Ramesh's flutes are of excellent quality and play nicely. They are also a bit cheaper than some other makers of professional flutes, making his flutes good value for money - although prices are rising quickly with demand. Delivery time can be very long however. For my first order, I received my flute within a week and for all other orders I have waited for at least 2 months, which is a shame. First orders seem to be faster. Expect to pay around $130 for an E bass flute (prices are slowly rising) plus $30 postage. See pictures of Ramesh's flutes below.

You may contact Ramesh at:  rameshbambooflute@gmail.com or contact him by phone on: (India - 0091) 08892217365. You will also find him on facebook by typing in "flute maker bakale"or clicking on this link: Ramesh Bakale bansuri flutes




Anubodh (pictured right): is based in the USA. I have only tried one flute from Anubodh - due to the expense and also having to pay extra in customs on top of the price paid for the flute and postage - I think in the end I paid about £300 in total. The flute I have is of excellent quality and plays very clean notes and the customer service from Anubodh was excellent also. It is a shame however that his prices are so much higher than most other makers and it does not really justify spending the extra money when you can get cheaper flutes which will be just as good - unless of course you live in the USA in which case visiting him would be a good idea, as then you can choose the flute you like most which is always better than getting one in the post. Expect to pay around $255 for an E bass flute. Anubodh sometimes takes a week or more to make a flute before sending it, since he makes flutes on demand. Photos of Anubodh's G bass flute below which is made with very nice bamboo and plays very nicely.
You can visit his website here: www.anubodh.com


       IN SUMMARY

  Maker                   £££ Approx PRICE for E bass flute          Approx delivery time after ordering
                                                                       
SUBHASH                                   £105                                              1 - 2 weeks    
ANAND                                       £72                                                1 - 2 weeks                     
HARSH                                       £155                                              2 weeks - 1 month                                 
RAMESH                                    £85                                                1 week - 2 months          
ANUBODH                                 £165                                               1 week - 6 weeks                

Prices are approximate and depend on current exchange rates. These rates are as of January 2012. Delivery time is based on my own experience and that of people I know. Delivery times may be faster or slower depending on how busy a maker is and international shipping companies.



There are a handful of other professional bansuri makers that are reputable, however I only feature above the makers whose flutes I have tried and can best comment on.
Other makers include Jeff Whittier based in the USA. I have tried a good number of his flutes but only own one. His flutes are pretty good also. Another maker is Joshua Geisler also based in the USA - I will be trying his flutes soon and hope to feature them on this site.
Other popular makers are Ram Ashish and Pratap Gujar although I have not tried their flutes so cannot comment on those.
There are also a number of bansuri players around Europe and many more in India that make flutes but again I have not tried these.
My advice to all when wanting professional bansuris is to avoid buying very cheap flute packages such as those sold as a set on ebay. These are advertised as professional flutes but are not professional flutes at all. 
Having said that, occasionally people sell individual flutes on ebay that are professional ones and are fine to buy.

NON PROFESSIONAL BANSURIS

If you are serious about taking up the bansuri, then I would highly recommend opting for a professional bansuri because if you pick up a very bad one that is out of tune and sounds bad, then you will not hear the true magic of the bansuri. However, if you are not sure whether you want to learn seriously and just want to give it a try or if you are on a tight budget, then you may wish to get a much cheaper bansuri. Sometimes, you will even be lucky and get a good one that is in tune and plays very nicely.

There are 4 shops that I know in London which sell bansuri flutes. These are:

Jas Musicals - Jas has 2 shops
Shop 1: 124 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1QF - Telephone number: 020 8574 2686Shop 2: 14 Chiltern Street, London, W1U 7PY - Telephone number: 020 7935 0793
Website: http://www.jas-musicals.com/ ‎Jas Musicals sells a range of bansuris. The cheap ones can be touch and go - some being very out of tune and others ok. Jas also sell a handful of professional flutes. It is best to ask the shop keeper to show you where these are - the quality of the professional ones also vary - some are very good and others are not made so well but it is worth going to the shop and trying, especially if you can play already to some extent. I do not know however who makes the professional flutes sold in the shop.

or

Bina Musicals
Address: 31-33 The Green, Southall UB2 4ANTelephone number: 020 8843 1411Bina has a range of cheap flutes - some ok and others the wrong length, width, in the wrong key or completelyout of tune. Clive Bell who teaches at the Bhavan usually recommends the flutes from this shop for his students,but if you are studying with Clive Bell, I would highly recommend asking him to choose a flute for you.The shop keeper is very friendly but do not be fooled by the shop keeper telling you they are professional flutes.I did not see any professional flute when visiting the shop, although the shop may stock these on occasions. 
or
Ray Man Music
Address: 54 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8ANTelephone number: 0207 6926261Website: Ray Man MusicRay Man is a very nice music shop with a range of world instruments including world flutes, drums,string instruments and more. The shop has a small collection of bansuri flutes - most of which arecompletely out of tune. When I visited, none of the bansuris were professional ones. You would be betteroff getting a bansuri from elsewhere, but if you just want a bit of fun, you can always pick one up here to try.Some of the other instruments on the other hand such as the tanpuras, tablas, chinese and japanese flutesare of very high quality.Flutes from all shops range in price from about £7 to £40 for the cheap ones and around £70-£100 for a the bass professional flutes.

or

Hobgoblin
Address: 54 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8ANTelephone number: 0207 6926261Website: Ray Man MusicHobgoblin have various shops around the UK, some of which sell cheap bansuri flutes.I have onlytried some in London. Again, the flutes weren't fantastic, although some of them had good tuningand quite good sound quality. If you just want to give the bansuri a little try before buying aprofessional flute, then Hobgoblin might be a good place to go...but ignore the stickers on them tellingyou which key these flutes are in because they are wrong. Just pick one you like.