DIY: Music Enthusiasts – Ektara

How to Make: An Ektara

What is an ektara? Ektara literally means “one-string” (also called iktar or ektar) and is a one-stringed instrument most often used in traditional music from Bangladesh, India, Egypt, and Pakistan. In its origin, the ektara was a regular string instrument of wandering bards and minstrels from India and is plucked with one finger. The ektara usually has a stretched single string, an animal skin over a head (made of dried pumpkin/gourd, wood or coconut) and pole neck or split bamboo cane neck. Since dried pumpkin/gourd is out of season and coconuts don’t grow well in the North East, here’s another way of making one from found objects.

It’s a relatively easy instrument to play and is held like a guitar. The sides of the instrument are flexible and by squeezing the sides of the instrument you can change the tension of the string, thus changing the note of the string. In its neutral position, the Ektara plays one note; when squeezed all the way in, it can drop as far as a third, fifth or an octave. The ektara is commonly used in Kirtan and Sufi chanting.

What you will need:


1 empty can of X

Two pieces of wood – I used thin wood typically used for moldings

Fishing line (the thinner the line the better)

4 screws with 4 nuts

1 paper clip

1 2” eye screw with nut

1 wine cork

1. Cut each length of wood to 23”.

2. Drill a hole in the middle at the bottom of the tin can (see picture).

3. Measure 2 holes on can – first hole should be 2’’ from bottom of can. Bottom of can should be bottom up (aka where you just drilled the hole in the middle) – measure from top of can down 2’’ – mark first hole. Then half inch up, mark second hole. Repeat for the other side of can and drill. Then align wood to each side and make necessary markings and drill. Secure with screws. Check image for reference on how much room to leave on wood near screwed ends.

4. After securing wood, measure out fishing wire and thread through bottom of tin – secure a paper clip around fishing line on inside of tin can.

5. At other end of wood, drill one hole 1” from top of both pieces of wood. Insert 2” eye screw with locking nut.

6. With other end of fishing line, tie around eye screw and secure tightly. Now start winding tuning peg (eye Screw).

7. Place wine cork at top – cut to size (you can glue this piece in or tape it).

8. Tune string to desired tension and play!

If you like these DIY instruments, leave a comment – there will be more to come…

Here’s one way of playing the ektara that I really like, but there are many more…


— Jesse