Choosing the Right Harmonium: SUSTAIN


Buying a harmonium is becoming much more common these days. At Kirtan Leader Institute we frequently receive questions like:

  • Where can I purchase a great harmonium? 
  • How much does a good harmonium cost?
  • What is the best harmonium for Kirtan?

Since DURATION OF SUSTAIN is a critical consideration, above is a video where I conduct the sustain test with four harmoniums, and below are instructions on how to you can correctly conduct a harmonium sustain test at home. 

Before we dive into sustain let's explore the three BIG PICTURE questions for choosing the right harmonium and talking about tuning options. 


To narrow your search for a great harmonium, here are three important questions to answer:

Do I plan to play Indian classical music, or Western Kirtan?

If you play to study Indian classical music (a major undertaking!), you may want to purchase a scale changer harmonium. If you are interested in learning Western Kirtan (ie Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur), something like a Bhava Mini, Bhava Studio or Bhava Lite would be a very good option.

Do I want a Calcutta or Delhi style harmonium? 

Click HERE for a video that will help you understand the difference. 

Do I want a harmonium that's portable, or one that will live in one place?

If portable, you probably want a collapsable harmonium (aka Safari style). The Bhava Min is a fantastic portable harmonium that weighs only 16 pounds and easily fits in an airplane overhead bin, so is great for travel.

If your harmonium will live in one place then you can consider a Bhava Classic or Bhava Studio harmonium, or something similar that doesn't fold down. 

Have questions or comments? Interested in receiving information about exclusive offers and discounts? Click here and we will get back to you soon. Or, check out our harmonium guide - Everything You Need to Know to Buy Your Perfect Harmonium. 


When ordering from Old Delhi Music you have two tuning options. 

  1. Concert Pitch (A-440) Tuning (no extra cost)
  2. Cosmic Pitch (A-432)Tuning (service fees apply)

 Concert Pitch Tuning means the harmonium is tuned to A-440, like a piano in a concert hall. I strongly recommend Concert Pitch Tuning as it will make it much easier (and better) to play with other musicians. 

Cosmic Pitch Tuning (A-432) is not recommended. It's more expensive and will cause hassles and headaches if you play with other musicians. 

Having explored the three big picture questions and considering tuning options, let's dive into duration of sustain. 


A good harmonium ought to sustain a 2-note chord for 4-7 seconds. Any less than 4 seconds and you'll have to pump constantly, which is a distraction.

Since DURATION OF SUSTAIN is a key consideration, below are instructions on how to correctly conduct a harmonium sustain test. And, the above video shows me running the sustain test with four harmoniums. 


How does your harmonium stack up? Here's a four step "sustain test" that will give you useful info on the state of your instrument. 

  1. Check to make sure the hooks on the sides of your instrument are hooked. If not, the instrument will leak air, which will decrease your sustain.
  2. Play the notes Middle C and Middle G on your keyboard. Be sure to play the notes in the middle of the harmonium, not at the top or bottom of your keyboard.
  3. While holding down these two notes, pump vigorously three or four times (just once won't do).
  4. Stop pumping and continue holding the two notes, then count the number of seconds your instrument sustains those two notes. 

As a benchmark, a Bhava Mini harmonium will have a 4-7 second sustain. You can expect a slightly lower number for a smaller instrument (like a Bhava Lite), and a slightly higher number for a larger instrument (like a Bhava Classic). 


If you're interested in playing Western Kirtan (Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur) and want a portable instrument, you will likely be very happy with a Bhava Mini harmonium tuned to A-440. In most cases this is my recommendation. If you plan to order an instrument through Old Delhi Music, reach out to us for a promo code so you can receive a discount on your order. 

Hopefully this blog post helped you narrow down your search. Have questions or comments? Interested in receiving information about exclusive offers and discounts? Click here and we will get back to you soon.  Or, check out our harmonium guide - Everything You Need to Know to Buy Your Perfect Harmonium.


Want to learn more about the harmonium? Check out these informative blog posts:


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