Music (vàdita) is the making of sounds in a structured manner for the purpose of creating a pleasing effect. The two fundamental characteristics of Indian music were and remain mood (ràga) and rhythm (tàlàvacana, D.II,159) and the elements within it were the notes (sàra), the scales (gàmà), the tones (mucchanà) and the pauses (ñhànà). During the Buddha's time, refined music was played by orchestras of five instruments (Th.398). The most popular instrument in the orchestra or played solo was the lute (vãõà). It consisted of the sounding board with a parchment stretched over it (cammapokkhara), the belly (doõi), the arm (daõóa), the head (upavãõà), the seven strings (sattatantã) which were plucked with the fingernails (agganakha), and the plectrum (koõa), usually made of ivory (Ja.II,252; IV,470; S.IV,197).
The Buddha commented that such lutes in the hands of skilled musicians could produce music that was `captivating, melodious and enchanting' (S.IV,197). He had a knowledge of and appreciation for fine music, probably as a result of his upper-class upbringing. He mentioned (Ja.II,253) that a lute had to be tuned to the high pitch (uttamamucchanàya mucchetvà vàdesi), the middle pitch (majjhimamucchanàya) and finally with slack strings (sithila). When the Buddha heard Pa¤casikha sing to the accompaniment of his lute he commented that `the sound of your strings blends well with the sound of your voice and the sound of your voice blends well with the sound of your strings'(D.II,267). However, the Buddha also knew that a transformed mind could offer far more joy than any song or symphony. The Theragàthà says: `Music from a five-piece orchestra cannot arouse as much delight as having a one-pointed mind with perfect insight into things' (Th.398).
One of the eight Precepts is to avoid playing or listening to music, no doubt because it distracts from mental stillness and peace (A.I,212). Music or singing has never been used in the påjàs of the Theravàda Buddhist tradition, although in Sri Lanka people sometimes do what is called the Hevisi Påjà, the offering of sound, which includes drumming. The music of trumpets, drums and cymbals is an essential part of most Tibetan påjas while gongs and bells are used in Chinese Buddhism.