The mridangam, as it is known in South India, and mridang or mathala in the North, is considered the most ancient type of Indian drum. It consists of a hollow wood shell, larger at one end than the other. Stretched upon it are two heads of skin, fastened to wooden hoops and strained by leather braces interlaced and passing the length of the instrument. Small pieces of wood placed between the shell and braces serve to tune the instrument.The mridangam is an important element in instrumental performances and also an accompaniment to traditional songs. It is beaten using the hands, finger tips and wrists.