Tanpura is played in a seated position, and the player is required to learn how they should hold the instrument. The most recognized method is to hold the instrument straight up, closer to lap. The player can play the strings at its base area, which is wider than the string area.
Next important step before playing the instrument is tuning of strings to different pitches. Recognizing and being able to set strings to these pitches requires experience, which can be gained through years of practice.
Once you have picked up the tone you want to play on the instrument, play the strings of the instrument with two finger tips of your right hand. You should hold the Tanpura with your left hand and play it with your right hand or you can switch the position if your are a left-handed person. While playing the instrument, you can recall the lines of the song in your mind, or even you can sing it in a soft voice while playing it.
You can also produce harmonic effect while playing the instrument. The recommended method is to use two tone notes and then play them on. If you have the level of Tanpura playing skills up to perfection, you can crate many effects on the instrument. It is entirely up to the ability of the player, what effects they want to create. Remember, a majority of Tanpura players in the Indian subcontinent do not learn to play the instrument in a school; they just learn from seniors and the process of passing on the knowledge and experience continues this way.
Tanpura is also used for sacred singing called Dhrupad in Hindustan. In this system, a single tone affect is created by the player in more sort of classic way. It creates spiritually rich effect on the audience.