It is also often seen in collaborative world music concerts and north-south Indian jugalbandis.
Around late 1800s and early 1900s, it had been bestowed with another name Gotuvadyam by Sakha Rama Rao, who was responsible for bringing it back to the concert scene.
The fretless nature of the instrument makes it the closest instrument to vocal standards. There are six main strings used for melody that pass over the top of the instrument, three drone strings, and about twelve sympathetic strings running parallel and below the main strings.
The approach to tuning is in some ways similar to the sitar; in other ways it is similar to the Saraswati veena, but in many ways it is unique. It is played with a slide like a Hawaiian guitar and the north Indian vichitra veena. The first two fingers on the right hand are usually used with plectra to pluck the metal melody strings while a cylindrical block made out of hardwood (often ebony), buffalo horn, glass, steel, or teflon held by the left hand is used to slide along the strings to vary the pitch. Sakha Rama Rao used to refer to the slide as 'gotu' and hence the name, gotu vadyam.
The chitravina was popularised in South India by Sakharam Rao of Tiruvidaimarudur. It was later taken up and further popularised by Gotuvadyam Narayan Iyengar, who was a palace musician of the old state of Mysore. His grandson Chitravina N Ravikiran plays the instrument and is the inventor of a variant, the navachitravina.
Other exponents of the instrument include Budaloor Krishnamurthy Shastri, A Narayana Iyer, Mannargudi Savithri Ammal, Allam Koteeshwara Rao, M V Varahaswami, Allam Durgaprasad and Chitravina Ganesh. Seetha Doraiswamy, known more as a jal tarang artiste, plays both the Chitraveena and the Balakokila, a smaller version of the Chitraveena.