Sitar is perhaps the most well known of the Indian instruments. Artists such as Ravi Shankar have popularized this instrument around the world. Sitar is a long neckedinstrument with an interesting construction. It has a varying number of strings but 17 is usual. It has three to four playing strings and three to four drone strings. The approach to tuning is somewhat similar to other Indian stringed instruments. These strings are plucked with a wire finger plectrum called mizrab. There are also a series of sympathetic strings lying under the frets. These strings are almost never played but they vibrate whenever the corresponding note is sounded. The frets are metal rods which have been bent into crescents. The main resonator is usually made of a gourd and there is sometimes an additional resonator attached to the neck.

Sitar is used in a variety of genre. It is played in north Indian classical music (Hindustani Sangeet), film music, and western fusion music. It is not commonly found in south Indian classical performances or folk music.

Origin of Sitar
The sitar developed during the collapse of the Moghul empire (circa 1700). It reflected the culture of the times in that it showed both Indian and Persian characteristics. (go to "Origin of the Sitar" for a better description.)
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Parts of the Sitar
The sitar is of a complex construction. It is crafted of natural materials by extremely talented and well trained craftsmen. (go to "Parts of the Sitar" or "Making the Sitar"for a better description.)

It is always problematic to discuss the names of the parts of the instruments.  India is a land with many different dialects and languages.  It is the norm for the parts of sitar to be called very different things in different places.  Remember, the terms that we use here are fairly representative, but by all means not the only ones to be found.

Kunti
The kuntis are the tuning pegs.  These are simple friction pegs.  The sitar has two types: there are the larger kuntis that are for the main strings.  There are also the smaller kuntis which are used for the sympathetic strings.  The larger kuntis come in three styles: simple, fluted, and lotus.  A quick look at the kuntis is usually an indication of the care that went into the instrument.

Baj Tar Ki Kunti
One of the most important kunti is the baj tar ki kunti.  This is the one used for the main playing string.  This one will be used more than any other.

Drone Strings
There are a number of strings on the sitar which are strummed but not fretted, these are referred to as drone strings.  Two of the kuntis (pegs) control special drone strings; these are referred to as the chikaris.  These two strings are raised above the neck on two camel bone pegs; these pegs are known as mogara.  There are other drone strings which continue all the way down the neck.

These drone strings are important to the musical performance.  During a normal performance, these strings will periodically be struck to provide a tonic base for the piece.  The chikari are especially important in a style of playing known as jhala.

Tumba
Many sitars have a gourd which is attached to the neck.  This is known as tumba.  Not all sitars have a tumba.

Tar
A tar is a string.  There a number of strings on the sitar.  Numbers may vary, but 18 is a common number.  These strings fall into one of three classes; there are the drone strings (previously described), the sympathetic strings, and the playing stings.  The playing strings are the strings which are actually fretted to produce melodies.  It comes as a surprise to many newcomers to Indian music that only one to four strings are actually played to produce a melody.  In most cases there are really only two playing strings.  These are the two strings located furthest from the sympathetic strings.

Baj Tar
The absolute furthest string is referred to as the baj tar which literally means "the playing string".  Virtually all of the playing is done on this one string.

Tarafdar
The tarafdar are the sympathetic strings.  They are almost never strummed, yet they vibrate whenever the corresponding note is played on the playing string.  They are located underneath the frets, so fretting them to produce a melody is impossible.

Dandi
This is the neck of the sitar.

Parda
These are the frets.  These are metal rods which are bent and tied to the neck with fishing line.  Although they are held firmly in place, they may be adjusted to correct the pitch.  There are two pardas, the Re and the Dha, which require constant adjustment as one moves from rag to rag (see scale structure, that, and rag for more information)

Gulu
The gulu is a wooden cowl that connects the neck to the resonator.  Although it does not command much attention for the casual observer, it is actually one of the most important parts of the instrument.  It is a common problem on sitars for this part to be weak, especially where it meets the neck.  If this is too weak then the whole instrument goes out of pitch anytime one meends (bend the note by pulling the string laterally across the fret).  This is very annoying and is definitely a mark of inferior workmanship.

Chota Ghoraj
The chota ghoraj, also known as the taraf ka ghoraj orjawari, is a small flat bridge for the sympathetic strings.  The highest quality ones are made of antelope horn.  However, the high cost of this material makes them very rare.  The most common material for fabricating them is camel bone.  Camel bone is a very usual material that is used as a common substitute for ivory.

Bada Ghoraj (Main Bridge)
The bada ghoraj also known as jawara, or jawari, is similar in construction to the chota ghoraj.  This is used for the playing strings and the drone strings.  It is raised to allow the sympathetic strings to pass beneath.

Tuning Beads
There are several tuning beads on the sitar.  These allow minor adjustments in pitch to be made without having to go the large tuning pegs (kunti).

Tabkandi
The tabkandi, also known as the tabali is the face plate.  It is extremely important in determining the tone of the instrument.  If this is too thin, it will produce a loud sound but a very poor sustain.  Conversely if it is too thick, it will improve the sustain, but at the cost of a weaker sound.  It is very important that this wood be clear and consistent.  Any knot-holes are a definite weakness in the instrument.

Kaddu
The kaddu is the resonator.  This nothing but a gourd.  These are extremely delicate and must be protected against shock at all times.

If you would like a more detailed description of the parts of the sitar, check out the Exploded View of Sitar.
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Tuning the Sitar

The illustration below is the tuning:



There are a number of options in tuning the sitar. Even the same instrument will be tuned differently from piece to piece, according to the requirements of the rag. for more information check out "Tuning the Sitar".

Tuning the sitar is part of the artistic process.  Therefore there is no one "standard" tuning which will work for every rag and every situation.  Whatever we say in this page must be considered to be just a start from which you can change according to your individual requirement.


In this page we are going to make a simple assumption.  We are assuming that you are a rank beginner and are just looking to get your instrument up and playable with the minimum of muss and fuss.

Let us discuss this tuning.  By understanding why we are tuning it the way we are, you will understand how to customise it later for different requirements.

The key is one of the main considerations.  This particular sitar is tuned to the key of C.  Sitars are usually tuned to C, C#, or D.  As a general rule, a sitar set to a higher pitch sounds much better.  However, we are are picking the lower pitch for a simple reason; it is much easier to play.

You will immediately realise that playing a sitar is like playing a cheese slicer.  It takes a while to build up the calluses on your fingers, which are necessary to be able to properly play the instrument.  By choosing the lower end of the tuning, we have made the sitar much easier to play for a beginning student.

The taraf strings (the ones below the frets) are tuned to the "major" scale.  This is presuming that your teacher is starting you off with Bilawal that.  In traditional Indian pedagogy it is about 50/ 50 chance as to whether your first exercises will be in Bilawal that or Kalyan that.  Should you be learning Kalyan, simply take the Ma strings of the tarafdar (the small pegs on the side) and raise them to F# instead of F.

You will also notice that the strings on two of the pegs have been removed entirely.  These are not necessary for a beginner, and are commonly removed.  If you do decide to use them, consult with your teacher as to the proper gauge and tuning for your particular style.


Remember all of this is just to get you started.  As you progress in your knowledge and experience on the instrument, your tuning will certainly develop into something different.

WATCH VIDEOS FOR MORE GUIDENCES :









Sitar tuning - Ravi Shankar Style
Ravi Shankar style tuning
Ravi Shankar style tuning 


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Playing the Sitar
The technique of the sitar is very involved. It is certainly advisable to have a teacher. However a good introduction to the basic technique is to be found in "Learning the Sitar".

Making the Sitar
The craft of making sitars is also very involved. It is certainly much more involved than can be covered on a webpage, however for a general overview, check out "Making the Sitar".

Sitar Forum
Check out a very active forum to discuss various aspects of the sitar. Go to "The Sitar Forum"


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