Surbahar, (pronunciation:[s̪ur b əhɑːr ] सुर् बहार्), (literally: "Spring Melody" in Hindi), sometimes known as bass sitar, is a plucked string instrument used in the Hindustani classical music of North India. It is closely related to the sitar, but has a lower tone. Depending on the instrument's size, it is usually pitched two to five whole steps below the standard sitar, but as Indian classical music has no concept of absolute pitch, this may vary.

A Surbahar performance
Surbahar is essentially a bass sitar. It is substantially larger and is tuned anywhere from four steps to an octave lower than a regular sitar. Its technique is similar enough to sitar so that musicians have no trouble going from one instrument to another. The surbahar has an advantage over sitar in that it has a longer sustain and an ability to meend (glissando) up to an octave in a single fret. Therefore it is possible to play complex melodies without using more than a single fret. This instrument is very well suited to long slow alaps. The instrument's main weakness is that its long sustain causes a fast jhala to become indistinct and muddy. It is for this reason that some artists prefer to play the alap with surbahar but shift to sitar for gat and jhala.


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