Sitar Info

in Info, Sitar

Sitar is a long-necked, string-plucked Indian instrument. It gains its resonance from sympathetic strings, a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber. It is believed to be 600 years old.

Its construction is quite interesting. It usually has 19 strings out of which 7 are main strings and 12-13 sympathetic strings. It contains movable curved frets which assist in fine-tuning and are designed such that sympathetic strings can be laid below them. The main strings can be plucked with a plectrum which can be called as mizrab.

The name of Sitar has been derived from two words Seh + tar. Seh means three and tar means strings.It contains two bridges out of which one is larger and other one is smaller. Larger bridge helps in controlling the main strings and smaller bridge helps in operating sympathetic strings. The bridges are made of deer horn, ebony, camel bone or synthetic material.

The sound quality depends upon how the strings communicate with the bridge. A magnificent sound is produced when the string bounces and changes in length and touches the bridge. These strings are usually made from brass.

There may exist either one or two toombas in a Sitar. The smaller toomba, neck and faceplate are made out of teak wood or tun wood and the toomba are made from dried pumpkin. The designing of toomba can be of three types: full decorated, half decorated and munda.

In Full decorated, the toomba is covered with design from neck as shown below:

In Half decorated, designing starts from below the neck as shown in the fig.:

In Munda Sitar, the toomba has no design as shown below.:

Then broadly Sitar are of three different styles:

  1. Kharaj Pancham or Ravi Shankar Style

  2. Gandhar Pancham or Vilayat Khan Style

  3. Flat Sitar

Kharaj Pancham Sitar usually have 2 resonance boxes, 13 sympathetic strings and 7 main strings whereas Gandhar Pancham Style consist of only 1 resonant box, 11 sympathetic strings and 7 main strings. Kharaj Pancham and Gandhar Pancham look as shown below:

Ravi Shankar Style    


Vilayat Khan Style

Both these styles have round toombas but in flat ones, toombas are flat as shown below:

For playing a Sitar, it can be held between the players left foot and right knee. The hands are free for playing and do not carry any weight. Index, middle and sometimes third finger are used for playing the strings.

Other than the traditional Sitar, Electric Sitars are also available that look like a Guitar.

Sitar is commonly used in North Indian Classical music (Hindustani Sangeet), film music, and western fusion music and is rarely found in Southern India.

Some of the notable Sitar players of India are Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Anjan Chattopadhyay, Annapurna Devi, Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan,Sanjay Deshpande, Anoushka Shankar etc.

Popular Sitar Makers of India are: Sathyadeep musicals, Maharaja Musicals, Pakrashi Instruments, Sabari Musicals, Shruthi Musicals, Music N Crafts, Sitarz, Jamuna Dass & Sons, Melvin Musicals, Raj Musicals, Delhi Musical Stores etc.

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