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You got me at sitar...


Voltan
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I've wanted to learn to play sitar for too long, it's time to stop wanting and start doing. There seems to be a push in my (musical) life that's in a different direction than planned,( yes, I know,).

 

Of all the instruments around here, I'm gravitating to the gongs, singing bowls, and such. Two types of instruments I've wanted to learn are hand pans and sitar. I've played a couple hand pans, some are magical instruments. Sitar? I'm pretty much in The dark. I figured pretty much like checking fit and finish on any other instrument . My luthier has experience working with them so thats a leg up, thank you Gary Hudson!

 

I saw some modern looking things with all machine tuners and while that appeals to the practical it left me totally cold... Some of the double toomba swan heads I've seen were exquisite workmanship and looked sturdy yet graceful? Ganesh?

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I assure you my approach will be anything but strictly traditional but I make no apologies. I do hold to the concept of trying to understand the correct workings of a thing before one starts taking liberties with the alternative routes to be explored... Sometimes...

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I was recently given an instrument that's basically a short-neck sitar. The person who gave it to me called it an 'Ourd' but goole doesn't know what that is. Like a sitar, it has a wide, hollow neck, a gourd body, and movable arched frets. I think it has 6 fretted strings and 12 drone strings. Sadly, the bridge is missing so it's a wall-hanger decoration. I would really like to have it playable again, but that means finding a new bridge and I don't think that will be easy.

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I'll post some pictures of the instrument in question when I figure out how to resize them... I guess my instrument does fit the formal definition of a sitar, but it's a shorter scale than other sitars I've seen, either in person or in photos. I think it only has 5 fretted strings, not six. And the gourd is cracked in the back, bummer. I'll get a tape measure so I can get a better idea of the scale and length too, but I'm guessing it's close to guitar scale, somewhere around 24 to 27 inches, and the total length of the instrument is about 3 feet long.

 

This is the age of the internet and international shipping, I'm sure it's possible to get one shipped from India. Whether or not it arrives intact is a different question.

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I'm going to suggest to both of you that you immediately, and with great haste, find, procur, or steal a copy of any of Ravi Shankar's works. The video of the "Monterrey Pop Festival" would be a great starting place, from a visual standpoint. Of all the pop icons that performed there...His performance was pure, unadulterated transcendence.

 

I never considered the Sitar. I never could be worthy of laying prostate at his feet.

.

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no... but im up to three gongs and looking... lusting after a 52" chau, currently... if so, i am seriosly going to go to a two person load and set up... in truth, my new obsession with bronze resonant instruments has had me pretty well entranced for the past year... i think the only new instrument since has been a bali hand pan

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I have one. Things I have learned:

1. If you don't do yoga the sitting position will tax you.

2. The pick, called a mizrab, will also cause pain-it pinches your index finger pretty good.

3. According to the teacher I took a few lessons with, the joke about sitars is that they take a year to tune, and stay in tune for five minutes.

4. Don't buy a cheap one. Mine was an ebay deal and it broke pretty quickly. Teacher said she had seen much worse.

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most awesome! I sit for hours playing gongs and singing bowls. ive found a good base is key... I use a moon meditation seat system that's pretty comfortable sitting lotus even for extended sessions. but not supporting an instrument either. definitely considering a single tumba.

#s 2 & 3 I'm figuring goes with the territory as well but then I'm not known for staying anywhere near inside the box for long.

​now, #4... everything is relative... ive been looking at one piece, no neck joint and they seem to run around 1800 to 2200 u.s.d. for what I'm assuming to be decent mid level instrument?

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Yes,,

1,800-2,200 is a lot more than I paid-mine was about 600.00 on ebay, and it's a lefty. Teach said I should have bought from the local Indian music school. I'm sure she was right. I thought I'd use it for recording, but all those strings........tuning that thing.......I'm a bit lazy these days about recording. It does sound amazing though.

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On 9/23/2015 at 9:54 AM, Mr.Grumpy said:

I would really like to have it playable again, but that means finding a new bridge and I don't think that will be easy.

Old post but of continuing interest. Replacement bridges are easy to find. Google the term "jivari". The tricky part is setting up the jivari, which is a bit of an art. The curve of the bridge and the string slots will need to be adjusted in order to get the desired amount of buzz. This means that you would need to send the sitar to a place like Music Mall USA - a decades-old sitar shop in Berkeley California.

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On 4/17/2017 at 3:58 PM, MartinC said:

I have one. Things I have learned:

1. If you don't do yoga the sitting position will tax you.

2. The pick, called a mizrab, will also cause pain-it pinches your index finger pretty good.

3. According to the teacher I took a few lessons with, the joke about sitars is that they take a year to tune, and stay in tune for five minutes.

4. Don't buy a cheap one. Mine was an ebay deal and it broke pretty quickly. Teacher said she had seen much worse.

The first thing I do with new mizrabs is pretty obvious - I take a pair of pliers and adjust them. They should not pinch of be painful. All that's needed is that they are seated securely and do not move about. If the latter is an issue, they do make so-called "double mizrabs" which have an extra bit of wire gong round to prevent wobble. I've never had to worry about those.

Staying in tune - requires properly prepared pegs and proper chalking. Many if not most sitars have not been set up properly as that is not the field of expertise of most sitar makers. 

The only way I would but a sitar in the US would be through Musicians Mall USA or Rain City. MM in particular do an expert setup for every instrument they sell. They've been around for 40 years and were formally associated with the Imrat Khan school of music. If I were to buy a sitar from anywhere, I would add the cost of shipping and setup as part of my budget.

Virtually all sitars are built in messy little mom-and-pop shops and according to the specs of the sitar company. And many of them have issues, such as loose wood chips inside the tumba (very annoying).

My solution was to do a great deal of research and then commission an instrument directly from a highly reputable mom-and-pop sitar maker in Miraj. This is how I ordered my surbahar. I could visit the shop via Skype during the construction and monitor everything. And the price was far less than in the States. Surbahars cost more than sitars but even so, my total cost for a custom-ordered instrument - designed to my specifications and fully carved by a true master of woodworking - including case and air freight was only $1,200.

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