Type: Plucked Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Region: South Asia.
Description: Surbahar [in Hindi; सुरबहार] pronunciation: [s̪urbəhɑːr]. The translation comes to a literal meaning “Spring Melody”. The Surbahar a plucked string instrument used in the Hindustani classical music of North India.
Tuning: 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.
Construction: The surbahar is over 130 cm [51 inches] in total length. A tabl [surface or top] f jackfruit wood is applied to complete the body. A neck would be crafted in the same manner as a sitar although much larger in size. The neck is made out of toona, or teak wood. The frets are very wide; as such they allow a glissando of six note on the same fret. Through a method of pulling the string. It has three to four rhythm strings [chikari] and four playing strings [the broadest string 1 mm] and 10 to 11 sympathetic strings.
The surbahar has two bridges, one for the playable strings being the highest in height from the tabl [surface]. The bridge for the playing strings is directly glued to the tabl [surface]. The second bridge inline with the sitar is for the sympathetic strings to The bridges have a slightly curved upper surface which results in a buzzing sound known as jawari. Causing the string to change in length slightly as it vibrates. The instrumentalist plays the strings using a metallic plectrum, the mizrab, which is fixed on the index finger of the player’s right hand.
Three plectrums are used to play the dhrupad style of alap, jor, and jhala on surbahar. In the dhrupad style, instead of performing the sitarkhani and masitkhani gats, the instrumentalist plays the slow dhrupad composition in accompaniment with pakhawaj. Some researchers believe that surbahar was invented around 1825. Surbahar was invented by Omrao Khan Beenkar and Ghulam Mohammad was his disciple. Omrao Khan Beenkar was the grandfather of Wazir Khan [Rampur]. Though the invention is generally attributed to Ustad Sahebdad Khan, recent research shows that Lucknow-based sitarist Ustad Ghulam Mohammed may have been the inventor.