Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.221.6
Country: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal.
Region: South Asia.
Description: The sitar [in Hindi: सितार In Urdu: In Punjabi: ਸਿਤਾਰ sitāra; in Gujarati; સિતાર sitara; In Bengali: সেতার sitara; In Odia; ସୀତାର sitara] is a lute that is played in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal etc, originating from the subcontinent. It is one of the principle stringed instruments in North Indian or Hindustani Classical Music. The sitar was invented in medieval India and flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in 18th century India.
The sitar was exposed to a much wider audience through the works of Ravi Shankar, at the beginning of the late 1950s and early 1960s. During the 1960s a short-lived trend arose from the use of the sitar in Western popular music. With the instrument appearing on tracks recorded by the Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and others.
Construction: A sitar can have 18, 19, 20 or 21 strings. Six or seven of these are the played strings. The playing strings run over curved, raised frets. Where as the sympathetic strings run underneath frets. The sympathetic strings [taarb, or tarafdaar] only sound when they resonate when notes are plucked.
A sitar can have 18, 19, 20 or 21 strings. Six or seven of these are the played strings. The playing strings run over curved, raised frets. Whereas the sympathetic strings run underneath frets. The body is cut from a gourd, then it is fitted to the neck. A series of bamboo slivers are inserted into the neck. The sympathetic strings [taarb, or tarafdaar] only sound when they resonate when notes are plucked.
The strings are tuned to a parent scale called a “that”that is performed at the beginning of the raga to set the mood. Thick diameter brass frets [parda] are movable, allowing fine-tuning. The played strings run from the tuning pegs on or near the head of the instrument. The sympathetic strings, which are a variety of different lengths to pass through small holes in the fret-board to engage with the smaller tuning pegs that run down the Instruments neck.
The sitar has two bridges; the large bridge [badaa goraa] for the playing of the drone strings and the small bridge, [chota goraa] for the playing strings. Its timbre results from the manner which strings interact with a wide sloping bridge.
As a string vibrates its length changes slightly and its edge touches the bridge. Promoting the overtones that gives the sitar its distinctive tone. The maintenance of this specific tone by shaping the bridge is called Jawari. Many musicians rely on instrument makers to adjust this.
Citations: Bibliography: Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19t centuries by Allyn Miner Published under Performing Arts Series by Motital Banarsidass – since 1903 in Indology ISBN: 978-81-208-1299-4 ; The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments Edited by Stanley Sadie Vol. 3 P to Z Page 398-399 article by Alastair Dick ISBN: 0-9438818-05-02 Library of Congress – ISBN: 0-333-37878-4 British Library Catalog Websites: