Setar

Name: Setar.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.321.5
Specimen: One in collection.
Country: Iran.
Region: Middle East & Central Asia.

Description: The setar is lute of the tanbur family, having a long neck, originally three strings, till a fourth string was added during the middle of the 19th century. It is played in Iranian Classical Music, mostly as a solo instrument or to accompany vocals. The setar is held in high esteem because of its antiquity, having originated in the 15th century or even earlier.

Etymology: The word setar is a compound word of “seh” meaning three and “tar” meaning strings.

History: Currently the setar is viewed in high esteem and considered to be the supreme musical instrument of Persian Classical Music. It was nearly forgotten during the end of the 19th Century. It nearly took 100 years to regain its popularity. During this era the increased popularity shadowed the reputation of the setar. In the late 1970s a new generation of classical music performers is exploring the full potential of the sehtar as a musical instrument.

In modern Iran, Setar is considered to be the supreme instrument of Persian classical music. However, it was almost forgotten during the nineteenth century. It took almost 100 years to gain its popularity back. During that era, the increased popularity of other instruments shadowed the reputation of Setar. However, the new enthusiasts of Persian music started perform with Setar again. In the late 1970s, new generation of classical music performers explored Setar’s power and brought it back to public attention once again.

Construction: Having a small body and long neck and four strings. The pear-shaped body of the setar is made from staves or strips of mulberry wood. A thin long and narrow neck is provided with 25 to 27 moveable frets. Having four metal strings, the strings are individually named as “white string”. The second string downwards is called “yellow string” as it is made of bronze or phosphor-bronze. The third string is named the “drone string” usually they are of steel and the thickest string is called “bass string”.

String Gauges: The thin string of the course is named the “Drone String” Setar strings are used in different thickness of gauges. These gauges are chosen in thousandths of a meter. One can use 0.16 mm gauge or 0.18 mm gauge for the white [steel] and drone strings, 0.18 mm or 0.20 mm for the yellow string [bronze] and 0.30 mm or 0.35 mm for the bass string.

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