Sitar

Name: Sitar.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: India, Pakistan & Bangladesh.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The sitar [in Hindi: सितार sitar; Punjabi [Gurmukhi]: ਸਿਤਾਰ sitar; Urdu; سیٹر sitar]. It is a plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent. The sitar is one of the prominent instruments played in Hindustani Classical Music. In the sub-continent the sitar is played through out India, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Nepal.

History: The sitar flourished under the Mughal Empire [1526-1858], and it is named after a Persian instrument called the setar [meaning three strings]. The sitar flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although it reached its peak in the 18th century.

Types: There are several methods of stringing the sitar based on musicians preference, but two main types of sitar the Gandhaar Pancham Gharana Sitar used by Vilayat Khan and his disciples and the Kharaj Pancham Sitar as popularized by Ravi Shankar and the  The sympathetic strings are called tarb, taarif or tarafdaar] which run underneath the frets.

Outside of India: Although the sitar is used widely throughout the subcontinent. The sitar became popularly known in the wider world through the works of Ravi Shankar, beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1960s, a short-lived trend arose for the use of the sitar in Western popular music, with the instrument appearing on tracks by bands such as The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and others.

Types: There are several methods of stringing the sitar based on musicians preference, but two main types of sitar the Gandhaar Pancham Gharana Sitar used by Vilayat Khan and his disciples and the Kharaj Pancham Sitar as popularised by Ravi Shankar and the  The sympathetic strings are called tarb, taarif or tarafdaar] which run underneath the frets. 

Kharaj-pancham sitar, invented by legendary Sitar Ratna Ustad Rahimat Khan, founder of Dharwad Gharana of Sitar, later this type of sitar was used in the Maihar gharana, to which Ravi Shankar belonged, and other gharanas such as Bishnupur, has a total of seven playing strings. Three of these or four on a Gandhar-pancham sitar or the “Vilayat Khan”-style or Etawah gharana. The rest of the strings are called the chikari, simply provide a drone; the rest are used to play the melody, though the first string [baaj taar] is most used.

Construction: A sitar is composed of the following components, beginning with a cut gourd whose cross section is positioned on the top or front of the gourd. A neck is fitted onto the gourd during the manufacturing process. The jawara or bridge is made from bone this ranged from camel to ivory. Although it is desirable among musicians to use the wooden bridges in place of ivory. 

Metal frets [or parda] made of thick diameter brass wire are flattened to allow upright support when being tied to the neck. The string used to tie the frets is usually thread looped around several times and tied. It is taught enough for support although flexible for fine tuning the fret. The playing strings run from the tail end over the jawara or bridge to the tar gahan and meru. The flattened bridge or jawara is what is responsible for providing the buzz in the resonance of the sitar. 

In parallel to the playing strings the sympathetic strings run parallel to the playing strings while travelling underneath the raised frets to the tar gahan or nut. The chota ghoraj functions as a bridge for the sympathetic strings who vibrate independently when the playings or plucked. They may also be plucked for effect and embellishment.

The sitar can have 18, 19, 20 or 21 strings. Six or seven of these are played melody strings they run above the frets. The strings are usually of steel, copper or bronze or brass for the lower sounding bass strings.

The Jawara or Bridge: For best results the jawara has to be solidly fixed onto the top surface which is usually carved out of jackwood. This allows for the greater transmission of sound and sustain felt through most of the instrument. The neck and tuning pegs are assembled during the process of building a sitar usually after the gourd is cut. The gourd is traditionally attached onto the jackwood neck by bamboo skewers and glued into place.

Citations: Bibliography: The Indian Encyclopaedia, 2002, p. 2988 Swarn Lata 2013 ; The Journey of the Sitar in Indian Classical Music, p. 24 “Thāṭ [Instrumental]” ; Ragini Trivedi, Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi, ISBN 978-0-557-70596-2, 2010 ;

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