About The Indian String Instrument Sitar
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The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument in Hindustani Music. It is derived form Veena, an ancient Indian instrument. Mughal court musicians modified the Veena with the tastes of their Persian patrons and named after a Persia instrument called the Setar (three strings). The Sitar may also be an off-shoot of another stringed instrument, the “Tanbur”. This long necked lute played a crucial role in Medieval Muslim Cultures. The Sitar flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in 18th century in India.

Much like other stringed instruments, Sitar enthusiasts can learn to play their own. However, most Sitarists have found it very difficult accurately master this instrument. Learn how to play Sitar with online class lessons conducted on “Skype” by GAALC.

How to Play Sitar:

A key feature of the sitar is its curved, movable frets, which allow for a wide variation of tuning; they are also raised so that the 11-16 tarbs or sympathetic strings can run under the frets. Among its 20-odd strings are 6 or 7 playable strings which are situated over the frets. The Kharaj-Pancham, used by Ravi Shankar, has 7 playable strings. (The difference between the 6 and 7 string styles is that the latter has two extra bass strings, low pa and low sa, which give them an extra bass octave). Four of these strings, called the chikari, provide the "drone" while the remaining strings are used to play the melody, though most of the notes of the melody are played on the baj tar, or first string.

The sitar also has two bridges. The bada goraj, or main bridge, is used for the playing and drone strings and achota goraj, or secondary bridge, is for the sympathetic strings that run beneath the main strings. The best bridges are usually made of horn- typically deer antler. With a sitar, as the string reverberates, its length changes slightly as its edge touches the bridge, which creates overtones and lends it a distinct, rich tone. Proper adjustment of the jawari promotes this fullness of sound. The "pick", called a mazrab, is used by the player's dominant hand to pluck the sitar. The thumb of the playing hand should be positioned on the top of the fret board just above the main gourd, and the sitar itself should be balanced between the player's left foot and right knee, allowing the hands to move freely and not support the weight of the sitar.

A sitar class is the most direct way to learn how to play the sitar. A sitar teacher can educate their students about the design and history of the sitar in addition to hands-on guidance to develop playing skills. GAALC offers online Sitar training lesson on “Skype” conducted by Indian Sitar Guru or teachers.

How to tune Sitar :

Typically, sitars feature five melody strings; these are tuned to Ma (F), Sa (C), Pa (G), Sa (C), and Pa (G). Sitars also sport two Chikari strings for rhythm. In addition, they sport five or six drone strings, which are used to accentuate the rhythm or pulse. Sitars have hollow necks (usually made of Indian mahogany, known as “tun”), which include convex frets housing 9-13 sympathetic strings. The sitar’s neck tapers off to a dried gourd, or gourd-shaped container, which is covered by a pegbox (the container that anchors the strings).

Sitars are usually tuned to C, C#, or D. We used a reference scale(usually Taanpura)to tune the Sitar. The taraf strings (the ones below the frets) are tuned to the "major" scale when we play on major notes only.

The famous Indian Sitar player performers and notable international Sitar playing musicians are Pandit Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Annapurna Devi, Shujaat Husain Khan, George Harrison, Kirit Khan, Al Gromer Khan, Prem Joshua, Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, Lowell George, Reenat Fauzia, Brian Jones, Anoushka Shankar, Wahid Khan, Anjan Chattopadhyay, Emily Robison, Shafaatullah Khan, Ronnie Wood, Allauddin Khan, Harihar Rao, Ragini Trivedi, Tomi Koivusaari, Niladri Kumar, Shivnath Mishra, etc.

As any musician or fan will tell you, the music of the sitar is truly unique. Quite simply, sitar music can enrich any tune or piece. But while sitar music is easy to enjoy, it’s not so easy to master. In fact, sitar playing can stump even the most skilled musicians. If someone can play the sitar, they’ve accomplished a valuable musical feat! Online Sitar learning class lessons offered by GAALC India are one-on-one, live, real time, interactive learning program on “Skype” or Google hangouts”.


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