INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: difficult instrument to master

 

Author Message
Vigneswari
difficult instrument to master Oct 09, 2001 10:01 p.m.


hi!!
this is more like a discussion to know if u think as the same as me. do u all think that sitar is a difficult instrument to master? i certainly do cause i have been learning sitar for five years and i am still like a beginner. it needs lots of practising and remembering of compositions in rags. and thesame rag can vary according to different composers. a composer can be for example, your tutor.
BuddhistMonk
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 09, 2001 11:22 p.m.


Most will say any instrument is hard to master. But I will have to say, the sitar seems to me, harder than a guitar. But I have been with guitars since i was a small child, I have never seen sitars in real life til very recently. When I first was interested in tabla. As I learned about the bols and things, I thought it would be impossible for me to even make a sound with the tablas. I understand tabla better now and can make the sounds with them. Insturments like Sarangi seem harder to play than any instrument Ive heard of in the world, but I have never tried or had a chance to try. Just sounds like its tuff and i hear people say it is. So i do agree with you sitar is a hard instrument to master.
Russ
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 10, 2001 10:28 a.m.


Hi;
Know how you feel. It only took me maybe one year to master guitar to the point of playing professionally, but sitar is different. I've been playing sitar off and on for nearly 30 years, and I still don't think I'm very good. But then again, I never had a tutor or guru, just a strong desire (lifetime),learning materials, and a fairly good "ear" and sense of rhythm. ANd of course, a simple sitar.

In my opinion, the sucess you have in mastering sitar is directly proportional to the amount of time/practice you put into it. People like Ravi Shankar became masters in only 7 years, but they practiced 7 days a week and 18 hours a day! They were monks, living and breathing sitar. So, unless you do that, I wouldn't try push the process. It will come if you stick with it. Many sitarists will tell you it takes a lifetime and then some to be a sitar master. I simply strive to be "pretty good", perhaps someday. To help in this, listen only to Indian music as western music will mess up your developing "ear". That's hard to do with all the radio, TV and CDs playing everywhere. But try it.

One final thing- the heart of a raga I have found is the rasa, the emotion or "spirit" it creates. In other words, no two people will interpret and play a raga the same way. Only the skeletal structure remains the same. Otherwise, it would not be recognizable as raga whatever-it-is. So, go with your tutor's interpretation for now. SOmeday, you may learn to play it different.

This is wordy so I'll stop. It is difficult to master, but I consider it a "labor of love" or I wouldn't do it at all. So, stick with it and good luck.

Sita
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 11, 2001 02:23 a.m.


Hello Russ,

Although I don't play the sitar, play other Indian instruments, and what you wrote here above was very instructive to anyone who aims to play well any kind of instrument. There are a lot of valuable thoughts in your message. Thank you a lot.

Russ
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 12, 2001 10:34 a.m.



Sita (Oct 11, 2001 02:23 a.m.):
Hello Russ,

Although I don't play the sitar, play other Indian instruments, and what you wrote here above was very instructive to anyone who aims to play well any kind of instrument. There are a lot of valuable thoughts in your message. Thank you a lot.


Hi Sita;
You're welcome. Thanks for reading. I think the average age for many people on these forums is around 16 or so, and some of my thoughts can get a little deep for young ones on a just-for-fun forum. I don't know if anything I say will make an impression here, but maybe it will. I just hope some of the folks here actually do stick with the music and the instrument. I think its more meaningfull than the "throw-away" junk music I hear almost everywhere I go these days! But maybe I'm just a product of a different generation. Anyway, what kind(s) of instrument do you play and how did you learn?

BuddhistMonk
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 14, 2001 12:31 a.m.


Russ, try not to worry about me sticking with the insturments and music. (: Your comments are highly appriciated, and understood. You know the music well.

Thank you

Sita
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 15, 2001 07:59 a.m.


Hi Russ,

Well, I think to be an exception from the average age of 16 with my 35 years, myself probably a "product of a different generation". I play the harmonium and the bengali khol, here in Budapest called mrdanga. I'm not a professional musician, but very enthusiastic. So please, in future if you have similar inspriring and valuable thoughts remember the "elderly" readers of these boards and just do not hesitate to release them from your head.

Best Wishes
Sita

Russ
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 15, 2001 12:30 p.m.


Hi BuddhistMonk:
Not worrying about you. You sound like you have the right level of enthusiasm. You'll be fine! I was only 13 when I fell in love with this music, and I'm still with it.
Hi Sita:
I only did music professionally for a short while, and that was long ago. I only play now for myself and others that ask me to. I'm a technical instructor at a university now for quite some time. You're not elderly! I'm 48 myself, so naturally I look at all things and write too from that perspective.

Is the original poster still there or did we loose him?

Hanumanji
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 15, 2001 04:20 p.m.


I've been playing guitar for 18 years and I jsut got a sitar last week. I am like a lost child. Just tuning it is a daunting task.
Russ
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 15, 2001 06:01 p.m.



Hanumanji (Oct 15, 2001 04:20 p.m.):
I've been playing guitar for 18 years and I jsut got a sitar last week. I am like a lost child. Just tuning it is a daunting task.

From experience, the only thing guitars and sitars have in common is they both have strings and frets. Otherwise, they are nothing alike. That two-finger playing technique, and pulling the string instead of pushing for a bend is very different. That will come in time. Tuning is tuff at first but gets easier over time. Hang in there Hanuman! Can't rush this stuff you know.

BuddhistMonk
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 16, 2001 06:12 p.m.


I know what you mean Hanuman, very hard to tune sitars and keep them in tune. Me and rick(fullcircle) have quite a time keeping his sympathetic strings in tune.
Hanuman Das
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 17, 2001 05:34 p.m.


Yeah, when I tuned the sympathetic strings, many of them popped. I spoke to Peter Cutchey at Buckingham Music and he explained that sitars are often shipped with the strings wound in a way that causes them to kink, an then get tight before they should. I'm having to replace the whole set.
Not only that, I have Ravi Shankar's "My Music, My Life" which has a sitar manual in it, and I just got "How To Play On Sitar", By Vir.. Both books have completely different tuning chart's. Since Vir's is easier, I'm using it for now.
Pllus, I have to get some chalk to just make the tuning pegs stick.
If I wasn't in love with this thing, I'd drop -kick it.
BuddhistMonk
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 17, 2001 06:52 p.m.


I also broke 3 of fullcircles sympathetics while tuning, very supirising to break 3 just like that. But I have heard of My life My Music, by Ravi, do you know any places where I can still get it? Its been out of print for a while now.
Hanuman Das
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 18, 2001 10:29 a.m.


I don't know where to get it now. I lucked out and found it years ago at a small bookstore for used books. I'm thinking of scanning and publishing the sitar manual prt online, but I want to be sure that Ravi would not be opposed to that first.
Russ
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 18, 2001 12:53 p.m.


Hanuman, I would not recommend scanning and putting that online just yet. I think Delhi Books still has the copyright, and I believe its still active. Don't want to get in trouble with copyright infringement! I saw a "dogeared" copy of Ravi My Music/My Life offered on Ebay back in June for around $35. I would have got it if it wasn't so chewed-up. I understand that Ravi's official website is obtaining rights to have that book reprinted again since there is so much demand for it. So, maybe check into their site every so often.

Sympathetic strings will always break since they are so thin! Best way to tune I think is to never tune above key of C(sa)unless you have really high quality carbon steel. Also, if the string is already kinked, forget it. If not, tune up sloooooly to let the string get used to being expanded. Works for me!

Lars
Re:difficult instrument to master Oct 19, 2001 01:22 p.m.


Hi all,
First post here to this board but heard about it from Russ. Here's a link for the Ravi Shankar book "My Music, My Life"
http://www.tabla.org/stbooks.html
They get them from India, I currently practice exercises out of it because I like the way he lays them out. The book by Ram Avtar Vir is similar, I believe he studied with Ravi. Of coure THE BOOK to get is "Techniques of Sitar" by S. Bandyopadhyaya available at Khazana.com but it's not cheap @ $80 US.
As far as the sitar being difficult to master, I don't think anyone will ever master it! Manilal Nag and Nikhil Banerjee have come close. Playing sitar to me is a very spiritual thing. My moods will reflect in my playing and exercises compared to say keyboards where I could be half asleep and still pound out a tune.
mash
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 22, 2002 07:05 a.m.


Vigneshwari..hi..just persevere and it will come..I have been learning on and off for some 10 yrs..I ve even had lessons from both ravi sahnkar and vilayat khan..I ve also been fortunate to have a few sessions with Shujaat khan ( Vilayat Khan;s son)..for the last 4 yrs i've persevered to play meend..and gueess what..i've finally cracked it..I can now play alsp and other songs based on raga using meend..I believe meed is the technique which really bring out the music in you..i have now started to practise late everynight in front of a mirror.. somehow this helps..and i really enjopy it..i've had to give up the idiot box as i practise for approx 1 to 2 hrs every night!! also check out Anthony robbins nlp techniques..this has helped me to excel in sitar faster in the last 6 months than the last 4 yrs trying to play meend..practise!!practise!!practise!!this is the answer..go for it!
Russ
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 22, 2002 06:30 p.m.


Hi mash;
You had lessons from Ravi and Vilayat? OK, I'm impressed! BTW, what are the Anthony Robbins nlp techniques you mention?
Lars
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 22, 2002 09:35 p.m.


Isn't Anthony Robbins that self-help guru kind of guy with the info-mercials??
sitarsrule
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 22, 2002 10:14 p.m.


I've been playing for 10yrs, & I find that theres always more to learn,now that I jam with a tabla drummer(beginner) that I've increased in speed>like anything in life anything worth doing is worth doing well. that also comes to learning to play.....peace

mash (Jan 22, 2002 07:05 a.m.):
Vigneshwari..hi..just persevere and it will come..I have been learning on and off for some 10 yrs..I ve even had lessons from both ravi sahnkar and vilayat khan..I ve also been fortunate to have a few sessions with Shujaat khan ( Vilayat Khan;s son)..for the last 4 yrs i've persevered to play meend..and gueess what..i've finally cracked it..I can now play alsp and other songs based on raga using meend..I believe meed is the technique which really bring out the music in you..i have now started to practise late everynight in front of a mirror.. somehow this helps..and i really enjopy it..i've had to give up the idiot box as i practise for approx 1 to 2 hrs every night!! also check out Anthony robbins nlp techniques..this has helped me to excel in sitar faster in the last 6 months than the last 4 yrs trying to play meend..practise!!practise!!practise!!this is the answer..go for it!
mash
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 23, 2002 04:56 a.m.


Hi Russ and lars and everyone else on this forum..this is a sitar forum so I'll keep it simple..A. Robbins is the renowned success coach who studied and now ptreaches the techniques of NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming..these techniques are based on things like visualisation and positive affirmation..basically it is about conditioning your mind and body to achieve any goal..robbins leans more on changing your physilogy first which would automatically lead to a change in mental state..a lot of people find themselves in a stuck state..how does this help the sitar player..the way I use this is as follows..If i find it difficult to play a certain stroke..ie meend for eg..then I think of a time in the past where I played such a stroke successfuly..i would bring into the thought all my senses..what was I thinking of ..what did I smell..how did the sitar feel resting on my foot..how did my arms and hands feel playing the sitar..etc..in essence i would create in my mind a reel or film experience..doing this little exercise in itself puts me into a positive frame of mind and then playing or duplicating past successes become easier..of course if you had never palyed successfully in the past..then you would create an imaginary successful experience..remember the subconscious does not differ between a real or imagined experience!!etc etc..this is enough on this..It has helped me..if you want to try it out then check out the various siites on nlp on the net..there are enough of them..let me know how you get on..or not..but I must stress..nothing and nothing beats practise..constant and focused practise..
Ken
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 23, 2002 06:58 a.m.


Hi all,
Unlike our resident "advanced players" (hope that doesn't embarrass you Lars) I've only had my Sitar since December. However I do play several instruments and have been noodling witht he guitar since I was 12 (now 55, another exception to the rule on this site, i guess). When I started playing Bagpipes, 18 years ago, I decided to learn how to read music which opened many doors althogh it took about 3 years to become proficient.
In the European school system I understand that before you are allowed to play an instrument you must be taught to sight sing using Solfeg. This is the DoReMe system which is identical to the Swargam Indian system. In taking up sitar I am trying to use the knowledge that I gained from the other instruments as to how to approach the learning process.
Some of the things I have learned are: when you become frustrated and angry, slow down, relax, use the energy to ascertain the problem rather than compounding it. Learn to play without looking at the fingerboard at all, feel the fret and hear the note, this will take a while but will provide huge dividends later. Don't be too hard on yourself as the calmer your spirit is the more gently you will play and the instrument will respond to you in kind. Many of us are coming from the guitar mentality background which is good and bad. We want to press down too hard, we want to lift our fingers up and put them down rather than glissing to the next note (slang for glissando). When we work without a teacher we are usually building in bad technique and by the time we find out we have been pounding this into our playing thru bad practices we now have a long period of correction.
Best advice is to make every practice a very enjoyable thing, not work (even though that's what it is), if your having fun and enjoying the process you'll grow by leaps and bounds.
Mash, how did you ever get the good karma to get lessons from the greats, I'd like to just sit at your feet and listen to stories about their teaching techniques, perhaps you might post some of their sayings for us. I have taught bagpipes to beginners for some years and have tried to help them to understand that "everything is difficult until it becomes easy"
simplistic but true.
Vigneswari, sounds like you are a wise person, usually takes 3-5 years for any real proficiency on an instrument and then it depends on how much you practice each day.. I'm so glad you all are here as everyones problems are really problems we've all had. I don't know what type of Sitars you guys have got that you keep breaking strings like that. Crimps certainly come into play but there might be other things as well, like just cheap strings. I am a rank beginner with Sitar but no problems with breaking strings, might be that being a string player for nearly 35 years I can almost "feel" when a string is going to go.
Lars, nice to hear from you thanks again for all your input, as well as Monk, geez I'm getting to think that playing Tabla is almost the best way to understand Indian classical music. I'm fortunate as my wife, Debbie, is doing Tabla so that's a big help, we start our lessons this coming weekend I'll let you all know how it goes......(I'm as bad as Russ with the wordiness, sorry) . . good luck to all of us....ken
K.K.
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 23, 2002 07:31 p.m.


Hello All: Hey Mash, where are you located? - K.K.
Lars
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 23, 2002 07:51 p.m.


Thanks Mash, I've seen Mr. Robbins before on TV.......I'd agree that practice is important. I myself still just play exercises although generally start out with 20 minutes of improv, the key I think is to be so familiar with your instrument that as you think the note/melody in your head it will transfer to your instrument without any effort and the years of practicing make that happen eventually. Also definetely should not practice when exhausted, etc. although if you're in a bad mood sometimes playing will get you out of it..........
mash
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 24, 2002 05:06 a.m.


hi guys..yes Anthony Robbins is that same person..I will write more on my experience using NLP techniques to sitar playing..However guys..I' m heart broken at the moment..bashed my prized rikki ram against the door and cracked the tumba!!..still plays..but you know its never the same..i've had this sitar for 15 yrs!!..any ideas on repair suggestions would be welcome....thanks..

Lars (Jan 22, 2002 09:35 p.m.):
Isn't Anthony Robbins that self-help guru kind of guy with the info-mercials??
mash
Re:difficult instrument to master Jan 24, 2002 06:23 a.m.


Hi K.K..i am from Leicester, in the U.K..where are you??

K.K. (Jan 23, 2002 07:31 p.m.):
Hello All: Hey Mash, where are you located? - K.K.
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