Just thought I'd let you know. Decided to experiment a bit with my teak Mangla and tuned up to C sharp instead of middle C. Big difference! Instrument no longer sounds dull and the tarbs kick in right there. So, if you have a Mangla or other well-made instrument, go to C#. You won't regret it!
I'm tuning in C#, because my teacher put in there right from the start. I'm curious how other players tune their sitar! (Don't really know the wood of my sitar: is there a way to recognise the difference? May sound dumb....)
Standard sitar tuning is to middle C. Another weird fact: "sa" does not necessarily mean the C note. In fact, "sa" can be anywhere from B natural to D natural. Middle C is just used as an average or standard. So, when you say you tune to sa, people assume you mean C. However, C#, D, B, etc can also be sa. Confused now? How to tell teak from tun? With the various stains in use, color is not always the best indicator. Generally, teak is a little darker, but the Mangla teaks are fairly light in colors. Best way I tell is by weight. Teak sitars are almost twice the weight of a tun. I can't tell the difference by grain, they are very similar. So, not a dumb question at all!
I can tell my sitar is teak because it looks just like Danish furniture I've heard somewhere that a lot of the pro players tune their sitars to D during concerts but back down to C or C# for practice due to that same effect Russ....
Lars; I just got listening to Ravi's Charu Kauns one night and noticed that it was in C#. In fact, most of his recordings are in C#. Since his sitar is tough and so is mine, I thought I'd try transposing upwards, and it worked. I don't have the guts to do that with my old generic tun. Don't want to induce micro fractures in the grain by stress! I rather imagine the Mangla would take the stress of going to D, but I don't think my poor fingers could take it! Nor would the average strings on it right now.
Both Ravi and Nikhil B seem to tune to C#. I think I remember Peter saying that was a reasonably established concert pitch. After reading your post, Russ, I tuned my instrument from C to C#. I'm not sure I discerned a noticable difference, but I'll keep it there anyway. It may be just that I need to go back to the tarbs and tune more carefully.