INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: mid range / high end instruments

 

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neal
mid range / high end instruments Sep 13, 2002 05:19 p.m.


I noticed on-line that Ali Akbar College of Music is now selling Mangla Prasad Sharma Sitars...they describe them as "Fine mid-range sitars." - Which quite surprised me, since I thought it was a fairly high end instrument. Why is there such a discrepancy between Buckinghams appraisal of these instruments and Ali Akbar Colleges appraisal. What parameters are used to assign mid-range vs. high end status? Confused in Boston!!!
Russ
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 13, 2002 06:10 p.m.


Yeah, I saw and read that on AACM's site some time ago. In my opinion, AACM is quite biased towards the "big name" retailers like Hiren Roy, Hemen, etc. They command much more money due to their name and reputation (Mercedes vs Toyota). But that doesn't mean that they're any better than Manglas! It does mean that the Mangla doesn't cost as much, so that's probably why they call it "mid-range" (price, not quality).
Lars
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 13, 2002 07:40 p.m.


That and the decoration on the standard tun model is not as nice as the teak or a Hiren Roy so that's another reason.....but they sound very good!

Lars

Jeff
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 14, 2002 12:35 a.m.


Hey, I'd like to know some opinions about AACM's prices. Are they high,low or average ? They seem a little high to me but what do you people think? And what is the highest you would pay for a decent sitar? Is over 2K to much for a sitar? Even in the best condition or tone wise? Or ,are sitars like guitars you pay for the name ?
Jeffrey R King
K.K.
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 16, 2002 06:55 p.m.


Hello All: I checked out the MPS sitars on Ali Akbar website and noticed that this is not the same sitar offered by Buckingham Music. It is of the �ring and petal� design, which is typically used on less expensive sitars. Remember, Peter was having the Buckingham sitars made to order, according to his high standards.
Regarding the famous makers� (H.R., Hemen, etc.) sitars, yes, their OLDER sitars are of the highest quality, but their new instruments� � K.K.
Russ
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 17, 2002 01:18 p.m.



K.K. (Sep 16, 2002 06:55 p.m.):
Hello All: I checked out the MPS sitars on Ali Akbar website and noticed that this is not the same sitar offered by Buckingham Music. It is of the �ring and petal� design, which is typically used on less expensive sitars. Remember, Peter was having the Buckingham sitars made to order, according to his high standards.
Regarding the famous makers� (H.R., Hemen, etc.) sitars, yes, their OLDER sitars are of the highest quality, but their new instruments� � K.K.

All true, but I do remember the Hiren Roy #2 from AACM I "test drove" a few years ago had the "ring and petal" design, and that puppy was $1500 even then! Sent it back because it was damaged to begin with. So, can't always go by looks alone. There are fancy looking sitars out there that sound pretty bad. I think the MPS from AACM is a standard, plain tun, so it should be under $1K. The fancier rose petal is more, but AACM doesn't handle those. Indrajit Banerjee inspects the MPS in Kolkatta for Buckingham, and selects what he believes to be the "best". Whether AACM has an inspection arrangement or not, I don't know. But I think that's one reason why Buckingham's instruments look, feel and sound more solid, and subsequently command a higher price.

Regarding Neal's question before about whether going over $2k is too much for a sitar, I would only pay that much for a "custom" built just for me. Otherwise, no way. ......My two cents......

sitarsrule
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 17, 2002 10:24 p.m.


I've played a few heman sitars & I've played a cheep sitar with low action & great jawari That sounded as good. I know that there is someone out there who's saying yeah right" But if even a cheep sitar has great wood & someone working on them who knows what they"re doing, I really believe that it can sound as good. But like in guitars , you also get what you pay for. You must really check it out before you take it home...............Peace
Russ
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 18, 2002 11:07 a.m.


Sitarsrule;
My first sitar I paid $100 for 32 years ago, and I still have it and it sounds fine. Jawari worked on one time, 5 years ago. Does not have to be a name brand to be good, and yes there "lemons" out there with name brands on them. So, if you bought a $2000 Hemen that turns out to be a lemon, well...did you get what you paid for? Thus my mantra: play before you pay!
Jeff
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 02:21 a.m.


I got my first sitar about 12 years ago at HMC in Tacoma park MD. Paid around $600 I think, I believe it was pretty decent but I didnt know a thing about it, tuning,set-up etc,, Busted a hole in it after about 4 months to my horror ! Ended up selling it for $200. It was a Rhada Krishna Sharma if I remember correctly. Then I bought my next one from Mid East mfg. thru my local scumbag music store. Paid $650 for the "professional model" but I swear I got the cheapest one they offered and they wouldnt take a return. I got ripped. Now I got the Mangla rose petal. May be getting a used Mangla teak if I can sell a few guitars. I think the Mangla is worth the $1400 that I paid. Now hopefully I can check out the teak. If its anything like the tun I should be quite happy with it.
Jeffrey R King
Remco
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 08:04 a.m.


I bought my sitar through my teacher. I wanted lessons, gave her a call and she invited me over. She had two sitars for sale she had bought in India while visiting her family. I chose a Ravi Shankar style sitar, I like the sound more than the Vilyat Khan-style. It not really a known brand: it says Kartar Chand Hari Chand on the neck. I also like the fact she checked it out before buying: she told me she wouldn't sell a crappy instrument, since it would scare away her students from the instrument. My teacher plays a Rikhi Ram, beautiful instrument, but she told me that because of the climate here in Holland , the binding came of after a week.....

Peace,

Remco

Remco
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 08:07 a.m.


Ps. I pays fl 1500,- (approx. $700.-) My teacher told that the instrument from the AAKC were too expensive and advised me to start on a cheaper instrument, she told me that with care my instrument would last me for the first 10-15 years.

best,

Remco

Russ
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 10:20 a.m.


Agreed on the AACM prices; they're too much. Jeff, I think a lot of us got burned on Mid East mfg. My second sitar came from them about 10 years ago (sold it for a loss just this year). It would be good to spread a watch-out word about those guys....
I didn't know anything when I bought my first sitar either, I just got lucky. Got it at Pier 1 in Fort Worth. Salesman had no idea what it was, so I named my price. Its a no-name, "plain jane" cheapie...and it will always stay with me.
Jeff
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 02:54 p.m.


Anyone here ever deal with Silverbush Music ? They seem to have a few nice used sitars. But I found their return policy a little disappointing "you can only return for store credit I think" and I talked to someone there and he said the shipping for a sitar would be around $120 from California to New Jersey ! So I'm just wondering about the conditions of their used sitars in general? The prices also seemed a tad high. Theres a Saraswati Veena I like there for but for $1500 I'm a little wary of having $1500 in store credit if I dont like the thing. I could be wrong about the return policy but I think I read it correctly.
Jeffrey R King
Jeff
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 03:44 p.m.


Well I just double checked Silver Bushes return policy. It is for storecredit only plus a 25% restocking fee ! So for a $1500 item that your not happy with thats a $375 loss plus the shipping back. Paying around $500 bucks for maybe trying out an instrument your not happy with is a big turn off in my book. And as far as Mid East goes they lost my business foreaver
Jeffrey R King
K.K.
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 04:45 p.m.


Hi Jeff: I've dealt with Silverbush and they're good people. You can rest assured that they would send you a quality intrument. Of course, as you know, every instrument is different so you're gambling no matter who you buy from, if you don't hear/play the instrument before you buy. The return-for-credit policy does suck though, IMO. Peter C. spoiled us! - K.K.
Russ
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 05:52 p.m.


I've heard good stuff about Silverbush as well. Peter and Brian Godden the owner were good friends.

That shipping price is going to be standard for cross-country. Like I mentioned before, I sent a trial Hiren Roy back to AACM due to problems with it. I got my payment back since it was within the trial period, but they did not pay the shipping and insurance both ways. So, it turned out to be a $180 out of pocket lesson for me. Best luck I ever had was to travel to the location, play the sitar, and then decide. I even traveled to Peter's to play the Mangla. Wound up taking it home with me. Make it a vacation. Absolutely beautiful country there in north Napa Valley where Silverbush is!

sitarsrule
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 06:50 p.m.


I'm sure that the folks at mid-east would love to hear that. I got my first sitar there for $300.00, And after it was tweeked it sounded ok. If you can't get the stuff tweekd that they sell now, then I'm sorry I've ever told people to check em out. But you get what you pay for most of the time......Peace
Amitava
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 07:14 p.m.


Brian has also done Jawari for me three times - fourth visit due this Fall. I agree, he is an honorable and knowledgeable man. The last jawari was the best. Rest of the message is just opinions....

BTW the cost v.s. sale price margin for the instruments is ridiculous ( as much as 1:3) - yes even Buckingham's instruments.

One important note that is made in this thread is that a name does not assure you of quality - and it is a very valid point. Makers in India have traditionally kept knowledge too close to their hearts - and the techniques/practices die with them.

"Hiren Roy" instruments made today should not be compared to the instruments made by the "true" Hiren Roy (last generation). Today Radhakrishna and Kannai Lals (do they still exist) are names only - no substance in my opinion. Many makers - (I suspect Rikhi Ram) also get instruments made by unknowns (usually not good artisans) and put their label on the instrument.

In case you were not aware, a maker can rarely manufacture more than 20-30 high end instruments in a year. Additional, without close supervision, flaws (and I am not talking about the decoration- which in my opinion in the least important aspect of the instrument) invariably creep in. There are extremely difficult or impossible to correct, after the assembly. Also there is a tendency to leave the flaw in - since it means addition cost (material and labor) to rectify it.

The social conditions/temperament of the artisans also make them switch makers - or find other jobs - causing inconsistent quality over time. In general, an artisan is an expert only in one of two aspects of the instrument - and is responsible only on specific components. So you can imagine the mish-mash of talent and quality that contributes to the final product. The "maker" usually supervises the work - inspects the instrument in its various phases of it birth - and does the jawari and final finish of the instrument. The manufacturing process itself has very interesting scientific and socio-cultural facets.

So some of the reason for the lower quality of instruments are (a) lack of consistency in its manufacturing process (b) lack of pride in one's work (even if the pay is high/er by the way) © lack of seasoned wood and other quality raw materials - partially brought about as a result of instruments being made and lying in hibernation, due to a lack of interest of its owner.

I completely agree with Russ - play before you pay. Visit and handle instrument before committing if you can afford it. It is worth it. Equally true is that it is better to learn on a less expensive instrument - gauge you future interest - determine what style (kharaj or gandhar-pancham or something else) works for you and get a "custom" instrument (or a high end one). One could argue that the quality of an instrument can make a positive - or negative impact on a new student. I will agree to a certain degree - the feel of an instrument, a lack of technical flaws (for eg. the string not touching higher frets during a pluck) and its tone is important. However, most of the less expensive (I would say mid range) are perfectly fine. It take time to develop techniques and ear to appreciate a "better" instrument. The first year of lessons (assuming 4-5 hours of "good" practice per week) really does not need a wonderfully seasoned instrument. Bad playing is bad playing, regardless of your instrument - although a bad instrument can make you develop bad technique also. It is only when you get to the advanced techniques, that you will be able to appreciate and truly use a good instrument. Save your money until then - develop your skills - learn what you really want - set the gears in motion. Keep practicing during this journey.
Amitava
Re:mid range / high end instruments Sep 19, 2002 07:21 p.m.


One slight clarification: Professional musicians tell me that Hiren Roy still has stock of good seasoned wood that he uses only under special conditions ($$$$ and relationship with person who is ordering). This is one reason to leave a lighter finish on the instrument - to gauge the wood quality. Other makers do not have this reservoir of raw material. But even that is running out � fiberglass bridges are becoming more common.
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