INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Mizrab Ouch!

 

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Billy
Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 10:29 a.m.


OK, I'm coming out of lurk mode to ask about the mizrab (or is it mezrab...I've seen it spelled both ways.) I've searched through this forum, as well as on other sites, and everyone seems to agree that it hurts, but caluses grow after a few days.

I have a neurological problem that amplifies pain---real brilliant trying to learn to play a steel stringed instrument. Anyway, I bought my sitar as a second a couple of weeks ago, have done as much tweaking as possible, and it sounds pretty good. I've started practicing scales, and don't really have much problem with fretting strings with my left hand, its that darn mizrab that's giving me problems! I've tried different sizes, with and without the plastic on the wire, tried bending the sides so its not so tight, but nothing decreases the pain for me. I would hate to not learn the sitar just because I can't stand the pain on my finger!!

Any ideas? I thought about trying to make one that attaches to the finger with a velcro strip or something similar, but obviously it needs to be tight, and able to pluck in both directions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

By the way, I've already learned quite a lot from this forum. Its really great!


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 01:13 p.m.


Welcome to the group, Billy.

Well, you did pick a tough instrument if you're not into pain! Mizrabs (you can spell it any way you like since its not an english word anyway) by nature will hurt for a while till you get used to it. The plastic wrap at the top is more comfortable, but the mizrab has a tendency to "wiggle" when using it. And that's no good...
But I have seen some people use the western-style guitar and banjo metal finger and thumb instead of these wire contraptions. They're nonconventional of course, but they do work. Might try a set of those.....

Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 01:15 p.m.


Metal finger and thumb picks, that is!
Rohit
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 01:22 p.m.


Um.. I don't really play sitar,but i do know a bit about it so if i say anything wrong, im sorry. I was just thinking that if your finger hurts while using the mezrab, you should try putting some type of band-aid on it to cusion your finger. I hope that helps...

God Bless,
Rohit

K.K.
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 02:43 p.m.


Hey Billy: You know why it's called a Mizrab don't you? Because it's MIZRABLE to wear! One thing that helped me was to wear the mizrab at every opportune moment during the day. People look at you kind of strange, but it gives you a chance to wear the mizrab for short periods of time and build up a tolerance.
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 02:47 p.m.


Back in 1970, I put medical adhesive tape on my finger for just this reason, but the mizrab just moved all over the place then. You pretty much need that tightness for control. Bandaids get in the way, plus some people say it kills the sound. But I don't know Billy, maybe give it a shot...

I have seen some tablayas use bandaids on the ends of their fingers. Don't know if that's for sound control or painfull fingers. Or both!

remco
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 04:48 p.m.


Hi
When I started my teacher gave me 3 mizrabs to try and I choose two blank ones and one that had a plastic tube over the parts that slide over your finger. My teacher told me these were for beginners and should only be used in the first couple of weeks! She also showed me that they actually sound less bright (weird considering the fact the pastic doesn't touch the strings at all).
But indeed, there is a certain amount of pain involved when playing Indian instruments
(hmmmm... sound like I'm into SM...)

Try to get a couple of plasticcovered mizrabs and use them for a time....

Peace,

Remco

Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 05:51 p.m.



remco (Jun 23, 2003 04:48 p.m.):
Try to get a couple of plasticcovered mizrabs and use them for a time....

Well, like I said, I've tried both the type with the plastic and the type without plastic, and there's not much dfference between one and the other for me.

I think I will try wearing one around when not playing; I can see where this might work for me, since I don't stress the pick any while just wearing it. Of course, as a software developer, I type most of the day, it probably won't work too good while typing!! Of course with my typing, there probably won't be a lot of difference.

I'm not sure if a banjo finger pick would work too well, as I believe they can only pluck in one direction. I used to play at steel guitar when I was a kid, and wore banjo-style picks. You can see what they look like at: http://www.catamuse.com/fingerpicks.html


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 23, 2003 07:01 p.m.


Yep, used to have a set that looked much like those that I used on 12 string guitar. Much sitar is played using the da stroke with the first finger on the main string, especially when learning scales. The pick worn just like shown in that picture should work perfect for that stroke. For the little finger, if you turn the pick around,it should work very well for strumming the tarab strings underneath. I only mentioned using a thumb pick because I did know a guy who stroked the chikari rhythmn strings using a thumb pick. Only person I ever saw do that, but it did work.

Yeah, if you can wear the mizrab around during the daytime, it can help you get used to it. But your finger will naturally swell during the day with body fluids, and it may get really uncomfortable. And it is a bit hard to type wearing that thing.

remco
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 24, 2003 03:12 p.m.


Have you tried to cover your finger with bandaid and slide the mizrab over the covered tip? When I started my lefthand fingers were hurting and my teacher advised me to practice with a bandaid.

Peace,

Remco

Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 24, 2003 07:44 p.m.


I tried the tape on my right index finger with the mizrab over that. It covered the joint only, so the tip was free. Because of that, I was not able to bend that finger at all, so no control. And I never could get a tight fit. So I took the tape off.
Left hand fingers? I would think the string would cut through the bandaid. And wouldn't that tend to mute the sound also? Never have done that, so I dont' know.
Stephen
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 26, 2003 09:50 a.m.


No pain, no gain. Adjusting to wear of mizrab is just one of the things you have to get use to.
I wore one of the larger mizra at first but it was out of control. I then started wearing the correct size, with much pain, and after a while (several months) started to get the "horns" on each side of the joint. It takes some time for the advanced calouses to develope, but this is what you want. You will find that with two needle nose pliers, you can custom bend the mizrab to fit very well and after a while, comfortably. As your ear developes, you will also notice that the convexity of the business end of the mizrab will effect your tone as well. You can get an idea of this tone change by playing where you use just the tip of the mizrab against the string as opposed to striking the string further up the mizrab. Yes, you have to be a caloused individual to play indian string instruments. And if you think you have it bad, check out what a sarangi player goes through.
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 28, 2003 06:38 p.m.



Stephen (Jun 26, 2003 09:50 a.m.):
No pain, no gain. Adjusting to wear of mizrab is just one of the things you have to get use to.
...
Yes, you have to be a caloused individual to play indian string instruments. And if you think you have it bad, check out what a sarangi player goes through.

Well, I'm certainly not trying to wimp out or anything, and as I said in my original message, I understand the mizrab hurts but one will grow calluses. But I also said that I'd hate to not learn to play the sitar just because of the pain. I am only looking for a solution that is less painful, one that perhaps will take longer to grow the protective calluses, and be a little accomodating to my little problem.

I definitely understand tradition, and will do what I can to follow the traditions of playing sitar within my needs. I also understand that playing the a sitar that is correctly tweaked, with the appropriate tools, in the tranditional manner, will produce the sound we should seek to produce. As an absolute beginner, I want to strive for that, but even if my first weeks playing with some sort of substitute does not give me the perfect sound, wouldn't it be better than not playing at all??

I remember several years ago, my wife gave me a surprise gift of a djembe drum. This is a drum from West Aftrica that is traditionally played while holding it between the knees. Even when standing, using a strap around the drum, it is still held between the knees. I could not handle that, so modified a strap so I could hold it to my side while standing. It worked out fairly well for me.

Well, about that time someone told me of a local drum circle that was bigger than the one I sometimes participated in, and I emailed the leader for info. In our correspondence, I mentioned the strap and holding it to the side. Well he let me have it, how either I play it traditionally or not at all. That so turned me off that not only did I not go to their drum circle, I gave the drum to one of my kids.

I was a weaker person then. If someone hammers me for not deigning to learn the sitar properly, its not going to stop my desire to learn. As I said, I understand the need for tradition, especially to get the sound we seek, but if I need to temporarily "bend" the rules a little, so be it.

I've ordered some mizrabs of a thinner wire than the one's I have now, maybe that will help. Meanwhile, I'll continue to seek a solution that will more immediately put me on the path of learning this fine instrument.


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 28, 2003 06:58 p.m.


Billy, do whatever works for you. People here only give opinions. It is quite alright to make accomodations as necessary. Making the music is the goal. All else is secondary.
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 28, 2003 11:05 p.m.



Russ (Jun 28, 2003 06:58 p.m.):
Billy, do whatever works for you. People here only give opinions. It is quite alright to make accomodations as necessary. Making the music is the goal. All else is secondary.

Thanks. I guess I'm just a little sensitive lately. I actually prefer people to post their personal feelings; it is from these that we learn. I don't believe anyone is picking on me or anything like that, I'm just a bit frustrated. Hopefully some larger mizrabs will help out. I'll do whatever it takes though.


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
K.K.
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 29, 2003 03:29 p.m.


Hey Billy: My two cents.. just give it time. I've been studying sitar now for a little over a year and I consider myself to still be a TOTAL novice. I can still feel a little "warm buzz" when I've been wearing the mizrab for over an hour, but it's not really painful anymore. You'll get use to it.
Bummer about your "Jembe Jerk." I've studied traditial West African music with some master players, including Mamady Keita, and they would NEVER discourage you from playing just because of your modified playing position.
Email me your email address, I have some info you might find interesting. <qehqeh@yahoo.com>
Stephen
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 30, 2003 07:55 a.m.


Don't get me wrong about this stuff, I'm just saying that the direct approach might get you to mostly pain free playing more rapidly. I almost think that trying mizrab that is made with thinner gauge wire is moving in the opposite direction from where you want to go.
I haven't tried this myself and haven't heard of anyone else doing it either, but it might be an option. When I was in high school the "girlfriends" would wrap yarn around their dude's class ring so that it would fit them. You might try this as an alternate to the plastic wrapped mizra. Again, let me point out that using a few needle nosed pliers to custom bend your mizrab will be benificial too.
Do what you have to do to get you over the hump and keep playing. It all comes with time.
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 30, 2003 09:24 a.m.



Stephen (Jun 30, 2003 07:55 a.m.):
Don't get me wrong about this stuff, I'm just saying that the direct approach might get you to mostly pain free playing more rapidly. I almost think that trying mizrab that is made with thinner gauge wire is moving in the opposite direction from where you want to go.

Gotcha, I understand. I'll try both thicker and thinner picks, to see what's the best. I've gotten a lot of good advice, and will experiment to see what works best for me. Thanks for the help.


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Annette
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 30, 2003 04:32 p.m.


Billy

Stephen's right......a thinner mizrab IS moving in the opposite direction.......I got some thicker ones, they not only seem to sound better to me, but they don't cut into my finger so sharply, are much more comfortable.......like everyone says, whatever works, though.......

Don't listen to that drum bozo
Do whatever you need to in order to play
I wonder what that guy would say to someone without any legs?

Hang in there and keep playing!

Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jun 30, 2003 07:18 p.m.



Annette (Jun 30, 2003 04:32 p.m.):
Billy

Stephen's right......a thinner mizrab IS moving in the opposite direction.......I got some thicker ones, they not only seem to sound better to me, but they don't cut into my finger so sharply, are much more comfortable.......like everyone says, whatever works, though.......

Don't listen to that drum bozo
Do whatever you need to in order to play
I wonder what that guy would say to someone without any legs?

Hang in there and keep playing!


It seems that's the growing consensus. I guess I thought that the thinner wire would be more malleable. I'll be trying thinker ones also.

As for the drum guy, I can imagine him saying something like "if God wanted you to play the djembe, he'd make sure you had legs."

Actually, its been a few years, I don't know the guy, he may have a completely different attitude now, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But for me, if I have to bend tradition a little bit, in whatever I do, I will. That's my new attitude.


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 07, 2003 03:07 p.m.


I want to publically thank Lars for his superior customer service on resolving this issue. He sent me picks that were a little larger, and had the thicker wire like everyone suggested, and I can stand them pretty well. at least for a whle. Though my sitar has been apart for the last few days while I polish the frets and can't play, I have been wearing one of the picks he sent off and on; believe it or not, I'm wearing one now while typing, not really recommended!

My problem now is, I don't mind wearing it much, but man, it hurts to take it off! Patience, patience grasshopper....


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 07, 2003 07:09 p.m.


I think the secret for taking those things off is to pinch the middle where the wires cross over. This acts kind of like opening up a vice. Then ease your finger out. Otherwise, you have to pull the thing over sensitive tissue where a little groove is forming. Even with a callous, its somewhat annoying and you're tempted to just rip it off (ouch). These mizrabs are not made for comfort in any case, but you do get somewhat used to it in time.
Lars
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 07, 2003 11:21 p.m.


Thanks for the nice comments Billy, glad things are working out. When my finger gets sore, I kind of 'walk' the mizrab off, lift each side a little bit at a time......

Lars

jan
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 04:31 a.m.


Good for you! painless mizrab wearing really helps : )

My mizrabs are really tight. I have to press the indexfinger quite hard against the floor or any hard surface to get the mixrab to slide on to the finger tip. When on it feels like an extension of my finger. I dont feel much pain, but the smallest adjustment on the mizrab can make it uncomfortable to ware. its made out of quite thick wire.

jan

Amitava
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 07:58 a.m.


Billy,

Stephen's advice is very sound. It is the size, thickness of string, metal quality, and position that contribute to the comfort level...and your performance/timbre. It is good you understand the reason for the pain. All you can do is get used to it in time. But if there is pain for a long time something is wrong.

By the way it may help in responses to indicate the general area where you are from. Folks may be able to point you to close by human/professional resources.

As to tradition vs innovation. I have no problems with tradition as long as it has a benefit associated with it. Indians (and other societies) have a very bad attitude that all tradition is holy. Unfortunately many outsiders (from the culture) have been trapped by these beliefs as well, without understanding the cause. But that is a civil and natural behahaviour.

There is no such thing as tradition without innovation i.e. change. However, one very important factor needs to be kept in mind. There are reasons why good teachers (who just do not blindly follow tradition) insist on proper techniques (holding, striking, fingering, etc). They become a critical factor if you eventually plan to become a master (or closer to one) on the instrument. Many wrong techniques/holding positions etc. may seem to be fine when playing slow or only certain types of exercises/melodies. However, speed up or advance in technique, and these will hinder you terribly in one's growth.

Foundations are critical. But there is an interesting side-line to this. As you know, Nikhil Bannerjee used a small second bridge on the jawari strings at the top. It supposedly gives a better timbre/sustain in open mode. This broke away from tradition. Just last week, I was querying Indrajit Bannerjee (with whom Lars, Russ, and I learn from) as to whether there was a benefit to this. He indicated that he had tried both and during meed/meend (pulling), a different technique (slightly) has to be adopted to play the correct pitch on the duo-bridged instrument. It is not that the innovation is better of worse in this case. Just that innovation in one area..may need to be complemented by other changes.

In my opinion the sitar has a long way to grow in the manufacturing - and possibly even design. This could impact playing techniques considerably.

So the reasonable approach seems to be to stick to the mizrab advice given by Stephen - like you were planning to do, But don't give up on your rebellious/innovative side. See if there are better ways....not just now..but later in the journey - as you discover the reasons.

Another possible tip that may help. I do not know whether you saw the photos from Dr. Slawek's performance. But in one, you will notice that he put Henna around joints. People claim that Henna toughens the skin. It has not worked for me..but I have not explored that advice a great deal yet.

All the best.

Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 11:14 a.m.


Amitava,

Thanks for the advice. By the way, I'm from Fort Worth, Texas, which is also posted in my profile. There's a pretty large South Asian community in the area, and we even have a fulltime South-Asian oriented radio station (though they don't play much ICM.) We also have a classical music appreciation association. So there are resources. I just haven't hooked up with any yet, and until I finish this going in and out of the hospital I've been doing, I don't want to make any committments yet; I'm content with just going through scales for now.

If you do know any instructors in the area, let me know. Lars mentioned that there is one here, as well as someone doing crash-courses in College Station, just a few hours away from here.

I'm real impressed with what I've learned so far on this forum. You guys are great (I say guys not meaning just the men, but women also. I was in the Army ten years, and picked up that habit there.)


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Danimal
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 12:15 p.m.


Wouldn't youknow it.....I lived in Dallas for 8 years and just recently moved to Miami! Should've checked out this board earlier......
Amitava
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 12:33 p.m.


Thanks for the tip on profiles...Now I realize what that darn icon is for...

Ok...some simple resources...I maintain a listing of classical events in TX. So, to keep in touch with concerts...visit http://www.icmca.org/calendar.html. The main North ICM in Dallas is ICMC DFW at http://www.icmcdfw.org/.

In Dallas there is sitar instruction available. The primary teacher is more influenced by the Imdadkhani style. Contact the phone numbers in the ICMC page and they should be able to help.

Indrajit is in College Station, TX for the summer (until August I think), but will be out off/on for concerts. He is currently in Carrib - then Nashville, scheduled to be back in two weeks or so. Don't know his schedule after that. I recommend taking a pilgrimage to Aggieland.

A

Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 12:57 p.m.


Amitava, you beat me to it. Ha.
What's that icon you're talking about? There's still parts of this board I don't know about.

Indrajit says he will be here to mid-September. I'm planning on making the trip out to Aggieland for lessons some time after Labor Day when the heat lessens a bit and my work schedule allows. I have classes to teach myself.

Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 12:49 p.m.


Billy;
Bought my very first sitar, a no name, in Ft. Worth at a Pier 1 store, way back in summer 1970. Still have it. In those days, that store looked out on a vacant lot. If you go downtown, check that old place out now! Just a bit more crowded.

Amitava runs a good website with lots of local info. There are actually a number of teachers within a couple of hours of you.
Check out http://www.icmca.org/calendar.html

Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 01:43 p.m.



Russ (Jul 08, 2003 12:57 p.m.):
What's that icon you're talking about? There's still parts of this board I don't know about. .


Russ, if there's a little head profile icon underneith the person's name to the left of their posted message, clicking it will take you to their "profile", where they might post stuff like where they're located.

If you want to create or add to your profile, click "profile" on the menu at the top.

I run, or have run, many different forums over the years. Though I've never used the particular software this forum uses, there are a lot of similarities with other forum software. So its not to hard to pick up after a while. I do admit I don't know all the ins and outs about this software yet, but I'll help when I can.


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 02:10 p.m.



Russ (Jul 08, 2003 12:49 p.m.):
Billy;
Bought my very first sitar, a no name, in Ft. Worth at a Pier 1 store, way back in summer 1970.

I know the old location you mention very well. In fact, I know the original Pier One location, just around the corner from the one you're talking about, on University Drive, in what used to be a Radio Shack/American Handicrafts/Bowling Alley and now houses "Ol' South Pancake House". The first regular "flea market" in Fort Worth was run there, and as a kid I used to sell stuff. Later, I found that you could dig around in the dumpster behind Pier One and find all kinds of cools seconds that they would just throw away; I would fix up the stuff and sell it at the next flea market!!!! Pretty resourceful for an 11 year old. In fact, one of the tv stations even did a news story about me once.

In 1970 I was still in High School. We used to go to Pier One to get all of our "hippie" regalia. It was one of the best places in the city for that stuff. Since it was right on the edge of Trinity Park, the primary hangout in the city, they got a lot of business from a lot of the freaks.

I do remember them having sitars occasionally; in fact, that might have been the first place I ever saw a sitar close up.

These days, they are over commercialized, just a home decor store. How things have changed.

I've been to both the Austin and DFW ICM sites, though its been a while. Guess I should check them out again.


Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 02:31 p.m.


Ha ha, its amazing who you can meet on these forums. I was a senior in high school myself in 1970. Not quite a hippie yet, that came a couple of years later. That old store was the first place I ever saw a sitar before as well. Ended up buying the thing for $100. Yeah, Pier 1 only sells junk now.
Hey, there is pretty much of a "cresent" extending from Dallas down through Houston and San Antonio where large Indian cultures exist. You're actually in a good area for this. Shouldn't have much problem in finding a teacher I wouldn't think.
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 02:52 p.m.


Were you in High School in Fort Worth? I went to Paschal, class of '71.
Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Russ
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 08, 2003 04:15 p.m.


Nope. My first two years of high school were in Pusan, S. Korea. Final two were Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga. Since you're ex-army, that's just two miles down the road from Ft. Stewart. Also class of '71. That was their 100th and final commencement too. I know the Dallas/Ft.Worth area because I have family that live in Arlington, Plano, Waxahatchie, and surrounding areas. Spent a fair amount of time there over the years.
kedar
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 09, 2003 03:38 p.m.


yes...wearing the mizrab does hurt for a while
espically if u ahve sweaty fingers it will take u longer to toufghen the finger...
i have been playing sitar for quite some time now
but u know ....as funnie it may seem.....
there is a great deal of satisfaction hidden in that pain too....
and actually dont wear it with the plastic cover it wount grip ur finger properly...(dont let the mizrab turn )
make sure that u have the mzrab at the right place of ur finger .......
and yes...thicker mizrabs are recommended ....
best of luck!!!
kedar
india(pune)
Dan
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 19, 2003 03:09 a.m.


Hi Billy & sitar friends,

I second Stephen's suggestion to custom bend your mizrab. I too did adjust mine according to the roundness of my index bones. I've used however a "wire bender" pliers which doesn't leave any mark. After over 15 years, I still use the same mizrab and the same pliers to re-adjust as my body changes.

According to me, a mizrab should give only a little pressure but EQUALLY everywhere it touches. When properly adjusted, it stays in place without pain and needs very little calluses.

Dan
Billy
Re:Mizrab Ouch! Jul 19, 2003 11:19 p.m.


Yes, rebending the mizrab to hopefully fit my finger was the first thing I tried, with little success. It wasn't until Lars fixed me up with mizrab that more correctly fit my finger that I started getting some relief. And wearing the pick off and on throughout the day has resulted in me starting to get callused there, so I figure I'm pass the hard part.
Namaste',
Billy Enigmar Godfrey
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