INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Does size matter?


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Does size matter? Jul 16, 2003 01:55 p.m.

Im 193cm tall, or i was before i got this workload on my shoulders. My sitar is average size i would say. some people claims it to be a little small. Perhaps it is, but i still love to play (with) it. Still i have been thinking that if it was somewhat bigger i would not complain about it.

Sometimes i think i could benefit of a little wider tabli, making my right hand placement higher and giving me more space to move my hand, making those blistering fast runs (..ehmm) down the neck a little less akward...

Perhaps a small Surbahar sized sitar would do the trick?


Re:Does size matter? Jul 16, 2003 02:44 p.m.

We would complain less if it were a little bigger. We're talking about sitars, right? Just checking........

Damn, got to dig out my unit conversion charts....let's see, you're 6'3". That's tall. I'm just a little less than you at 6'1". Most people agree that a tabli of at least 14" (35 cm) diameter is about right for someone my height. For someone even taller such as yourself, perhaps 36 cm would be better. But there is a second variable to keep in mind, has more to do with comfort than speed. If your torso and arms are long, then definitely the wider tabli would be more comfortable. But if your torso/arms are "average" and the length is mainly in your legs, then the smaller tabli might be better.

I have played both a small and large sitar, and I find that I just hold them differently. I played the small one in about the same position as a sarode, and was able to play it much faster. The big sitar however was held at the standard 45 degrees, resting on my left instep. I couldn't play it as fast, but the larger gourd made it sound better. So, I suggest you try both if possible, and decide which you like best.

Re:Does size matter? Jul 16, 2003 04:13 p.m.


Im not looking for a new instrument now, im happy with the one i have. But i just realised that i really dont know anything about the size of the sitar. And it came to me as i wrot about the RR travel sitar. If different traditions/players use different sizes. It here is something like a "standard" size. If it matters, and you know. There are not that many people here to nerd around delicate matters like this with, so thats why im so glad that i found you guys : )

And really, im not blistering fast. but then again i dont need to be. You know the story about the rabbit and the turtle : )

How do you calculate the correct tablisize, whats the


Re:Does size matter? Jul 16, 2003 06:35 p.m.

I have learned a good bit on this forum as well. Its one of the reasons why I come here.

I have heard that speed comes with the many thousands of hours of practice put into it. But I think you would also have to have speed as your goal. Generally, I play at a slow to medium tempo, with a fast but short jhalla to wrap it up.

I don't know if there is a formula or not. What I gave you is partly based on experience, partly based on what I have read, and that is ergonomics, a science of fitting the man with the proper machine (or instrument in this case). Its not always an exact science! There is a certain amount of personal preference in there too.

Sitars are traditionally made in 3 sizes, small, medium and large. The size is the tabli width. Small is usually 8-10.5 inch diagonal diameter, medium is 11-13.5, and large 14 and above. Some makers like Rikhi Ram also offer custom sizes for small children or very large people.

Re:Does size matter? Jul 16, 2003 07:00 p.m.


Hopefully Stephen will pick up on this discussion, as he's a bigger guy and plays a Surbahar. If not, you might want to contact him.

Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Re:Does size matter? Jul 16, 2003 09:09 p.m.

I feel stupid, whats a RR travel Sitar?
Re:Does size matter? Jul 17, 2003 02:56 a.m.

I feel stupid to, my spelling is awfull...

A Rikhi Ram Trawel Sitar is a smaal sized Sitar with a full scalelength neck. The tuningpegs are mechanical maiking the top quite small. The tumba is really small and is made out of wood. All together its a quite small Sitar that is more conninient to handle if you are on the road.

I dont have one and im not going to get one...


Re:Does size matter? Jul 17, 2003 11:55 a.m.

Thank you, I'd like to have one, but I must
work extra days for my new toys, I promised my wife If I bought any new toys, I'd work extra days for them.......Peace
Re:Does size matter? Jul 17, 2003 12:57 p.m.

Jan, you english is likely to be a lot better than our norwegian. So, don't sweat it! BTW, there is a spell checker utility on this forum anyone can use. But it would probably freak out with all the abreviations we all use!

I've heard about the RR travel sitar, but it sounds like a toy or "gizmo" to me. So, don't believe I would have one either.

Re:Does size matter? Jul 17, 2003 03:20 p.m.

i got the little thing demonstrated in Delhi. It sounds a lot bigger than it looks, and it looks kind of cool i must say. Specially i like the machine heads. Kinda like the carbon fiber sitars at Green Onion ( sitar/fresh features/gro_instr_indian_features.htm) loong link but cool : )

this is a project i would not mind to put my pennys into...

I love the traditional workmanship and wood and pumpkins, but innovation is innovation. They buildt a plastic car in Norway in 1956. The total production was 5 cars ( I guess the world was not ready for it : ( . I dont know about carbon fiber sitars, but if it sounds great, is accurate to tune and you can sit on it during your lunch break, then it must be a good thing.


Re:Does size matter? Jul 17, 2003 04:36 p.m.

Just took a quick look at Rikhi Ram's site. They don't have a picture of the little travel sitar so I can't comment, but check out some of their "innovation" instruments, especially the veenas. That's some wild looking instruments!
Re:Does size matter? Jul 21, 2003 11:30 a.m.

The tabli on my surbahar is 18 inches across. It is very comfortable for me to hold and position my hand for focus on the MA string. And with the larger toomba, the sound is very large, much more volume than a sitar. I'm sure everyone has a "perfect fit" sitar size, just as they would have a well fitting suit. For me, bigger is better.
Re:Does size matter? Jul 21, 2003 12:35 p.m.

Billy (Jul 16, 2003 07:00 p.m.):

Hopefully Stephen will pick up on this discussion, as he's a bigger guy and plays a Surbahar. If not, you might want to contact him.

i reallly dont think size matter much if ur willing to put some extraw pratice in........
yes the standard size sitar...well it might be very difficult to play fast on it opnly if u ahev not praticed the sapattaans.(eg...lower pitch pa to the upper ma)
everday even if u could play it for 20 minutes u will find a great deal of comfort in playing fast.....
one very imp thing is what i ahve seen many people tend to stick the indexfinger and the middle finger together while playing ......
thats avery bad habit and it hampers ur speed a gr8 deal....
so if u strenthen the index finger by(eg..playing the gamaks and meeds with only the index finger) it helps u build the power and then u can easily get rid f the habit of putting the fingers he index finger takes allthe pressure.....
but reallly the sapattaans is like the mother of all excersies.......
before u star playing the sitar....just play the ckakari excersises for 10 minutes at high will reallly imrove the overall spped as the loosens the right hand ....(warm up)
take care
Re:Does size matter? Jul 21, 2003 01:16 p.m.

if u ahev not praticed the sapattaans.(eg...lower pitch pa to the upper ma)
before u star playing the sitar....just play the ckakari excersises for 10 minutes at high will reallly imrove the overall spped as the loosens the right hand ....(warm up)


thank you!

Im lucky my fingers are strong and i dont really need the support of a second finger doing my meends. My sitar is not the softest i have felt, but still im able to go 8-9 tones on a meend. depending on where i am on the neck...


Re:Does size matter? Jul 21, 2003 07:32 p.m.

Jan, you've probably noted there are at least two schools regarding the finger playing technique. My first finger tends to get used a great deal more than the second(and has deeper grooves). That's just because of how I was taught. Another popular style uses the fingers almost 50-50, and grooves/callouses are equal. That's probably what you use. Also, I use two fingers when doing a meends, whether I need to nor not. Once again, how I was taught.
Re:Does size matter? Jul 22, 2003 01:49 a.m.


My friend and teacher (living in Italy) told me to use the firstfinger the most. and i do. Sometimes it feels more convinient to use the second finger and then i do. But in general there is allways contact between the firstfinger and the string beeing played, allso if im using the secondfinger to play the string.

Meends are pulled off in the same manner, depending on what and where its a combination of the two. But the first finger rearly loose the string. Thats how its working for me : )

But i see i forgot to write some in the original post.

Kedar! you were talking about the chikari exersises. what are those? I guess its a set of chikari strokes played is a way that makes sence, like 3 strokes chikari 1 stroke on first string and then repeat. And different other combinations. Anyone got a nice and easy way to describe it?

And another thing, is it possible to send files in this forum?
int that i have the need now, but if someone would like to send a mp3 file or a picture describing something it would be nice to be able to... i guess.


Re:Does size matter? Jul 22, 2003 01:58 p.m.

Only files I've ever seen were just links to other sites, and sometimes links to PDF files. I think you can do more, but I don't know how.

Best way to do chikari exercises is to use it in scales. Using > as a chikari stroke, slow tempo, and standard major scale:
sa, >
re, >
ga, > and so forth all the way to the top note and all the way to the lowest note.
sa, >,>
re, >, > as a 3 stroke pattern same as above.
sa, >, >, > and so forth as a 4 stroke pattern, all the way thru the 4 octaves

Now, reverse it as
>,>,> high sa
>,>,> high ni and so forth coming down.
Then same thing as three stroke pattern, two stroke pattern, finally ending in >, sa.

To make it more difficult, try this in another scale other than bilaval (major). Also after a few times through the exercises, try speeding up a little bit. You will notice that after about one week, you can play this as a fast chikari exercise (palta)!

Re:Does size matter? Jul 22, 2003 09:11 p.m.

Thanks Russ!

Im doing something similary but not in such a strict system : I I need to focus at this a little more.


Chicari exercises Jul 23, 2003 02:24 p.m.

Here�s my favorite ascending/descending chicari exercise. It utilizes triple, double and single chicari strokes and, as a bonus, is quite musical.

(Play in 4/4 time)



Re:Does size matter? Jul 24, 2003 06:01 p.m.

Two patterns I'm praticing a lot

S >> S >> S > 2x
R >> R >> R> 2x etc


S >> S >> S >> S >> S > S >
R >> R >> R>> R >> R > R >

This afternoon my teacher made played a "simple"
S >>> S >>> S >>> S >>>
to learn to make my righthand relax: she note that the majority of her students are relaxed in the right hand. Pay attention to realxation and strechting when hitting the chikaris.....



Re:Does size matter? Jul 24, 2003 06:23 p.m.

OOPS made a mistake: My teacher noted a lot of her students are NOT relaxed in the righthand!



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