INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Grading Decorations

 

Author Message
Rob
Grading Decorations Sep 15, 2003 03:14 p.m.


What is the criteria for determing the level of Decoration on a Sitar? I see pictures that say "Half Decoration" or "Full"; it looks like there is more inlay work and engraving to me.
Does an instrument that has Full Decoration necessarily have better quality woods and voice?
Thanks!
Russ
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 15, 2003 05:32 p.m.


In my opinion, there is no correlation between decorations and wood quality/voice. I have heard very good sounding sitars with little decoration. Many Hiren Roys are that way. And there are lots of sitars with full decorations that don't sound good at all. I grade by sound and playability,not looks.
K.K.
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 15, 2003 06:07 p.m.


Ditto
pb
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 15, 2003 07:35 p.m.


What if you are faced with two sweet sounding sitars, one highly decorated and the other less so? All things being equal, why not go for the fancy one? Of course if you are looking for a VK style this is not an issue.

I'm not sure the amount of decor changes the price much anyway; shipping etc are the killers. When I bought mine, it was $50 more for the fanciest one. Both were good (midrange) but for $50 why not?

Pb

K.K.
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 15, 2003 10:01 p.m.



pb (Sep 15, 2003 07:35 p.m.):
What if you are faced with two sweet sounding sitars, one highly decorated and the other less so? All things being equal, why not go for the fancy one?

Pb


Hey Pb: All things being equal, If you can afford it, why not go with the highly decorated one? To me it's just a celebration of beauty. Just my opinion.

AJ
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 16, 2003 02:19 p.m.


Ah, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.........or is that ear?!??

AJ

Tom
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 16, 2003 03:08 p.m.


Half decoration usually means decoration on the toomba halfway down. Mainly around where the neck is attached to the toomba.

Full decoration means the decoration goes further down the toomba ie more than 50%. Sometime it also includes decoration on the second toomba and deeper decoration on the tabli.


Rob (Sep 15, 2003 03:14 p.m.):
What is the criteria for determing the level of Decoration on a Sitar? I see pictures that say "Half Decoration" or "Full"; it looks like there is more inlay work and engraving to me.
Does an instrument that has Full Decoration necessarily have better quality woods and voice?
Thanks!
Estiven
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 16, 2003 03:50 p.m.


This all seems very true,
I was lucky enough to buy a sitar off of ebay (when I was young and naive to think that ebay sitars are usually good quality), my teacher tells me that I was very fortunate to find such a good sounding instrument for such a low price. I gambled, and won! So I guess you never know unless you can test them out before buying.
Russ
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 16, 2003 07:06 p.m.


Agreed with you Estivan. Always try before buying if possible, I say.
Full decoration also includes inlay on the kunti, and the celluloid continues to the top of the sitar as a cap, instead of bare wood. Sure, if the price difference is not that much and the sound is also good, I would go for the full decoration too. I have one like that. As you know, a lot of the fascination of sitar is in the "looks" as well.
Beenkarji
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 16, 2003 09:16 p.m.


I think decoration makes a huge impact on sound, but not a quality. Take for instance a Mundo sitar verses the style that Raviji plays. You will notice the Mundo is going to have a lot more projection and a brighter tone because the table is not covered in decorations that affect its resonance. Hence the style Raviji has would have more inlay, this just kind of mutes its projection to a certain extent. I am starting to think the flashy sitars we see out there, are just that...just flashy sitars. I have played so many now, and the ones with the simplest or least amount of decoration had the best overall tone, and response. But if the floral or grape carving on the tabli is done very fine and a little bit thinner carved, it actually doesn't inhibit the sound to much.... Just a random observation, that I am starting to think is true. But you have to admit they look so pretty with there ornate carving and intricate inlay, but I am starting to veer in to the darkside, that is darker finish, and simpler decoration...hehe
Beenkar Ted Ceplina
Jan
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 17, 2003 03:54 a.m.


All? that was a strange signature, we cant agree...

Jans

Jan
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 17, 2003 03:51 a.m.


I wanted to comment this some days ago...
The future is bright in the darkside, it is a matter of taste i guess but still... I would much rather have the Sitarmaker to put more effort in making the instrument as good as possible and not wast time on decoration. Finetune the instrument, go into perfection. From plane to full decor is a nice lump of cash. The decoration does not benefit in any other way than cosmetics (im sure we could need some on a bad day). Still, some people hear with their eyes and we need to respect that : ) Like me that is, thats why im going for what i think is the best looking sitar ; )
All
K.K.
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 17, 2003 02:37 p.m.



Beenkarji (Sep 16, 2003 09:16 p.m.):
I think decoration makes a huge impact on sound...But if the floral or grape carving on the tabli is done very fine and a little bit thinner carved, it actually doesn't inhibit the sound to much...

Beenkarji brings up some interesting points BUT, I think it's all just speculation based on coincidences. You can't really make these kinds of statements without making a scientific observation. For instance, if you could record the same sitar, with and without the decorations, and then compare the recordings, this would be a somewhat valid observation.

So...I've decided to take my belt sander and sand off the decorative carvings on my teak Mangla's tabli and tumba.
I'll post MP3 files of the before and after recordings when I'm finished.

Wish me luck,
K.K.

Russ
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 17, 2003 02:46 p.m.


Ohhhhhh Nooooooooooooooooooo! I can't watch!
Beenkarji
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 17, 2003 10:16 p.m.


I am so proud of you K.K., what a great idea, seriously. You may be very satisfied with the results, after all it can't hurt. If you need finishing suggests let me know, and I can send you a list of exactly what you need. It is really easy to finish the tabli, if you took painting and can mix colors, than you should have no problem refinishing it.
Make sure after you sand it, the you clean the pores of the wood really good with denatured alchohol, it tend to help a bit. You may end up with one very, very nice sitar, and I wish you the best of luck.
Beenkar Ted Ceplina
Amitava
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 18, 2003 10:52 a.m.


Difficult to say whether Ted's point holds up scientifically. It is true that the tabli thickness contributes a great deal (one of the major factors) to the tone. In fact, it is one of the few things that is actually fine tuned by the maker after the body shop provides 'him' with the instrument. I am told that the tabli thickness/wood quality/shape and jawari contribute the most to the instrument sound.

Does the decoration thickness/position affect the sound? Well one would think if the tabli thickness has an impact, decorations could potentially be a factor. However, us Indian scients have yet to perform some detailed scientific research I feel.

As for tonal quality "best" "worst"...I am not sure. I think that the instruments of most professionals sound great in their own way. Their style complements the tone/sustain. Ask some to trade instruments... even just for a performance...

A

Amitava
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 18, 2003 10:57 a.m.


I have been a proponent that makers need to focus more on the instrument quality than decorations...but they do not carve any of it...and it is very cheap.

Personally I do not mind having the same instrument looking simple, vs having 5 colored penwork and intricate carving. My focus is on the dandi when playing...and the soulful souns coming from the instrument. In fact it is a pleasure to play in the dark or with eyes closed whenever i can.

A

Russ
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 18, 2003 12:36 p.m.


Right! I play by candle light. A very romantic and serene feel doing it that way.
I hardly ever play in the daytime, as I'm usually away at work anyhow.

Seems to me that the sound effect that carvings on the tabli would have is very minimal. That extra wood is quite thin, and only occupies a small space percentage on the main sound board. I guess if it were thick and more extensive across the face, it would make a difference. But there are ways to modify the tabli to offset that effect, such as drillling the two holes through the birds. That does work, and the effect can be heard. Personally, I would not mess with those carvings. Unless you know how to refinish the wood as per the original, you can really mess up a good sitar! Lots of luck, KK. Hope it works!

Jeff
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 18, 2003 02:22 p.m.


KK!!!!!!.
Are you NUTS or CRAZY??.
You gotta be joking about destroying your MPS right? If you are insane give the MPS to me! Either way, you wont have it anymore, destroyed or given away.
Naaaaa! your joking! ,,,,,,,,,,


I truely hope!


Jeffrey R King
Jan
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 18, 2003 06:05 p.m.


RUSS: But there are ways to modify the tabli to offset that effect, such as drillling the two holes through the birds.


I told you about my Italian sitar teacing friend a while back yes? In short, he modefied a sitar. Sanded down the tabli, and man was that tabli thickat some points he took away allmost a quarter of an inch. He took out the birds and made bird shaped holes, and he made a nother hole in the middle.
The difference was major, in volume and tone.

It was not an expensive sitar, but it was and still is a over the avarage student sitar. ( as i told you before, when the winter sets in im gonna refurbish my noname sitar in a major way : )

Hey KK if you are joking then have a laugh on me, if not then good luck, and remember to do snapshots of every little detail on the way...

Jan

Russ
Re:Grading Decorations Sep 18, 2003 06:21 p.m.


Jan, no it wasn't me.
But I tell you, I have a no-name generic tun sitar over 33 years old. Same sitar I grew and attached a natural big gourd to a few years ago. Cost me $100 in 1970. It has no birds or carvings. Extremely plain. I sanded down the tabli on it back in 1994, sanded off quite a bit and made it quite smooth and shiny. Then I used a standard redwood wood stain on it, then put on three coats of water-based transparent high-gloss sealer. Came out nice, but there are no holes whatsoever in the tabli. And it sounds quite nice now. But I would not even think of doing that to a nicely decorated sitar like a MPS or similar!
Neal
Re:Grading Decorations Dec 14, 2003 06:18 p.m.


What sitar(s) do you play Amitava?

PS Without being disrespectful. Is Amitava a male or female name?


I have been a proponent that makers need to focus more on the instrument quality than decorations...but they do not carve any of it...and it is very cheap.

Personally I do not mind having the same instrument looking simple, vs having 5 colored penwork and intricate carving. My focus is on the dandi when playing...and the soulful souns coming from the instrument. In fact it is a pleasure to play in the dark or with eyes closed whenever i can.

A[/quote]

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