INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: sitar learning


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sitar learning Dec 22, 2001 02:33 p.m.

hi people
can some one help with sitar videos ?
i cant find it in my country and i cant pay these prices that thay have on the net , i just want to see how profationals plays
i dont know how to move my fingers from note to note
maiby some one know if i can find video clip or somthing like that on the net?
thanks alot people
Re:sitar learning Dec 23, 2001 09:53 p.m.

Hi Sun,
Those videos are the only instruction ones available at the moment. I agree the prices are high. Don't know of anything that's on the internet. My suggestion would be to get a couple of good books and then get copies of videos like "Concert for Bangladesh" where you can see Ravi Shankar playing up close and at least get a little idea of what he's doing. Also Ravi's movie called "Raga" has clips of him and his students playing. Maybe you could rent those at your local video store?? I don't think the sitar teaching videos are worth the money......
As far as where to put your fingers, place them directly behind (not on) the fret. Always keep your first/forefinger on the string. You mainly just use that finger and use your third finger when you reach the highest note in whatever progression, etc. that you're playing. For example from Sa to high Sa you would go up the frets with first finger only and when coming to high Sa then use your third finger. Then when going back down to low Sa use first finger. There are a few variations on this and some even use the fourth finger on occasion. If you want recommendations on a book or two and the best/cheapest place to get them, I can post that for you. Which country do you live in??
Re:sitar learning Dec 23, 2001 11:44 p.m.

Hey Sun and Lars;
Those videos are pricy for what they are, but I do occasionally see someone unloading Ashwin Batish's Intro to Sitar on Ebay, and they typically ask about half what you would pay new, something around $20 to $25.Ashwin's very first intro video might be good for a complete beginner.
Sun, do you play guitar at all? If so, you know to place the finger just behind the fret, not on it. Also, on a guitar, you bend the note by pushing toward your body. On sitar, you pull it away from your body. I play sitar by using both the first and second finger to ascend the fret board, and first finger to descend. That's probably not the best way to do it, but works for me. In general, second finger to go the "right" and first finger to go to the "left". I never use the third finger, but I understand some players do. Lars mention of the movie "Raga" by Ravi Shankar does show good closeups of both him and his students playing. Easier to watch the students as Ravi is fast, so hard to watch closely!
Lars, got the teak Mangla and have some comments, and some questions too. But all my emails to you come back with a failure notice. Maybe you have an account with yahoo or other third party? Anyhow, let me know.
Re:sitar learning Dec 23, 2001 11:57 p.m.

Hey is working fine!!!
if that won't work then will. Maybe you have my setting wrong in your address book but I've been getting emails from everyone else. How's the Mangla??
I've seen a lot of exercises in THE BOOK where Bandyomanana uses first and third fingers to ascend. Is it easier?? I find it difficult to get any speed just using the first but easy to descend with the first.....what are your thoughts on that?
Re:sitar learning Dec 24, 2001 01:55 p.m.

As you know, no two gharanas agree on fingering technique, so I say use what works best for you! For speed, I simply go up the scale with my second finger and back down using the first. That way it stays simple and you don't have to think about it. Of course, you have to learn the technique of quickly alternating first and second fingers, to include the meends, krintans, etc. and all that is just hours (or is that years?) of practice. Can't get away from that part I'm afraid! A good set of callouses helps too.
Re:sitar learning Dec 24, 2001 02:58 p.m.

dear russ and lars
thank you for your replays
i looked for video every where and i bought two books of ravi shankar in india [ varanci] but here i cant find anything
i live in israel and sitar is just becomming fastionable so i cant find stuff
i do play guitar and my problem is that even when ravi say in the books how to play i dont know if i do it right because i cant see how it realy should be and sound
when i want to play raga i dont know how they jump from one note to another and do all the pull up of the strings
where can i find aswhin batish video in 20$
this price looks ok
thanks again
Re:sitar learning Dec 25, 2001 01:41 p.m.

Hi Sun,
You can watch the auctions at for Batish videos. Another thing is you can buy them at retail price and watch them, then sell them on Ebay as well (did I say that?).
One book you may enjoy is call "Sitar and its Technique" by S. Bandyopadhyaya. The best price I've found is 29- Euro available at
The mans name is Jens and he's very nice.
You can get some other books on sitar and Raga at for fairly reasonalbe prices directly from India.
Since you already play guitar you should have no trouble learning sitar but just have LOTS of patience!!
Also, do try to get a copy of the movie "RAGA" by Ravi Shankar. It costs about $20 US and you can get it from, etc....or for $17. I think it only comes in VHS format so I don't know if you have that in Israel......
Re:sitar learning Dec 25, 2001 03:56 p.m.

hi lars
thanks for the information
i dont know if you know it but we have everything in israel realy
israel is develop country and very modern
so it wont be diffecult to me with vhs cassete [ i have dvd also ]
israel its not desert with camels even that we are in the middle east
its like usa [ but alot smaller ]
i will try to get the raga video
thank you friend
Re:sitar learning Dec 25, 2001 06:35 p.m.

What?? You don't all dress like Bedouin and ride camels?? Hee hee, my comments about VHS were because I did'nt know if you used the PAL format like Europe does. Good luck and look forward to more of your posts Sun
Re:sitar learning Jan 01, 2002 03:30 a.m.

Sun, Lars, Russ
Hi to everyone and happy new year.
I was interested in the conversation about 1st vs 2nd finger to ascend. Before my lessons with a teacher started (I've only had one!) I was using 1st finger only except at the top note of an ascent when I used 2nd finger prior to going back to 1st for the descent. This seemed to me to be what Clem Alford was saying in the early edition of his book that I was using.
When I had my lesson, the teacher first asked me to play something. When he watched me doing this, a look of bemusement crossed his face and he stopped me to ask what on earth I was doing! He teaches 2nd finger ascent and 1st descent as Russ describes.
I discovered he follows the Vilayat Khan gharana. This fingering technique was fine for me to relearn. However, just in passing, I had a much bigger concern about another change he's requiring. He wants to re-string my Ravi-strung Mangla to Vilayat Khan tuning. Now, I'm not arrogant, I hope, and I know that I know nothing about sitar. But, unfortunately, I don't like Vilayat Khan's playing style nearly as much as Ravi, Nikhil B or others (Debu Chaudhuri even). But teachers aren't two a penny, even in London, so do I stick with learning a style that isn't my favourite or wait for another teacher? Maybe I can come to love this style as I learn...
Best wishes to everyone.
Re:sitar learning Jan 01, 2002 02:50 p.m.

Happy New Year Jerry,
Well, I did'nt know the Vilayat Khan group played that way do they ascend ONLY with the third finger or 2nd-3rd successively during the ascent??
If you're teacher is a good player and you can learn from him then I would recommend doing it his way with the tuning, etc. I'm not much of a Vilayat Khan fan either but he is a very good player when it comes to technique.
Or you can join some of the rest of us and stumble through by yourself which I think CAN be successful depending on effort
Re:sitar learning Jan 02, 2002 07:04 p.m.

Hey Sun!!
There's a Sitar Tutor video on ebay with a starting bid of $10. Thought I'd let you know (assuming you read this...) Here's the link:
Re:sitar learning Jan 02, 2002 07:47 p.m.

Lars, How long does Ravi play on The Concert for Baangladesh? I have been looking for video of sitar. Are there good close-up of fingering, boles etc. I saw it on for $20 but thought I'd ask first.
Ravi and Anoushka were on late night with Conan O'Brien a few weeks ago but I could not record it. It was though..."SHIMMERING"
Re:sitar learning Jan 02, 2002 08:15 p.m.

I would GUESS he plays for about 1/2 hour, part of it was edited out. The first number is a Dhun and really nice. Sorry I missed Ravi and Anoushka on the TV. Saw him in Oct. in concert though and it was wonderful...he's still "got it".......
Re:sitar learning Jan 02, 2002 08:19 p.m.

Oooops, forgot....yes, there are closeups of fingering but good luck trying to see the bols, he's pretty fast. I would recommend getting it though, also the movie "Raga" is good too by Ravi.....
Re:sitar learning Jan 03, 2002 11:26 a.m.

Neal- I saw Concert for Bangla Desh a few years ago on VH1 TV. Very dissappointed that the Ravi session was quite short, and the camera didn't seem to know where to point! So, thumbs down on using that for points.
Jerry- Like I mentioned before, no two gharas agree on playing technique, so use what works for you. I have the Clem book too, but I don't use his technique. What he describes is what his gharana uses. Realize your teacher is your teacher, not your guru. Taking a guru means you must abandon all other techniques in favor of his. A teacher should be able to teach you different styles and you decide. But for basic instruction, go with what your teacher uses for now even if you're not too big on it (I'm not a Vilayat fan either). But one day, you can choose your own style and maybe even take a guru.
Re:sitar learning Jan 03, 2002 05:27 p.m.

Just saw today that Ashwin Batish's Intro to Sitar part 1 is still being offered on Ebay for $10. This is perhaps the best offer and price you are going to find, and it does show beginning finger techniques. So,I recommend you place a bid very soon as it may not last long!
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