INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: alternative sitar tuning


Author Message
alternative sitar tuning Mar 12, 2002 02:42 p.m.

I'm new to sitar- trying to use it to accompany other acoustic musicians who don;t always play in key of C or C#- anybody found strings that can take tuningup and or down a whole step without breaking or just flopping around? Anybody have any general advice re. changing keys without having to change strings? any help would be appreciated....
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 12, 2002 03:20 p.m.

Sitars can be tuned to a tonic anywhere between a B to a D natural. I wouldn't go below the B (too much flopping) or above a D (extremely hard to play plus breaking strings). The other folks may have to transpose to where you're at if necessary.
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 12, 2002 05:01 p.m.

HI, i am playing in this concert which is a mixutre of indian, african and carribean msic all mixed in with a brass band, and one of the pieces that we are doing is in the key of G#. but this is totally impossible for me to tune to, so i have to tune to C#, and use my PA as SA, my DHA as RE, NI as RE etc. this means i cannot use my chikari, and make sure that i only strike the string that i am fretting otherwise i will be out of key! by the way, have any u fellow sitarists eva had to retune in the interval of a conert? do u get aftaid of strings breaking@ concerts?
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 12, 2002 07:05 p.m.

Hey.......also tuning too high would too much stress on the neck.......maybe could get up to E with thinner strings but I wouldn't take the chance.

Hiten: having your sitar in C# might work for your key of G# even with the chikaris, may produce a unique sound being a fourth above G#.......give it a try, also you could string your 6 & 7 th strings with the heavier gauge wire like the 5th string and then they could all be tuned to G#??

Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 13, 2002 12:44 a.m.

This is a question which always bothered me too. Thanks for posting it Nick.
I'm interested in how Indian classical musicians tune their instruments too. We know that Vilyat Khan does his own thing with the removal of a bass string. The booklet notes on the Debu Chaudhuri recording of Desh that I mentioned in another thread says:
'Debu also continues to use a 17-fret sitar, the visible influence of the Jaipur Senias. (Senias?? - Ed). He has altered the Senia tuning of his guru (FCCGGCC) by removing one of the tonic pair, while adding an extra tonic to the chickari (FCGGCCC), and tuning just above C natural.'
Certainly he does get a different chickari sound - softer and more ambient.
Just thought I'd share.
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 13, 2002 08:32 a.m.

There might be a simplers solution. Seeing as how, in the key of G# the third of the tonic is C natural you may be in fairly good shape staying tuned in C natural as you'll then be a third away at all times producing harmony in everything you play. This could be very sweet. You might get with your guitar player and try out some scales inside of chords with him to see how it sounds. I could be wrong about this but it seems plausable in theory.....ken
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 13, 2002 09:09 a.m.

More on harmony,
Hiten, the one chord we have covered, harmony for it being C. the III chord would be C# and a third from that (harmony again) would be G natural. The V chord in G# is D# and a third from that (harmony again) would be A. So I think you might just be able to work it out as your chakari's and tarbs all work with those notes....could be rather cool.....ken
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 13, 2002 10:03 a.m.

Hey Russ,
Yeah, I thought I had the scale right but I rechecked myself and the correct thing would be this: What he needs, really, for most rock progressions is a I, IV, V which in Harmony for G# would be C natural(3rd of G#), F natural(3rd from C#) and G natural (3rd from D#). So no doubt he'll be on the money and could just make a very nicely musical harmony and by using meends be able to fill in anything in between. And, BTW the 7th in G# is G natural again so he's home free on the turnaround. Too cool eh?
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 13, 2002 09:51 a.m.

I think you may have hit spot on it. I didn't think of the harmony thirds idea. That's the same thing as the vadi and samvadi theory in the Indian sangeet (pedagogy). Yes, I believe this tuning could be done with good results!
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 14, 2002 01:44 a.m.

He's going to have to be very aware of the chord progression within the song though. If he hits a natural Re (D) for example while the band is on G# it'll be nasty. I think the harmonic notes for a sitar in C playing in G# would be Sa© kGa(D#) Ma(F) Pa(G) and kNi(A#).
Watch out though, cause it'll feel weird. Your tonic will be the third, your 5th will be the 7th. That 7th(Pa) will have to be carefully used too. It may not be useable if, for example, their G# chord has a major 7th in it or in the melody line over it.
You'll probably need to tune your Pa drone string(s) to kommal Ga as well. If the music has a lot of harmonic movement your drones will clash. If it stays on and aroung G# a lot, they'll sound great.
Keep us posted. Really interesting experiment.
Re:alternative sitar tuning Mar 14, 2002 05:18 p.m.

Hi Jerry, Hiten
Your so right, one little slip on the wrong note and dissonant disaster. However we really don't know what musical style we are in? only know G# right? I assumed the following: Probably popular or rock, maybe country but I doubt that one. So I, IV, V progression pretty reasoanble to assume. Also I figured that the Band's in G# because of the vocals, ya think? I don't know another reason to just arbitrarily use G#, there probably is one. So another simple solution would be to modulate up a half step on the instrumentals thereby playing in the key of A, a third away from the key of C. So there you have a perfect harmony situation... Meanwhile when playing in the key of G# behind the vocals, just lay back a bit and only use the notes C (Sa), F (Ma) and G(Pa). When you're experimenting with your guitar player you'll find which notes fit nicely. Remember nothing complicated or you will definitely hit the wrong notes. The resulting dissonant sound will cut through the tune like a gunshot. Just play around with some of these Ideas Hiten, stay loose and feel your way around. This was a lot of fun (haven't played "find the harmony part" in years) and we'd all really like to know how it goes...just have fun...ken (Russ what do you think? Key of A most notibly used in rock, might make the Sitar a natural lead instrument? Eddie Van Halen, watch out Ha!)
Re:alternative sitar tuning May 31, 2002 11:13 a.m.

Hey guys,
While on this topic of alternate tunings, I thought I'd throw this in. In an effort to play along with my favorite recordings, the Dagarvani style of dhrupad, I had a very difficult time finding a tuning that would agree with the tunings of a rudra vina or surbahar. What I stumbled on was tuning the tar - mandra pancham and the chikari - pancham down to a MA. I would suppose this is similar to a SA/MA tuning on a tanpura as opposed to the SA/PA tuning (I'm still waiting on the boat that carries my new tanpura to arrive). It has the feel of bhairav thaat after repositioning the RE and DHA frets to their komal positions. While not exactly tuned to a G# tonic as with a rudra vina or surbahar, this tuning allows me to follow the note progressions that they use without the drone strings sounding like an Ornette Coleman experiment.
Stephen L. Bradley
[Previous] [Up] [Next]