Hi. Does anyone know or use alternate tunings for sitar? I moved the (g) string in c c (g) c g c f tuning and put it far under the f string and tuned it up to a. So now I get something rather like a dropped d tuning for guitar (but all strings in dropped d tuning dropped down a whole tone). My new tuning is c c c g c f a. I can play guitar chords and play melody on all strings, like in guitar and I'm very happy with this tuning. I recommend it to newbie sitar players who know playing guitar and don't care for playing genuine Indian music, but who try to find their own fusion of styles.
I suppose you could go all the way and tune the sitar to match the intervals of the guitar exactly. I know that there are studio guitarists who tune mandolines and banjos like a guitar so they have less to learn on the new instrument. I toyed with the idea once of having a lute built so it could be tuned exactly like a guitar to make it easier to read basso continuo accompaniment parts on it. However ... Last night a lady on TV talked about rhyme in poetry. I personally have always like rhyme, but I have harbored a suspicion that it imposes a restriction on the poet. (I mean June only rhymes with so many words; take your pick.) But ... she pointed out that if you force yourself to write in rhyme you come face to face with combinations of words that wouldn't have occurred to you otherwise. With new cominations of words come new metaphors, new ideas, new ways of looking at life. Maybe it's similar with musical instruments. If you you tune the sitar like a guitar, you will probably get guitar-like ideas. I've found that playing the sitar I get musical ideas that absolutely never would have occurred to me on the guitar. (Not that they are great ideas, but they are fun for me.) Perhaps you should have two sitars -- one tuned like a guitar for when you are in a guitar/sitar mood and one tuned liek a sitar when you want a different kind of inspiration. Well, in any case, enjoy your music!
Well, it's only repositioning of one string (g, the drone fifth), the rest of the drone strings are in their proper place, so it's still like playing traditional sitar or guitar, or both if you like, really. I've put the drone fifth (which is tuned up to a instead of g) far under and away from the melody string (f), so it doesn't get in the way when bending down the f string. This way the new a string can also be bent up. You are right, one wouldn't get the same kind of inspiration in a radically different tuning, but this tuning does not sound that radically different to me, unless I start playing guitar chords on it:)
If you can get ahold of one of the smaller 3/4 size sitars, this alternate tuning and string substitution works well. Both frets and strings are closer, which makes chording possible. I did that many years ago with a small sitar I've since sold. It was an interesting experiment, but I also had to move the frets more like guitar spacing as well. An alternative to all this is the heck with it, and go get yourself a Bell electric sitar. Digital technology has improved their sound to be much closer to a real sitar.
Yes, I also moved the frets to a chromatic spacing as on guitar. I listened to Danelectro electric sitar samples on the web, but didn't like the sound of it, it's like electric guitar versus acoustic guitar sound. My sitar is full size so it is a bit harder to finger the chords, but my fingers are accustomed to wide fret spacings from also playing bass guitar. A 3/4 size sitar would be much more fun to play I believe.
Jeff, ever heard the Yes CD "90125", came out in late 1983? There's a song on there called "It Can Happen", and it has a sitar chorus throughout it. There has been some argument over it, but most agree it was the Bell electric sitar. The Dan Electro is made by somebody else. That thing has a "tinny" sound to me.
The Vincent Bell electric sitar originally came out in the late 1960s, when the sitar went pop. There was one variety known as the choral, which I believe had stereo leads from it, one for the main 6, and one lead separate for a side row of sympathetic strings. John Mahavishnu McLaughlin has a similar setup on his famous scalloped acoustic guitar. Anyway, the Bell electric has been updated recently. I don't know offhand where to buy one, but I occasionally hear something about it on the ICM newsgroup.