INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: emergency stupid question


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emergency stupid question Jan 02, 2004 12:16 p.m.

greetings and thankyou for your attention. I expect that this question has been asked many times but I have not found it in the archives thus far. I am a multi (or semi) instrumentalist playing a variety of stringed things. I am self taught and cannot read music. I've had a sitar for a while now and have been playing it almost daily for the past several months.

Question: how can I tune a sitar using a guitar as a reference? I do not want to risk setting the tension too high and damaging my sitar!

I know that there are several ways to tune a sitar, I just need some basic reference so that I keep my tension within an acceptable range.

I have also read that the primary strings should be loosed a whole step after playing. Good advice?

Any help is greatly appreciated!

My sitar has 20 strings 7 on top 13 on the bottom - I'm obvioulsy most concerned with the top deck as it has the most tension.

Re:emergency stupid question Jan 02, 2004 01:05 p.m.

The usual tuning is C# to D for sitar. You don't need to loosen the strings after playing unless you are having problems with the neck warping, etc. If playing in D then you should tune down to C# or C periodically in my opinion. I have a tuning chart on my website:

Hope that helps.....

Re:emergency stupid question Jan 02, 2004 02:05 p.m.

Thakyou! Of course after I posted I found quite a few guitar equivelencies online - I'm not sure wher I have it tuned right now - I've just been going by ear and instinct, keeping the string tension reasonable if not low, and then tuning as I would an open tuned guitar with doubles and octaves all around. So far so good, and I can bend the primary melody string without pulling it out of tune so I'm hoping I got pretty close - I'll check tonight!

thankyou again.


Re:emergency stupid question Jan 02, 2004 02:23 p.m.

This brings up something that I've been thinking about for a while now. The determining factor in tuning my surbahar (basically same tuning just down five steps) is my low Sa string being tuned up to where it doesn't rattle (putting me at about G#) and then tuning the rest of the strings from there. I don't even use a tuning fork anymore. I realize that many of us have leaned towards the higher tuning as it helps to stimulate the tarabs and kicks them into activity. With a lower tuning, say a step or step and a half, the meends are much easier to perform and have a more fluid sound. I am wondering if there is any real reason that folks want to tune up so high.
And as Lars said, I've always heard that you should leave your instrument fully tuned.
Re:emergency stupid question Jan 02, 2004 05:51 p.m.

Stephen (Jan 02, 2004 02:23 p.m.):
This brings up something that I've been thinking about for a while now... I am wondering if there is any real reason that folks want to tune up so high...

I think it's just a matter of physics. Any instrument has one frequency where it resonates particularily well, depending on the physics of the instrument - thickness of the sound board, string length, etc. What's cool about the Indian method of tuning (not using a specific frequency, as in C, C#, etc. for a reference point) is that you can tune the sitar to it's ideal resonant frequency.
With instruments such as guitar, bass, piano, etc. you're stuck (for all practical purposes) with having to tune to a specific frequency. You've got to be able to play in tune with the other intruments in the band, eh?
With instruments such as mandolins and violins, the instrument maker uses the "f" holes to fine tune the resonance of the instrument to a particular key. Perhaps if the Indian method of tuning were the same as in the west, there would be "f" holes on sitars (the holes in the inlaid birds on the tabli?)
To aid the player in tensioning the heads, some drum manufacturers place a stamp inside the drum shell notating the frequency at which that particular shell resonates.
And then there's...the dead spot.
This is found on most (if not all) stringed instruments with necks. Somewhere along the neck there's one note (frequency) that just doesn't sustain like the other notes. This is due to the resonant frequency of the neck.
With the sitar, by tuning higher or lower, you can move the dead spot around to a different (not so often used) fret.

I guess it just goes to show ya.
You can tune a piano but...

Re:emergency stupid question Jan 02, 2004 08:06 p.m.

Hey Stephen....try a thicker string if yours is rattling or close up the bridge on that string?
When are you leaving for India? Give me a call before you do if you can....
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