INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: playing the sitar?


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playing the sitar? Feb 04, 2004 01:38 a.m.

I am a new to playing the sitar. i have played guitar for about 8 years and found it easy to tune my sitar and find my way around the fretboard (it sounds nice for paying only $250 for it) now for my problem;

Everyplace i have read about the sitar they say it has 3 playing strings. however, i'm finding it is difficult (and almost impractical) to fret any string other than the 1st string. My 2nd string (the only other string i can fret well) always sounds out of tune when i fret it but not when i use it for drones!

The 1st string is perfectly centered over the curved fret and is easy for me to hold the note. however the 2nd string is located over the slope of the fret making it difficult to hold and keep its tune. and the 3rd string is even more of a problem.

is my problem the curvage of the frets or the lower quality of my sitar or is this a common problem that i need practice with?

Anyone have any suggestions? are there any websites that have help on actually playing the sitar?

Re:playing the sitar? Feb 04, 2004 02:27 a.m.

I can definitely understand what you're going through. To answer your question, there is nothing wrong with the curvature of your frets. The first string is the main playing string. This is the one that you do all the bending on and playing the raga. The other two strings that you mentioned are the drone strings. You don't actually do any bending or fretting on the second and third (drone) strings. You can if you want to, but it sounds kind of funky and they will go out of tune really fast, like you said. The drone strings help to give the sitar more life and an ethereal quality as they are strummed. So, in other words, all you really need to worry about for playing your favorite raga or any other song is the first string.

I'm not sure if your sitar has the bass string on it. If it doesn't, then most likely, probably what you have is the main playing string, two or three drone strings, and the chikari (the high-pitched ones). Also, not to mention, the sympathetics underneath.

I hope that helps, and welcome to the wonderful world of Indian music!

Re:first sitar Feb 05, 2004 02:46 p.m.

last christmas, we purchased a Mangla tun sitar from Buckingham, and had a great experience.

I have to tell you, the moment you open the case, and look upon it for the first time... it's quite a breathtaking experience.


Re:playing the sitar? Feb 04, 2004 03:47 p.m.

thanks Neo that answer is just what i was hoping to hear. I just find it hard to believe that all those talented sitarist are playing their melodies on only one string!

Iappreciate your help

Re:playing the sitar? Feb 04, 2004 06:16 p.m.

Kind Kayne, how many strings does your instrument have? Most sitars have six or seven main (top) strings, plus a number of sympathetics running under the frets. You should be able to fret notes within the first three or four frets on your second, third, and fourth strings - these are used for alap. I think you might be dealing with cheap sitar syndrome - the no-name that I started out with has a playable first string, but the second, third, and fourth are basically useless. You'll probably want to upgrade if you stick with it - if you're like me, you'll hit a point where you think "this sucks, I need something better!"

Hope this helps!

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