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 LESSONS in Indian Music

Sitar : Lesson 2

Sitar is a plucking, string instrument, approximately three feet long and three inches wide. It has six-seven main strings and about 11-13 sympathetic strings called tadap strings. One tumba is attached to the base of the sitar's neck. Sometimes, another tumba of a smaller size is attached to the top of its neck. The tumbas are hollowed out pumpkins processed by sitar makers. The neck is made of a hollow wooden beam. Fifteen metal frets called pardas are attached on the neck of the sitar. A bridge is affixed on the tabli of the sitar over which the main six-seven strings run.

The tadapdaar sitar, that is a sitar with sympathetic strings, has a smaller bridge placed below the bigger bridge over which the tadap strings are fixed. Traditionally, in the olden days, the bridge would be made of a sambar's horns or bones. Today, sitar-makers design ebony bridges, which are black in colour and require less amount of servicing. The bridge determines the tone of the sitar.

The sitar's main string, made of steel, is usually tuned to the note madhyam. The second string, made of brass is tuned to the lower tonic (sa). The next two strings are tuned to gandhar and pancham in the Ettawa gharana. The last two strings, known as chikari, are tuned to the middle and upper tonic (sa).

Tadap strings are tuned to the notes of the raga chosen by the player. These sympathetic strings are expected to be accurately tuned so that they resound automatically when the notes are played on the main string. Sitarists of the Maihar gharana use an additional string next to the kharaj, known as the laraj, which is tuned to the mandira pancham; this string is highly effective in producing slow alap movements. To play the sitar, the artiste sits cross-legged on a mat on the floor and places the lower tumba on his left foot; the neck rests on the right thigh.

The sitar is held at 45 degrees angle. The right hand of the player rests on the lower tumba and the left hand is left free to play the alap and taan movements. The first two fingers on the left hand alone are used for these movements in the Ettawa gharana. The third finger is also used by sitarists of some other gharanas. An important aspect of sitar plying is the mizrab, which is worn on the first right finger of the player.

The mizrab is a metal triangle inside which the first finger is placed, unlike the coconut shell, which is held between the thumb and the fingers by sarodiyas. A sitarist mainly uses the first string and at times on the second string to play music, particularly the alap, unlike a violinist or a sarod player who use all four strings of their instrument to produce music.

Gharanas : There are a number of gharanas in sitar in the world. Some of them are: Ettawa gharana: This gharana can be traced back to Tansen's days. The stalwarts of this gharana are Ustad Sahibdad Khan, Ustad Imdad Khan, Ustad Inayat Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan. Senia gharana. Maihar gharana.

Related Instruments : Veena ; Surbahar ; Sursaptak

Major exponents Ustad Sahibdad Khan, Ustad Imdad Khan, Ustad Inayat Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan, who belong to history today, are the sitar's oldest exponents. Others in this category include Ustad Yunus Hussain Khan, Ustad Hamid Hussain Khan and Ustad Mohammed Khan. Contemporary maestros are:
Ustad Vilayat Khan Ustad Vilayat Khan has revolutionized the concept of music played on sitar. One can easily say that he has brought the sitar from the right to the left hand. With inconceivable virtuosity, he has shone over the musical firmament for over 50 years and has influenced over two generations of classical musicians - sitarists as well as other instrumentalists like flute, sarod, santoor and even sarangi players. Apart from being a master of the tantrakari baaz, Ustad Vilayat Khan can play everything from the dhrupad to khayal and thumri to tappa and dadra on sitar. Gifted with a high degree of imagination, he has redesigned the sitar to introduce and execute his musical concepts. It'd be appropriate to say that he is the Ustad who makes his sitar sing. Apart from giving several concerts in India and abroad, he has also given music for Satyajit Ray's films Jalsaghar and Kadambhari.

Pt Ravi Shankar ranks amongst the foremost disciples of Baba Allauddin Khan. He is responsible for familiarising Indian music to people all over the world. Ravi Shankar is a multi-faceted personality - a dancer, a composer and an experimentalist musician. He has composed music for many films like Pather Panchali, Anuradha, Godan, Meera, Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. For years together, Ravi Shankar gave scintillating sitar recitals world over, teamed up with tabla maestro Ustad Allara Khan. He is a living legend. Some of his prominent disciples are Pt. Kartick Kumar and Ustad Shahim Ahmed.

Other notable exponents : Late Pt Nikhil Bannerjee Ustad Imrat Khan Ustad Abdul Halim Zaffar Khan Late Pt Bimal Mukherjee Ustad Rais Khan Pt Debu Chowdhury

New generation sitar maestros : Nayan Ghosh, Shahid Parvez, Budhaditya Mukherjee, Shujat Khan, Irshad Khan, Nishat Khan Others in our database

Sitar : Lesson 1 Lesson 2


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