I arrived safe and well at Indira Gandhi Airport Terminal in New Delhi. Also my new SAS-02 in its solid stormcase came out unharmed. It was past midnight when we finally entered my dearest Hari Chand’s house in Dashrathpuri, so everybody went straight to bed…
The next morning I was very eager to show my instrument to my beloved friend and teacher. We started this project together in august 2003, while he was on a visit in my house in Bierbeek. At that time Hariji was an essential help to me in making the first solid body sitar SBS-01. This prototype has been tested by many of my sitar playing friends in Belgium, but Hari Chand never saw even this instrument completed. Immediately after this original and very promising experiment I started making plans for a series of new style sitars as can be seen on this blog (see tags SAS or SBS). In december 2008 this instruments trio was completed (see new style sitars).
Hari Chand was very impressed and uttermost pleased to finally see the result of my work. But, all this would never have been possible without his mastership and ever patient and precise teachings about this unique craftmanship to me. I will forever be grateful to him and his late brother Kartar Chand.
Soon Hariji’s young apprentice Rahul Gupta arrived in the shop and he played some nice tunes on the electric sitar during the noontime siësta. The Roland microCUBE -a very light and portable amp- is a fine companion to the Kent Armstrong Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup. Rahul only had some minor problems getting used to the 24 pardas edition (“chromatic” as they say in India).
Later I visited S.Raj & Sanjeev Sharma at Raj Musicals, Rikhi Ram Sanjay Sharma and my good friend and N°1 jiwarimaster Kartar Chand Dhiman. They all examinated the SAS-02, thoroughly checking every parda on its position and meend playability but they could not detect any anomaly. Also the jiwari passed the serious tests. Most intriguing were the rather unusual selection of wood (walnut and mahogany), their finishing touch (danish oil) and the most accurate joints between the different parts. Minus points were noted to be the slight difference in weight and pure acoustic sound in comparison with a traditional sitar. But, it has never been my purpose to compete with a pure acoustic musical instrument. I only wanted to inspire the advanced and professional sitar players to a new world of sound.
After a long time looking around I found a very suitable case for the SAS & SBS sitars. The “StormCase™ “, model iM3300. This is a professional safe and secure, lightweight (8,6 kg) but very tough and rugged fiber case. It is dent-resistant, shatter-resistant, virtually unbreakable and also watertight and airtight… and it has rubber handles and wheels!! It is originally made for transport of arms and riffles, but I am a little proud to be able to give at least three of them a more peaceful and non-violent destination.
Many sitars suffer from an improper intonation. Mostly affected are jora and laraj kharaj strings. If you are lucky you should be able to play comfortable on the first couple of frets only. After this, immediately pulling meend to correct the tone becomes a must. It is almost a part of the advanced sitar learning process…!!?
On my electric sitars only steel strings are used. Bronze flatwounded strings for laraj & kharaj and plain steel strings for jora. And this thick steel jora again causes some weird troubles. The intonation is far from correct and has this strange behaviour that the tone is too high rather than too low. This means that pulling meend to correct the difference is extra complex. One can only play a higher note on the particular parda…!!
The solution is to shorten the jora string. This is done by adding an intonation block to the tar daan under the jora. This block needs to be made at a particular lenght. My good friend and fine sitarplayer Bert Cornelis helped me to tune the sitars very accurately. Then we temporarily fixed a small piece of bone under the string to immitate the intonation block and as such we were able to measure its desired lenght. SAS-01 needs 10mm of intonation block lenght, SAS-02 only 6mm and SBS-02 12mm.
Day 68 & 69: The intonation block on the SBS-02 and SAS-02 is made out of a piece of extra hard and strong indian rosewood. The block is inserted into the tar daan and is armed with a short pin into the head to make sure it will not become loose when playing meend on the jora.
On the SAS-01 a small piece of stagg horn is used. It is also armed with a steel pin into the head’s wood. Now these sitars are very comfortable playing on the jora without hardly any correction up to reaching the middle SA parda.
Finaly, the third new sitar SAS-02 is also ready. The same Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup, made by Kent Armstrong, as with the SAS-01, Jazz Sitar is used. The only difference with SAS-01 is that on this sitar the taravs and taravbar are not installed. So, I call it the Jazz Sitar “light”…
Day 63: Removing the hardware to be able to finish the body: Sanding with grid 240 & 400 followed by 2 x pumice powder treatment, which is applied with alcohol and shellack. Ultimate finish counts 4 layers of Danish oil subsequently rubbed with 000 steel wool and drying periods during the following days. Continue reading →
Day 61: Started with sanding the body with grid 80 & 150. Then making and fitting a tar dan out of extreme hard Indian rosewood.
Day 62: Making a new ghodi on walnut wooden feet, and fitting a chrome tailpiece and the main machine heads.
Fitting the (5) main strings on the sitar body and tune them for a test. And then the same exciting decision: drill soundholes, or not …?? So again, first I made a short recording with the closed body. After the delicate surgery I recorded in the same conditions and distance to the microphone.
Playthe sound WITHOUT soundholes
Playthe sound WITH soundholes
The recorder again registered a gain profit of +8 dB. And also again the low frequencies are much better and more in balance with the rest of the strings. This confirms the same result as when creating soundholes on the SAS-01 for the first time. The overall sound is very similar to that sitar.
Day 60: Same story as with the semi-acoustic guitar avatar. Many archtop guitars are equipped with a decent pickup. So, I choose to try on this sitar a very slim but warm sounding pickup model Slimbucker™ Jazz made by famous american pickup maker Kent Armstrong.
This sitar sounds very natural, with extra warmth due to enhanced low frequency response. The pickup is tilted to meet the cikaris and adjusted between the taravs and playing strings to balance the taravs response. (Hit the picture)
Specifications of the Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup:
On the SAS-01 I use ordinary mini steel nails (diam. 1mm / lenght 8mm) as tarav mogara. They sound very good at the moment but I think this can be improved one day. But how? By bone, or horn, or… ? Anybody a suggestion ?