If you google “electric sitar” then you ‘ll find over 200.000 hits referring to the Coral “electric sitar” which actually is an early solid body guitar that sounds like a sitar. Vincent Bell invented a number of electric guitar models for Danelectro and Coral. He designed perhaps the first electric 12-string guitar, and invented the electric sitar in 1967, using it on such hits as “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne, and “Heartbreaker” by Gene Pitney. See this funny early ad:
Also wikipedia writes this, but it is and remains a guitar, made for guitarists. It is not a sitar, isn’t it…?
Read also an interesting article “West meets East” by Frederick W. Harrison about how the sitar came to be heard in the western pop music.
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.
the sound WITHOUT soundholes
the 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:
Alnico bar magnet / DC = 8K / humbucker made by Kent Armstrong.
Size : 0,95cm (.375”) thick – 6,8cm (2.68”) long – 2,8cm (1.10”) wide.
Day 57: Back to body 3: Glueing the neck front plate and tabli to the body using hot glue. Another delicate job…
When glueing the tabli, I used profiled plates to keep the klemsia’s in place. This works a bit more comfortable in stead of using a rope.
Day 58: After sufficient drying, I started carving the heel and backside and finished roughly sanding the body sides.
Day 59: Sanding the backside of the neck, making it nicely round and fluently connecting to the heel. The rest of the day I spent on further sanding the whole body with grid 80 and 150.
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 ?
Very soon after finishing the first 2 sitars (SBS-02 & SAS-01) I encountered a strange problem. The jora tar, which is now a steel string showed a strange behaviour. After tuning the strings properly and playing a meend on the baj tar (playing string) the jora sensitively raises in pitch while all other strings nicely regained their original pitch. Very rarely I ‘ve been noticeing this behaviour on traditional sitars before, but always it was much less pronounced and many times it disappeared after some time playing. Yet this time the jora raised almost a quarter tone on the SBS-02, and even after some days playing this inconvenience remained.
After a couple of sleepless nights I found out that it was the main jiwari which caused this malfunctioning. While pulling the playing string down (playing meend) the whole body bends (like a bow) and the main jiwari comes forward. All the other strings loosen their pitch (going low). Releasing the playing string from its meend position makes the instrument go back to its original shape, thus the jiwari is being pushed backwards to its original position. At this moment, the jiwari is also pulling all the strings backwards. But because the steel surfaced jora string is more rough and doesn’t have the same lubricating behaviour as a bronze string (original jora and laraj kharaj) the result is a considerable raised pitch.
The solution to this is very simple: carbon. With an ordinary pencil, I applied some carbon to the surface of the jiwari, straight under the jora tar’s position, and the problem was solved. But.., not for 100%. Still I noticed a very slight mismatch. Here and now the cause was quickly found: also the upper tar daan is having some difficulty to restore the steel jora tar to its original tension. Applying some wax to the contact surface between the jora string and the tar dan made an end to this jora tar tuning phenomenon.
Day 55: I mounted 2 single coil Seymour Duncan – Lipstick model pickups and tried out various combinations. One pickup is reverse winded and reverse polarised, creating thus a humbucking combination which gives less distortion and less noise. The potmeters in front offer volume and tone control while a switch on the backside makes series / parallel combination possible.
Day 56: Mounting of the electronics. Drilled holes for the potmeters, wiring and plug. Definitive mounting of the pickups and soldering the wires. Mounting of the backside switch, potmeters and plug.
Now also this sitar is ready for playing…
Day 53: Assembling the body after sufficient drying (pardas, cikari- and tarav machine heads, jiwaris & strings).
Day 54: Mounting the cikari pins and strings, and doing jiwari. Mounting the taravs and tarav jiwari.
Now this semi-accoustic sitar is ready for a first play. Who wants to … ?
Finaly, at the end of july we were lucky to have had at least a couple of days good weather with nice sunshine. One of these days I succeeded to finish the polishing of this sitar. I’ ve been making some fresh new polish ready during a previous (short) visit of our much beloved sun at the end of june…
A couple of days later the polish has been drying sufficiently. Time to complete the sitar again by mounting the pardas, jiwaris and strings.