Frédéric t’Serstevens is a young and talented sitarist and disciple of Shubhendra Rao and Kushal Das. Since in the beginning he was a dedicated (bass) guitarplayer, he came up with this rather common idea to convert a sitar into a guitar. But now in a suitable and really original way: why not make the accompanying strings, jora, laraj & kharaj, entirely playable on the full neck area?
On traditional sitars, it is common that these strings only can be played (without meend) up to the 4th, 5th, … 7th parda. From then onwards, very frequently, intonation problems occur due to a continuously and significantly increasing strings action. This means that the distance between the string and the frets (pardas) increases too much, and thus the played notes become higher… untill unplayable.
The solution is very simple: reduce the strings action by changing the shape of the pardas.
original shape (Rikhi Ram)
hybrid shape (Sitar Factory)
With this kind of new hybrid pardas, mounted on a raised parda lane, the action on the strings is higly reduced. And as such coming very close to a near perfect intonation, comparable to a guitar:
Now even chords can be played perfectly on this instrument… making it the extreme sitar for guitarists, or,… reverse ?? Or just: the ultimate hybrid sitar… 🙂
Last week Friday, 19/06/2015, I’ve delivered this electric plexiglass sitar to Purbayan Chatterjee. One year has passed since he had asked me to build this instrument for him (May 2014). Initially I found it a weird idea and honestly, I didn’t favour the choice of plexiglass because of the rather unknown and synthetic nature of this material (modified PMMA / Polymethyl methacrylate). In general I prefer working on wood, rather than with plastics. But the unique challenge seduced me completely and I plunged into this venture which took me a year to accomplish.
The moment I finally passed this sitar into Purbayan’s hands was very exciting, for me as well as for him, because this is really the first sitar ever made completely out of plexiglass. The instrument has a breathtaking look. The transparency is 100% and makes it look quite unreal… But, as this is meant to be a professional musical instrument, I was especially wondering how it will behave on stage, how it will sound, will the material withstand the constant changing and heavy tensions caused by the powerful play of an extremely talented professional sitarist like Purbayan Chatterjee…?
Soon after handing over the instrument I went back home and kept my mobile close to me. That same afternoon Purbayan tested the sitar profoundly during the rehearsal for a concert the next day in Brussels with Slang, the impressive jazz/rock band (with flute virtuoso Manuel Hermia) from Belgium.
To my relief no alarm call came, not in the evening, and not in the following morning. A few hours before the concert on Saturday I received an sms from Manuel Hermia writing: “Purbayan loves your sitar!!” and, indeed, a few moments later, when we met in front of the concert stage, his big smile welcomed me,… and,… the concert was marvellous and blew away all my initial questions. Purbayan named the instrument “The See-Tar”, a see-through sitar.
Here is an introduction to the Fosse Electric Sitar. This instrument replicates the sound of the classic indian sitar. It is a new solid body electric instrument made out of carbon fiber by Gregg Fosse.
New page added with more semi-acoustic sitar & solidbody sitar pictures. These pictures (most of them) are made by Luc De Gezelle. The pictures are coming in autoviewer slideshow mode… Feel free to take a look here.
Specs and other info about these instruments can be found here.
Since the end of march 2009 I started constructing 2 new solid body sitars after the example of SBS-02. It is a tremendous improvement in time because plans are now available and I have a steady work experience.
Bodies and head are made from honduras mahogany leftovers. The neck is again made from african mahogany, but now stripped with two pieces of maple. And a piece of indian rosewood is glued on the head top.
German stringmaker Pyramid has made some special strings, suitable for “electric” (working with electro-magnetic pickup) full size sitars. They make brass wound polished strings for laraj & kharaj 0.55mm (.021) & 0.74mm (.030) and heavy kharaj 0.92mm (.036). And also brass coated steel wire ranging from 0.18mm (.007) to 0.38mm (.015), good for all other strings such as tarav, cikari, baj and jora tar.
I ‘ve ordered and tried the brass flatwounds for laraj & kharaj and brass coated steel wire for jora on my SAS-01 and SAS-02. The brass flatwounds sound very good, brilliant and accurate but a little more harsh than I am used with the bronze flatwounds from India. They are also not as flat as their bronze indian brothers. But the latter are very fragile. The bronze winding breaks easily while playing heavy meend. I don’t know (yet) how strong the pyramids are. The brass coated steel wire behaves quite similar to the full steel jora string. There is a noticeable improvement to the jora tar tuning problem but the overall sound volume remains the same. I had hoped that by using this brass coating the volume difference between baj and jora tar would become less. There is only a very small improvement. The only solution seems to be the fitting of a thinner jora string. Or, maybe someone can make me some bronze coated steel wire instead of brass coated ??
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.
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”…
New sitar ready, SAS-01, “The Jazz Sitar”: a semi-acoustic sitar equipped with a decent pickup, the very slim but warm sounding pickup model Slimbucker™ Jazz made by famous american pickup maker Kent Armstrong.