I have improved the sound of my solid body sitar SBS-O2. I added one Lipstick ‘bridge’- pickup to the combination. The earlier 2 ‘neck’-pickups can be switched in parallel or in series and now smoothly be mixed with the additional ‘bridge’ pickup by means of one of the pot-meters. All the pickups are Seymour Duncan types and the sound possibilities are divers and very inspiring.
Sound sample: PlaySBS-02 & SH101
You hear SBS-02 thru an Orange CRUSH20 distorted amp accompanied by a Roland SH101 synth in a random modulation (complex tanpura) mode …
Note: May not be entirely suitable for pure ICM… 😉
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.
The 2 bodies have undergone the finishing strokes : fine sanding, Danish oil treatment, parda making & setting, stringing and jiwari. And after assembling the hardware I could finally mount the pickups and electronics. A Kent Armstrong Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup is on one of them, together with two black buttons : one for volume and one for tone control. The other sitar remains without a pickup. Thus leaving the option open to mount a customer’s desired type or combination.
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.
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.
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.