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… 🙂
This instrument has been made on demand
The original idea comes from Frédéric t’Serstevens (March 2016)
Design & drawings by Klaas Janssens @ Sitar Factory (April 2016)
Completion by Klaas Janssens @ Sitar Factory (June 2016)
Dimensions: 1060mm x 300mm x 130mm (L x W x H)
Neck width: 89mm
Strings action: String configuration: custom sitar (Baj, Jora, Laraj & Kharaj), tuned as guitar
Pardas: 24 custom hybrid shaped
Taravs: 11 traditional with wooden kutis
No cikaris installed
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.
This instrument has been made on demand
The original idea comes from Purbayan Chatterjee (May 2014)
Design & drawings by Klaas Janssens @ Sitar Factory (September 2014)
Raw plexiglass body is made by Patricia Stoops & Alexander @ Plexi Reine (Januari/April 2015)
Assembly & completion by Klaas Janssens @ Sitar Factory (May/June 2015)
Dimensions: 1070mm x 300mm x 105mm (L x W x H)
Neck width: 90mm
String configuration: Ustad Vilayat Khansahib
Parda setting: traditional (20 with no Komal Dha or Re)
Harry Shaffer, a creative sitar maker living in Asheville, North Carolina, USA, has been developing an all carbon fiber acoustic sitar over the past couple of years. He began designing plywood guitars as a child and discovered his fascination with the sitar and the music of India in 1993. Because of his frustrating experiences with his first no-name sitar, he put his lutherie skills to work and began ripping sitars apart in order to figure out how to make them work better. In 2013 he founded Carbon Sitars and he actually begun taking orders for custom made carbon fiber acoustic sitars.
This extraordinary version called “The Suibokuga Sitar” was inspired by the art of Japan, in particularly, the sumi-e, or ink wash painting. The main pegs lack the traditional sitar designs, opting for a more Japanese design.
Here is a concept drawing of the main bridge. Harry Shaffer wanted something that reflected the aesthetic of Japanese architecture, so he chose a design that invokes a “torii” or gate to a Shinto shrine.
Here is another unique combination: a fusion between a guitar and a veena. The concept has been developed and build by Shintai who was born in Belgium and now lives in Denmark. He frequently plays meditative concerts on this remarkable instrument.
PlayShintai on his Veena Guitar
Basically the instrument consists of a bass guitar-neck fitted on an acoustic guitar body. It has 7 main strings, 12 taravs & 23 specially shaped pardas. The 5 highest notes, located on the soundboard, are fixed while the remaining 18 are moveable. The instrument’s impressive head accommodates 17 tuning keys. Amongst them are 4 banjo-type tuners pointing to the backside and 2 extra machine heads are mounted on the neck for tuning the cikari strings.
On Shintai’s request I’ve added a regular sitar jawari (Elforyn™) and an extra wide tarav jawari (bone) and also 6 moveable tarav moghara (Elforyn™)
After finalizing the structural rough woodwork on the travel-sitar’s body (see Part 1 = Travel Sitar Mods (3A)) the final acts are: completing the body finish and preparing and installing the sitar’s hardware such as godi (jawari), machine heads, strings, pardas and eventually an electro-magnetic pickup.
I’ve painted the body in white using Bio Pin™ waterbased organic white paint and Colortone™ high gloss waterbased finish. The patri, jawari, cikari machine head mount and cikari posts are all made from Elforyn™. So it became a real “organic & vegan” sitar,… 100% suitable for vegetarians… 🙂
Installing 7 Schaller™ Mini M6 machine heads and 20 bronze pardas N°6.
Main strings gauges :
1) Baj tar : steel, 0,30mm (N°3)
2) Jora tar : nickel flatwound, 0,46mm (N°26)
3) Laraj tar : nickel flatwound, 0,56mm (N°24)
4) Gandhar tar : steel, 0,30mm (N°3)
5) Pancham tar : steel, 0,30mm (N°3)
6) & 7) Cikari tar : steel, 0,23mm (N°0)
Tony Karasek, an american performing artist and technician with 30 years experience in instrument repairs and maintenance has finally made his first sitar. He writes:
“Due to increased market demand, the quality level of Indian instruments currently being produced has suffered significantly. (I made a living for years repairing them in California). Recognising this fact, I moved to Pune, India with my wife and family in April, 2003 to re-establish the high quality standards for instrument production. My intention is to produce a line of Sitars and Tanpuras based on those of the mid-20th century.”
After this adventure, he resides in Charlotte, North Carolina and made his first own handmade sitar. It took about 18 months and 3 rewrites to produce the “Karasek Sound Domestic Custom Sitar Number 1”. Tony writes about it:
“The priority was first and foremost – sound with finest quality materials, components, joinery and consistant fit and feel. To that end, this sitar came into being. The body is made of mahogany with padouk wood trim. Indian rosewood pegs, Arizona grown gourds, delrin bridges and faux tortoise shell trim finish off the rest of the instrument. Internally, there have been many new innovations that have not only produced a far more solid instrument but greatly enhanced the tone and resonance.”
I would love to see and feel this unique and most promising instrument in real and play it. Meanwhile for me there are only a couple of impressive pictures to see, and a youtube demo. All the above pictures are from Tony. You can find more of them and also a lot of very detailed and unveiling info at his website Karasek Sound here.
I’ve added a page to Sitar Making Links about this beautiful and unique sitar made by Alan Arthur Suits. He has sent me some pictures and info about the construction of this sitar. Click here.
Alan writes on his website:
“The sitar was built to concert level quality, using the highest grade materials and craftsmanship. The body is a natural gourd as is the top tumba (gourd resonator). The main body is Spanish cedar (virtually identical to Himalayan cedar or Tun wood). All the ornaments are real ivory recycled from 70 year old piano keys. The bridges are African blackwood, a species of rosewood, one of the hardest known woods and considerably harder than ebony, with rosewood feet. The pegs are turned of Bolivian rosewood.”
“The sitar plays with excellent action and has a truly superb tone with great overtones, sympathetic response, and a Nikhil Banerjee style jawari. It will fit in standard fiberglass sitar cases.”
This sitar was made in the “Sher Mohammad & Sons Sitar Makers”- shop in Bansanwala Bazaar, Lahore 1940 – 1950 by early sitarmaker Sher Mohammed. At that time, before the Partition, he taught sitar making to, amongst others, Rikhi Ram Sharma and Kartar Chand Sharma. At Partition time, both Rikhi Ram Sharma and Kartar Chand Sharma left Lahore and headed for Delhi where they both settled their own sitar shop (only 800 m. away from each other). Rikhi Ram’s shop became world famous due to Ravi Shankar and the Beatles. Kartar Chand, joined by his younger brother Hari Chand, remained low profile and continued making high quality professional sitars at Paharganj. They developed their own style of sitars and got specialised in repair work. Amongst their main customers was late Pt. Balaram Pathak, and his son Ashok Pathak. In januari 1993 Kartar Chand passed away, and thus leaving the shop to his brother Hari Chand.