During my learning school at Centrum voor MuziekinstrumentenBouw, CMB, at Puurs, Belgium, in 2000 I made a Gibson EB-3L replica. I’ve choosen this electric bass because of the unique and original “slotted head” construction which I applied later to my new style sitars SAS-01 etc…
This guitar has a Honduras mahogany body and neck with Indian rosewood fretboard and head top plate.
Because the original instruments sound wasn’t very inspiring I decided to replace the pickups with some modern and better performing types made by Di Marzio. Their DP145 Will Power™ neck model is very deep-sounding with great low-end definition. Its dimensions are the same as the original replacement Model One™, but it’s a little louder and fatter-sounding, and pole piece spacing is slightly wider for better string alignment with long-scale basses.
This modification I made to Mark B’s Travel sitar because he was unable to play the jora tar comfortably. The steel wire jora tar, although open correctly tuned, sounded too high while playing a note on the pardas.
I added a fibre intonation block to the jora tar, just as I did with my own made SAS and SBS sitars. Now he can play the jora tar up to the middle note Sa without any problem and accurately without meend.
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 more than one year of extensive and regular playing by my friend Chico, the ivory jiwari doesn’t show too much wear. This material is even much more resistant than horn!! Although it doesn’t feel as hard as horn, it is definitely much tougher.
Note that the jora string caused an almost bigger cut than the playing string…? (click on the photo to zoom in)
See the making of this unique billiard ball jiwari here.
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.