A random photoreport on the making of my latest and last plexiglass See-Tar.
A deer antler hung on the wall. You can find them at old flea markets, or nailed to the wall at hunters’ homes: deer horn antlers as hunting trophies. You can’t do much with them, but for a sitar player you can make a beautiful and useful tool with them.
First choose in a nice and fitting piece, and cut the end generously. Then I make a tapered slot corresponding to the width of the taravs to be operated. A hole is then drilled into it to fit the ornamental tip of the tuning knob, and then I also make the tapered slot suitably concave so that it fits nicely over the tuning knob.
K&K Sound make natural-sounding acoustic amplification products and affordable pickups.
Their Pure Pickup for acoustic guitars, installed on the guitar’s bridge plate, is a very good choice for achieving a rich, natural guitar sound — even without a preamp. It’s one of the best passive pickup on the market, for the musician who wants a warm, full-range signal without worrying about cluttering up their instrument, adjusting onboard electronics, or having to remember to change the battery.
I chose the Pure 12-String: 3-head transducer for 12-string acoustic guitar. The larger pickup heads produce an extra strong bass response and pronounced midrange that sounds great in 12-string guitars. I installed it befor inside a surbahar, which sounds perfect!
The work begins by removing the tabli.
First, the celluloid decorations are removed and then the tumba is separated from the tabli.
A wooden reinforcement with a hole in it is then glued to the inside of the tumba. The jack connector is later mounted there.
Then the transducers are glued to the tabli just below where the legs of the bridge are. That is the most efficient place (according to K&K’s instructions) and it is quite convenient that there are 3 separate transducers.
Finally the jack connector is mounted and the tabli is glued back onto the tumba.
Because the original fragile decorations were damaged too much during removal, I place a new binding of celluloid plastic mother-of-pearl imitation. It fits best with the rest of the sitar’s copious decorations.
Sound samples played by Visjal Auwerx:
K&K transducer only
K&K transducer + EQ
K&K transducer + external mic mix
K&K transducer + external mic + tanpura mix
K&K transducer = Pure Pickup™ 12-String
external mic = AKG C2000B
Another very good looking but cheap and inferior sitar has been transformed into a tanpura, giving it a new life. It is an old and beautiful body with a nice and big tumba. This time I converted it into a regular 4-string female tanpura, tuned to F. The mounted string set can also reach G, but different strings are needed for higher tuning.
Sound sample: PA-sa-sa-SA Sitanpura in F
The scale measures 86cm & string set is
1: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C3
2: 0,30mm steel string tuned to F3
3: 0,30mm steel string tuned to F3
4: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to F2
My friend Christine has made a beautiful cotton protective cover for this instrument. It is completely handmade and custom-made for this tanpura. Perfectly fitting and skilfully finished!
Read also Sitanpura, the Sitar Tanpura mod
I’ve made a set of mankas and one tarav ghoraj for Zach Ferrara.
They are made out of golden dragon snake Juma® blocs. Juma® – the name stands for independently developed and very modern processing material made from a mixture of various mineral base materials, bound in a resin component. Just like Elforyn® is Juma® excellently suited for the production of components and artistic objects such as knife handles, jewelry, eyeglass frames, or music instrument parts. “Produce your own custom items and delight in genuine one-of-a-kind pieces that no one else will be able to imitate.” the website says.
The material is indeed easy to work with and the result feels very natural and pleasant. The optical effect is stunning and has a nice impression of depth. It is definitely very suitable for decorations, mankas and possibly a tarav ghoraj. But I think it has too little resistance to wear to be suitable for a main ghoraj. Elforyn®, on the other hand, does well. Follow this link for Elforyn® examples.
Recently, David Keustermans visited me @ Sitarfactory. He came to Belgium to show his latest sitar with some pride, and rightly so. Please read on for more details about his wonderful sitar.
David started building it in october 2017 @ CMB (Centre for Musical Instrument Building – Puurs, Belgium), starting with the mould which he made together with the mould for his lute project. He then continued working on it at home in the basement until his departure to the Vercors, France, in July 2018. From August that year, he continued to work on it passionately there and by September that year the shell was finished.
The neck had been hollowed out and attached to the shell by November. That hollowing out gave him a good tendinitis, he was unable to play guitar for six months…. and by December the fingerboard was on. He deliberately kept that one completely flat.
In February 2019, he started working on the tabli, which finally got ready in April (finished with the fish holes instead of F-holes, it’s based on Art-Nouveau carp designs, but people sometimes see sharks or whales in there 🙂 )
By September he finished the parda rails, he put in the tuning pegs in January 2020 with the help of a friendly violin maker who borrowed his reamers. By March 2020 the sitar was completed with the pardas on, but no taravs yet. In June, the tarav rail was added, deliberately opting for a system with cithar tuning pins: The neck is from Limba, a type of wood that is quite stringy, and it seemed dangerous to drill about fifteen holes in a single line along the entire length there and then to start pushing tuning pins into it…?
David based this instrument on the Dieter Zarnitz designs during a visit there but he modified Dieter’s plan a little. Dieter Zarnitz’s sitars are symmetrical, while David has given the neck on a slight angle upwards and also a slight twist opposite the tabli.
The tabli is 400mm wide. The neck is 94mm wide. The scale is 920mm (3cm longer than a standard sitar).
This baritone sitar is tuned lower then a regular sitar. It is tuned in B#, which turns out to be the Helmholz frequency of the shell. The extra bass string sounds very good.
Info about the wood of this instrument:
Merisier (from Vosges) is used for the shell, given to him by his father.
The reels are made out of Linde.
The neck and fingerboard are made from Limba.
The tarav rails are made out of Indian Rosewood.
The tabli is Epicea from near Grenoble, given to him by a violin maker (it was a piece meant to make a cello).
The langoot is made from moose antlers reinforced with steel nails
The ghodi is made out of Rosewood
A surbahar string set is mounted.
Have a look
It’s a beauty !!!
The scale measures 59cm only and the string set is:
1: 0,58mm brass RW string tuned to C3
2: 0,37mm bronze string tuned to F4
3: 0,37mm bronze string tuned to F4
4: 0,75mm brass RW string tuned to F3
Sound sample: PA-sa-sa-SA tanpura in F
Following the Sitanpura, here is now a surbahar transformed into a 5-string tanpura. This one has a mini swarmandal facility with 13 strings under the main strings (= the former taravs). The lazy Gurusoundz products are good for something after all… 😉 This surtanpura sounds awesome.
The scale measures 106cm and the string set is:
1: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to G#2
2: 0,46mm steel string tuned to C#3
3: 0,46mm steel string tuned to C#3
4: 0,46mm steel string tuned to C#3
5: 0,76mm brass string tuned to C#2
Long live recycling! 😉 Listen… :
Sound sample: PA-sa-sa-sa-SA Surtanpura
jawari ghoraj mounted…
jawari ghoraj with Cumaru top & Angelim Amargoso feet installed.
Added RE komal & DHA komal, 23 pardas in total.
Good news for the thousands of “tourist”-grade cheap and crappy sitars, bought in India by trusting tourists eager for buying a “real” sitar as a souvenir. For many of them there is life after years of exile to the attic: the sitanpura is born!
I turned this old innocent banished beauty into a real full-fledged 5-string tanpura. And, it is also very flexible because it can be quickly converted into a regular 4-string tanpura. You only have to remove 1 string and put the remaining ones into another slot. You’re done…
Only one skill remains: jawari. Making the ghodi, installing it on the tabli, adjusting the angle and “doing jawari”. But also this can be learned by doing… with patience and persistance…
Sound sample: PA-ni-sa-sa-SA Sitanpura
The string set is
1: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to G#2
2: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C3
3: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C#3
4: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C#3
5: 0,76mm brass wound string tuned to C#2