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.
These ghorajs are made by Dieter Zarnitz. He has copied the Barun Roy and Hari Chand style exactly. The feet are from maple or rosewood, the tops out of snakewood, rosewood or Elforyn™. The setting (“jawari“) can be done at the Sitar Factory (Belgium) or at Dieter’s house (Germany).
Swarangini Digital is an electronic tanpura machine that delivers high quality original tanpura sounds. It has been introduced to the market in 2008. For more info about this very handy and popular machine visit the Sound Labs website. The machine is excellent for tuning and accompaniment. But, since this is a digital machine, it has a big disadvantage: the main volume is not anymore adjusted continuously but in steps. And, unfortunately, these steps are rather big, especially in the lower volume regions. Also the lowest sound ever is still much too loud in many occasions such as practice at home.
The most simple and very adequate solution is to create yourself an analog volume fine tuning knob by putting a potmeter in series with the loudspeaker. The only consideration which has to be taken into account is that this part of the circuit works under a slightly higher current level since it is the main amplifiers output. So, best is to choose a wire-wounded (high power) potmeter. A value of 50 Ohms, 4 Watts works great.
Open the box by removing the 4 screws and cutting the warranty seal sticker. Drill a 10mm hole through the side and remove the excess plastic on the inside to make room for the potmeter. Fix the potmeter and loosen the black wire which is leading to one of the solder lugs of the speaker. Solder this wire to the middle lug of the potmeter. Take another piece of insulated copperwire and solder it between the adjacent potmeter lug and the speaker lug on which the black wire was attached before. Close the box and mount a nice knob. Thats all for your custom volume finetuning knob…
Modifying a sitar from right-hand play to left-hand play…
It is not easy to find a suitable sitar if you are left-handed and want to engage yourself into the world of sitar playing. There are good left-hand sitars for sale, but they are very rare and if you find one than there is still the price tag. So, why not modifying a regular sitar from right-hand play to left-hand play ?
Is it always possible ? Unfortunately the answer is no. Since the modern times sitars are more and more build a-symmetrically. In order to improve the meend-playability, the neck of a sitar is mounted slightly (… or more… and more) tilted. This is for our purpose the main downside…
Another one is that the kutis are to be changed from “upside” to “downside”. It will work, but on the new “downside” the holes will be too big. So, the kutis, and thus the tuning of the instrument might become some unstable. Practically, in many cases this will not become a very big issue. It is more of a theoretical matter but at some extreme cases…??
Next to the kutis comes the langoot (tail mount). This very important piece has to be shifted over the center to the right. No big deal at first, but before acting make sure that the wooden tailpiece which is mounted on the inside of the tumba is big enough to reach this new position because the peel of the gourd alone will never hold the high forces induced by all the strings on the langoot.
Last but not least the pardas are to be reversed too. Also here some luck is very welcome to prevent a lot of extra work. If the parda lanes are not nicely even and flat, one risks that on a certain moment the strings are starting to touch the adjacent parda. If this happens, then there is a big chance that you’ll have to reshape all of the following pardas… On this sitar, we decided not to reverse the pardas since they are pretty symmetrical from origine. Finally, the string position notches on the jawari are to be changed and the cikari pins symmetrically reversed. New strings are mounted.
The result looks a little strange because the jawari had to be shifted out of the tablis center, but this instrument is pretty good playable. So, very soon now the first lesson can be arranged…
Today a legendary sitarshop has ceased to exist. Hari Chand, now 77 years old, brother of the founder of this Paharganj based shop, late Kartar Chand Sharma, finaly has definitively closed down the shop. After 50 years, an almost everyday dedicated handicraft in professional sitarmaking came to an end forever. So be it. There is no way back, there are no successors…
This time I returned from India with rather mixed feelings. My best friend, and sitarmaker – teacher Hari Chand is seriously considering to get retired. He is now nearly 77 years old and suffers from pain in his hands, his knees and other joints. The daily trip from his house in Dashrathpuri (near Dwarka sector) to the shop in Paharganj (easiliy 1 -1,5 hrs one way) takes more and more of his spare energy.
He’s built his last complete sitar in 2008. Since then he is slowing down and reducing his daily work. He was still doing some setting and assembling work on selected and checked Calcutta prefab sitarbodies but also this came to an end. Now only some basic sitar repair work remained. Also the frequency of his visits to his shop decreased to only a few days a week. Arriving in his shop sometimes at 11:00hrs only, the working day often doesn’t last long. From 16:00 / 17:00 hrs onwards he is getting ready to return back home. The visit to his shop becomes almost a time-pass picnic only…
The flourishing days of Kartar Chand & Hari Chand are now long gone. Both brothers were very dedicated in making first quality professional sitars and they are famous for their unrivalled repair work. They are very closely related to the other world famous New Delhis sitarmakers family Rikhi Ram. Late Kartar Chand Sharma has been learning the skill from his uncle Rikhi Ram Sharma and Sher Mohammad in Lahore, 1943.
Watch this video from Mr Simonggill about present-day sitar making in Calcutta. Here the real work is done…!! These small factories almost cover the worldwide production of sitars. They produce prefab sitarbodies for all well-known sitar makers such as both Rikhi Ram’s, Hiren Roy, Srishty Musical, RA Sitarmaker, Hari Chand, Raj Musicals, Kartar Chand Dhiman, etc… Far gone are the old times…!!!
The music is from Ustad Vilayat Khan: Raag Hameer.
For sure when it is your first sitar then you might feel somewhat uncertain…??
Because very frequently this question has been put to me, I’ve decided to make a “check list” with 10 tips to help you to decide if the sitar which is laying in front of you is ok to buy or not.
If you really want to minimize the risk, then always go to a shop yourself and check the instrument thoroughly before you buy it. And, take your time for this. Buying a sitar online, with only a good looking picture and dito description on a fancy internet shop is looking for trouble. Sitars are always handmade and the overall quality varies very much. They are also very fragile. Unless you invest in a good fiber case, shipping a sitar by air or sea will almost always end up on arrival with a broken tumba (pumpkin) and / or broken kutis (tuning pegs), or even worse…
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.