The most radical maintenance work on a sitar is undoubtedly, and most commonly named, “(doing) jawari”. The correct meaning of the word “jawari” (or “jiwari”) is “saddle which gives life to the sound”. It comes from the hindi combination of “jiv” (= life) & “sawari” (= saddle). The actual bridge, as we casually also adress to as “jawari” is in fact called ghoraj or ghodi. This is a construction of wooden legs, glued to a piece of hard material in a rectangular shape and a curved surface. How to make a ghoraj can be seen here.
The legs are made of tun, teak or even sheeshum but also mahogany, ahorn, rosewood or almost any other fine quality wooden leftover piece can be used. The harder the wood, the clearer and louder the sound that will come out. The upper part of the ghoraj, the ghodi, is also made of a hard material. Professional quality sitars are usually fitted with a piece of staghorn. The antlers of the barasingha, a type of deer native to India & Nepal, are most wanted for this but they became very rare and are now protected. Nowadays many sitar makers experiment with synthetic materials. The sound which comes from a fine piece of fiber is a bit different, but at least very useful and comparable to staghorn. And they have a big advantage that they resist wear much more better than any other material such as camel bone, ebony, rosewood, ivory, buffalo horn and staghorn.
Jawari’s basic principles
Very important is the curved shape of the bridge and in particular the narrowing between bridge and string. This is the most important factor, determinating the typical sound of a sitar. Since the bridge is wide (2,5 – 3 cm) the contact with the string is spread over a longer distance. This makes that a vibrating string will have several “touching points” which generate extra harmonics. These create a very rich, complex resonating, almost self entertaining, and evolving buzzing sound.
Two main extremes are to be distinguished
1. Open jawari or “khula” (= open sound, for ex. Ravi Shankar style) is created by a long and wide narrowing between strings and bridge. This combination is full of harmonics and sounds very bright, loud and buzzy.
2. Closed jawari or “band” (= closed sound, for ex. Vilayat Khan & Balaram Pathak style) is created by a rather short and small narrowing between strings and bridge, or even no narrowing at all. This sounds more warm and less, or even not buzzy at all. A great advantage is the high gain in sustain.
These two main types are scarcely found under their extreme form. (Only a tanpura has an extremely open bridge). In reality the sound of the bridge is mostly in between these two types, guided by personal preference and gharana style.
The degree of widening can easily be detected. Put your fingernail on the string and then gently slide with your fingernail perpendicular to the string over the bridge while the string is vibrating. At the point where the bridge becomes open suddenly intense vibrations will be observed.
Use long and flat, coarse to second cut files. Depending on the amount of material which should be removed to obtain a desired curve. Or, in case of regular maintenance jawari work the choice of your file may be determined by the amount of wear. Make sure your files are always clean and intact. Fine cut files and sandpaper are used for the finishing touch. A fine clue which Hariji taught me is to use the backside of sandpaper to give a final polishing stroke.
For a good result it is important that you can keep the ghodi surface solid and stable against the file. A very helpfull tool might be a good workbench vice to firmly clamp the ghodi. Or even better, use a traditional Indian floor bench vice. Take a look here if you want to make one yourself.
Doing jawari is a question of practice. No written rules exists on how, where and when to start filing or sanding. Just take your time to create a slow but steady, exponentially inclined curve. At regular times, create a finishing stroke with fine sandpaper and try out on your instrument. Remove it again and work further, step by step. It’s also a good idea not to experiment with your one and only fine staghorn jawari but look out for a piece of cheap camel bone, leftover ebony or fiber and make your own ghoraj from scratch. It might take some time, but once you succeed to create a good sound with a self-made jawari…
When your sound starts to come, you can feel the desire that one or more strings should sound different. For example, you want cikari strings to sound more open than playing strings, or laraj kharaj only to become more closed. From that moment onwards you should work locally by means of a scraper. This is a cutting tool which is used in a perpendicular position towards the surface. Make sure your cutter is not too wide but very sharp and clean. Relax the string and pull it aside. Remove some material by scraping it off. Make the narrowing wider if you want a more open sound, or remove some material from next to the point where the narrowing begins to make the string go deeper and as such making the narrowing smaller to obtain a more closed sound.
Before you start
Note that a jawari is never glued to the tabli. It should always be possible to remove it without force. In case of problem, one can mount one or two very small bone pins to prevent the jawari from sliding away while playing meend. Sometimes a drop of shellack is applied to the feet in order to fix the jawari. But, before you remove a jawari, make sure to be able to put it again in the same position. If needed, mark the feet’s position by making a small incision on the tabli with a sharp knife or chisel.
If you want to change the sound more drastically from open to closed sound or reverse, it is better to work on the jawari’s full inclination first. This is done by removing a very small amount of wood from under the jawari’s feet. Removing wood from the frontside onwards, will make the jawari turn over to a wider narrowing with the strings and thus make it sound more open. Removing wood at the backside will make it turn over to a smaller narrowing and make the sound more closed. For this you can use a coarse or second cut file, or cut the wood away with a sharp chisel. Make sure that the feet’s original curve is maintained so that the jawari is in perfect contact surface with the tabli.
Ready for more ?
How to make a ghodi
Jora tar tuning problem
The Indian floor bench vice
Black buffalo horn
Thanks for this! One question, if the main string doesn’t want to return completely after meend pulls, what areas should I focus on?
The string should be able to glide easily over the patri (bridges on top of the neck) and over the jawari (and over the jawari’s string slot) on the tabli (sound board). This can be caused by a too narrow slot or by the used materials. Some jawari materials do feel like some coarse or rough causing the string not to return to its original position. It can be improved by adding some carbon (or fine chalk powder) to the jawari & slot under the string or to widen the slot itself. It can also be improved by playing a lot. Like this the slot, string and jawari surfaces get polished well…
Hindustani slide modified acoustic guitar.
In my last post I described improvement of using 10’s and 11’s strings instead of 9’s. Today I returned to an ivory bridge I bought from India instead of the last plexiglass one I made. The combination was perfect! I now have the big zing sound I wanted from the Godden Music modified Weissenborn. “It’s alive!!”
SYMPATHETIC STRING GAUGE
I am posting to update some progress on my modified guitar – to – hindustani slide.
Last year I worked persistently on the ghodi bridge and reported here some successful buzz with .009 strings. Recently, I read about higher gauges and replaced my .009 sympathetic set with .010 and .011. The result was startling! Apparently (at least for this project) the 10’s and 11’s were far better at vibrating than the 9’s. I did not hear any significant difference between 10’s and 11’s, however.
I also read about adding weight to the bridge but heard no change in response.
I am determined to get that wonderful buzz and sustain heard in this youtube video on a modified Weissenborn guitar from Godden Music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtqqML3_35g
Hindustani Slide guitar modification
I am happy to report full responsive buzz on all 12 sympathetic strings, and lively response to my slide melody notes. I made a bridge from clear Plexiglas, but this time, a longer than traditional dimension, almost square. I was able to shape the slope more gradually.
I created a 3-point adjustable aluminum platform (I know, horrors!) inspired by the Coral guitar “buzz bridge.” This way I have been able to make hundreds of micro-adjustments to tilt and angle to find the best alignment without pulling and replacing the bridge every time. Spring-loaded screws adjust each point for height, tilt, and level.
Piezo transducer cemented to the bottom of the aluminum plate. Plexiglas bridge glued to top.
How may I upload photos, please?
I’m also happy to read about your succesful great idea.
I was about to write you that weight, shape, materials, and also many more components do influence the behaviour the sympathetic strings. But, one can easily experiment with the weight, shape and material of the bridge (or the strings) itself. You can also try some more heavy / or lighter strings or add some weight to the jawari. See this article: https://www.sitarfactory.be/2013/dead-notes/ Not only the sound changes, but also the sensitivity to reaction…
Unfortunately, I do not have an automatic service for uploading photos. But you are surely welcome to send me some by mail (or wetransfer or other services…). I can publish then…
I see a strip of photos in a message below. How is that done?
I am continuing to work on my modified acoustic guitar to Hindustani slide. After many weeks of experimentation with jawari bridges from wood, bone, and plastic, I still have much inconsistency. I learned to get good buzz from sympathetic strings, but not all of them. Out of 12, I don’t get good sustain from strings on the edge of the group, 1, 2, 11, 12, for example.
To clarify, I get a good sustain of open jawari when strings they are plucked individually, but not all of them respond sympathetically to melody strings.
I bought a jawari bridge and strung my modified Mohan Veena with .009 strings. I get SOME zing sustain sympathetically, but not much and not on many notes. I have tried micro tilt adjustments forward and back but have not found the sweet spot. Any help is welcome. Robert in Mesa Arizona.
Very difficult to say… Doing open jawari equally on the taravs is not very easy to accomplish.
Can also be that the height of your bridge is ok. Try to fit it some higher. This will increase the pressure somewhat, and thus the open harmonics effect…
Also, the gauge of the thread you will use for eventually tilting the strings can be critical. Try some thicker/thinner threads…
“Put your fingernail on the string and then gently slide with your fingernail perpendicular to the string over the bridge while the string is vibrating. At the point where the bridge becomes open suddenly intense vibrations will be observed.” I have heard a dramatic improvment in sound with this method, but I don’t yet know what to change in the shape of my bridge. May I have some further guidance?
Robert, in your case you should gently start removing some material from that point onwards to the back of the jawari. Like this the overall string will go down. Repeat this until you meet the sound that you,ve experienced with the finger test. After that, you should try to experience the overall curve shape effect. More round will reduce the vibrating effect’s region. More flat will make the sound more closed. In a way a similar effect but the optimal “open” sound will be somewhere in the middle of these two directions. So, best is to try to get some experience on this working on a spare jawari.
oh this is perfect! Thank you, I now have full buzz and sustained zing on all strings! Sha-BOOM! I am delighted!!
I see thread used on the bridge for the main melody strings, but I don’t the them in use for jawari.
Thanks a lot for nice and detailed description of jiwari and ghodi.
I made the ghodi with rosewood and used ebony wood for jiwari. Now the sound which my sitar is producing is very different. Although the quality of sound is very good but very different.
Is it because of rosewood ghodi or jiwari or the combination of both?
If I change the ghodi wood, can I expect a change in sound.
Congratulations with your homemade jawari.
On a sitar, as on every other musical instruments, the final sound is determined by many components.
But a jawari is quite important due to the used materials and it’s special surface profile.
Generally, the hardness and mass contribute much to the brightness. The more hard and light materials make a sound more bright.
So, if you change the ghodi wood towards more soft wood, the sound will become some less bright…
Will it sound deeper if the bridge is in contact at just 4 points in the extreme corners, or if the whole surface is in contact with the tabli?
BTW, this website is AWESOME!!
In this case, only just 4 contact points, the sound will lose high frequency response and thus sound like if there is more bass. But in the first place you will lose a lot of potential energy which will not be transferred to the tabli and thus the overall sound will be muted…
what is the right price to pay for Sitar finetuning – including cleaning, strings, jawari replacement etc etc. many thanks
Madhu, this is difficult to say. Depending on general state of the instrument. Can easily fill up one afternoon or whole day doing full treatment. If really need of jawari replacement (= NEW jawari), then costs will be more high. Also which quality and material to use for the jawari,… etc…
Hi sitar factory,
I just wanted to say thanks for your web site. It gave me the courage to make my own bridge for my sitar which i would never have dreamed i would have been able to do….. anyway I thought i’d share some pictures of it with you. It is made of rosewood, synthetic bone and delrin and has definitely improved the sustain of my sitar (which was already pretty good). I’m not sure if this is just cause i fitted it more carefully or because the bridge is better. But anyway here it is.
Thanks again for the excellent site.
PS Oh yes i also made the tarab bridge (from an old bone tarab bridge i had lying around) by basically just replacing the bridge surface with delrin.
A more systematic approach for doing the jiwari can be found in the book of Manfred M. Junius: “The Sitar”(117 pages), on pages 84-79 Thomas Marcotty describes a step by step method. He divides the bridge in 16 squares with a pencil, and goes on how one can grind the different curves for each string with the help of these squares.He gives special attention to the first playing string, the curve for it on the bridge must be parabolic!On one drawing he shows the different zones on the bridge like on a relief map. I have used this method on several of my Sitars with success! The book is published by Heinrichshofen’s Verlag, Wilhemshaven-Locarno- Amsterdam. (ISBN 3-7959-0173-1) It is written in Englisch, I don’t know if it’s still available, anyway it’s a very interesting book about the Sitar!
merci de vos informations et du site. j’ai récemment changé mon jeu de cordes et remplacé la 4° qui était à l’origine en laiton avec celle de la pochette de jeu qui est en cuivre et du coup celle ci frise en do et moins quand elle est en do dièse. Que puis je faire elle semble un peu plus grosse de diamètre également..?
j’ai vu sur des vidéos, un petite pièce cordée avec un crochet sur la dernière frette, est ce réalisable par moi-même? –
combien coûte un narka? je n’en trouve pas en france
First, let me thank you for sharing the above text.
2nd, and If I’m allowed an opinion: whenever one buys a sitar IN-HOUSE in India (& some other places elsewhere), they will be happy to sell you extra jiwari(/s !!) for the instrument you just purchased, in which case you may also suggest they glue the spare one in place so you get to compare it to the original one: in this case & as suggested on the above article, it is a good idea to have them MARK the jiwari position beforehand.
Extra cuts on jiwari are a good idea, and some people say that an extra [close] cut for the baj string at the targahan may also get the jiwari some extra-life, though some may consider an implied tradeoff: both of these procedures will change string-spacing somewhat.
Does any one know who does Jiwari in Boston area? I play Sitar and it needs Jiwari done. I don’t want to mess up Jiwari by doing it myself.
What do you mean by “detaching” from the tabli ?
Sometimes a jiwari can move away from its original position while playing meend. If this is your problem, you can mount one or two very small bone pins to prevent the jiwari from sliding away while playing meend. (see picture) Sometimes a drop of shellack is applied to the feet in order to fix the jiwari. But, before you remove a jiwari, make sure to be able to put it again in the same position. If needed, mark the feet’s position with a sharp knife on the tabli.
Ordering a new jiwari will not help you because every jiwari has to be adjusted to the instrument on which it is supposed to be mounted. In either way you will have to try to adjust the jiwari yourself (try to understand the guidelines in this article above) or to find someone in your neighbourhood who can help you with that. But you will always need to keep the jiwari and his sitar together.
Hello…Im having trouble with my jawari…I have a Vilayat Khan style sitar made by Nitai in benares, it has like 4 years old and the jawari is opening too much and it is detaching from the tabli too often making me puting a little glue every time it detaches and also every time this happens I have to almost guess where was the jawari positioned in the tabli in the first place… Also ive used up all the slots for the baj string and jori (they are too opened) so its two options or I get a new jawari from nitai in benares that hopefully matches my sitar or I do the job my self…can you help me out here? thank you very much for reading this…
Nico (sitar student from Chile)
I had some questions, can I apply the same workflow on the sitar it’s own ghoraj (bridge), that already includes one instead of making a ghoraj from scratch?, in fact I am looking for an open jawari sound and the Sitar, that I want to buy is Sitar Full Deco Deluxe Monoj Kumar Sardar (Kolka Design) (And it’s a Ravi Shankar Type Sitar)..
And the website, that sells the Sitar says, part of the sound concept was to produce a closed Jawari and also it says If the bridge is not reground, the closed Jawari changes over the years and, due to the abrasion of the strings on the bridge, the sound pattern comes closer to an open Jowari again. This only happens, however, when you play your Sitar intensively and regularly over many years,
so in case If the sound of the Sitar does not match with my desires (if it sounds too closed & almost like a guitar), I’d like to adjust the bridge (but is that is the right thing to do?, because as we start with obtaining a curve on the bridge, does that mean, that we start from scratch (with the self-made ghoraj)?.. But if that’s right, then I go ahead like this)..
So if I can apply the same (as a fine adjustment) method on the (already) obtained curve by following the curve (with sandpaper & file) (if yes,) Should I work on whole curve with these tools to get a more open Jawari sound?, or only the part where the narrowing is (the part where basically the string touches the bridge, up to where the string is threaded through the slot of the bridge)? Or does it (the first step with sanding and filing) not affect the sound of the jawari (for open & closed), maybe is it for the Quality?
And about the finetuning with the scraper, If I want to make the narrowing wider (to get a open jawari sound), does that mean, that I should scrape the part off, where the string lies on the bridge, from the point where the string starts to touch the bridge? And to prevent the bridge from sliding away from the Tabli, is the shellac enough?, and if not, where should I mount the small bone pins?, is it meant for the left & right side of the bridge?
Yes, with time the sound of your ghodi changes. The more intensely you play, the faster. But this process is in fact very slow depending on the quality of the ghodi. It is better to do jawari regularly to maintain the sound you prefer.
If you prefer an open sound on that sitar, you should adjust the curve of the surface as described in the article.
A self-made ghodi is very interesting to get the necessary experience with. I would not recommend immediately doing jawari on your new sitar if you have no experience.
It is usually sufficient to concentrate on the part where the surface starts to open in relation to the string. You can use a file and sandpaper to work on the entire surface. A scraper is used to treat a local area, one string at a time, but only if necessary.
Normally a few drops of shellac should be sufficient to keep your bridge in place. If this doesn’t work, you can put a couple of pins against the leg, only along the side that the bridge moves…
You have done a very good job. I have also written a book on Acoustic Principled behind Pleasing timber of Sitar and tried to reveal the individual properties of each copmponent of sitar.
Also read this post “Jora tar tuning problem” about different behaviour of steel strings on the jiwari’s surface.
Watch this early video about Hari Chand doing jiwari. Click on the photo :
Look at this fine jiwari, made by Stephane Nguyen. Padouk feet with ebony jiwari. Note the two tiny bone pins to prevent the jiwari from slipping away while playing meend…