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:PlayPA-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
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… until 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
Inspired by the white sitar mod i’ve painted this tanpurabody also in white using Bio Pin™ waterbased organic white paint and Colortone™ high gloss waterbased finish. The patri, jawari and mankas are all made from Elforyn™, a modern synthetic ivory substitute. So also this one became a real “organic & vegan” instrument,… 100% suitable for vegetarians… 🙂 … and she looks very neat too.
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…
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 out of 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)
Another young and dedicated Ashok Pathak sishya came to me with this old Hiren Roy sitar. The question came up again: Can you add an extra cikari string to this precious vintage sitar in order to meet the Balaram Pathak Garana style specifications?Since I am not so much in favour of starting to drill holes in old and valuable instruments, I decided to introduce an alternative way. Just as I did before with an old and beautiful Kartar Chand surbahar, I proposed to use the first tarav kuti to mount the 4th cikari string (high SA). This sitar came with 13 tarav strings. So then now 12 are left, which finally should be a good compromise…?
Doing so, the workflow is highly reduced to the making and installing of a new cikari pin which can hold 2 cikari strings & re-organising the existing cikari string positions and adding an extra cikari string slide on the jiwari. Also the original last cikari string post (high SA) has to be replaced by a new pin.
Adding an extra cikari string to this old Kartar Chand surbahar to meet the Balaram Pathak Garana style requirements.
No new cikari kuti will be installed because of the surbahar neck construction. The imposant surbahar’s head is jointed to the neck. Therefore it is not obvious to drill an extra hole through this construction. But the solution is very simple: The first tarav kuti becomes the last cikari kuti. Since this kuti can hold every kind of string, there is no need for creating another new cikari kuti. I simply removed the first tarav string, drilled a hole in the outer kuti’s region and mounted the last cikari string to it. Optionally, later, i can always install an extra tarav kuti on the utter last position to regain the original tarav strings number.
On this instrument we have been re-directing the first (SA) cikari string under the patri. This results in an increased playing comfort concerning the Laraj Kharaj strings: no more incidental touching of the first cikari string while playing meend on the Laraj Kharaj strings.
This mod is then completed by adding an extra cikari slide on the jiwari, re-organising the cikari slide positions on the jiwari, adding an extra cikari pin and finally installing the strings itself.
The cikaris tuning is according to the raga specifications, but combinations like f.ex. Sa Dha Pa Pa do sound very nice.
Also on this surbahar, i mounted a new Kharaj string from German’s famous string maker Pyramid Strings. It is a nickel flatwound on steel .046w (1.22mm diameter). Superb string. Unheard long and deep sustain while playing meend, unrivalled tuning-stable, very soft and warm, deep bass sound. A real joy for player and listener…
On a special demand from a young and dedicated Ashok Pathak sishya I’ve been adding an extra cikari string to his Rikhi Ram sitar in order to meet the Pathak Garana style specifications.
Here is the workflow: 1) Selecting and preparing a new kuti. 2) Marking and drilling the holes. 3) Fine tuning and fitting the new kuti. 4) Re-organising the existing cikari string positions and adding an extra cikari string slide on the jiwari.
5) Making and installing a new cikari pin which can hold 2 cikari strings. 6) Installing the string.
The general 4 cikari tuning is Pa Sa Sa Sa, but this can alter according to the raga you’ll play.