Since the good old stagghorn becomes more and more rare, we are in constant seek for a valid alternative. One of the contenders is the black buffalo horn. Buffalo horn plates are used as material for engraving, for pocket knives, tang blades and japanese cooking knives. The plates are partially covered by bright, natural growth patterns and after polishing it becomes shiny and very durable. The sound is something between stagghorn and ebony. Dense, clear and very warm. Very promising !!
I’ve made a complete new hardware set out of black buffalo horn for my SAS-01 semi-acoustic sitar: ghoraj (main bridge), langoot (tail mount), mogara (cikari posts) and patri (neck bridge). And it looks good !! Click the pictures for fancy-zoom. 🙂
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.
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 ??
As every year when I am in Delhi, our dear Swedish friend Hans (Hasse) came to visit me -and this time also my new sitar- in Hari Chands sitar shop. Hans is living half of the year in India and the other half in his house on Gotland. He plays sitar and guitar in many Indian and western bands. Amongst them is Parikrama, a famous rock band from New Delhi.
PlayListen to Hans playing raga Bairagi
at the entrance door of the shop.
It became a nice and realistic soundscape with live Paharganj streetnoise. For Hans it was the first time in months he touched a sitar. Considering this I think he is doing very well on a brandnew 24 parda sitar. The rich and warm sound and easy playability inspired him at once to improvise on Bairagi in the middle of the hectic New Delhi ambiance. Shame on us and sorry for you that we didn’t notice the laraj was a bit out of tune…
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.
From monday 2/03/2009 till 12/03/2009 I will be in New Delhi, India with one of my new sitars. I will be visiting my best friend and sitarmaker Hari Chand to whom I want to show my new style sitars. But since I cannot take them all with me, I ‘ve choosen the SAS-02 “Jazz Sitar light” to go on this journey. I ‘ve also bought a tiny red but overall good sounding portable guitar amp MicroCUBE from Roland. Here is my sitar travel set:
If you are interested in exploring this sitar in India, you are always welcome to visit Hari Chand and me in his sitar shop in New Delhi. Adress: 9050, Gali N°1, Multani Dhanda, Paharganj, New Delhi 110055.
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.
Many sitars suffer from an improper intonation. Mostly affected are jora and laraj kharaj strings. If you are lucky you should be able to play comfortable on the first couple of frets only. After this, immediately pulling meend to correct the tone becomes a must. It is almost a part of the advanced sitar learning process…!!?
On my electric sitars only steel strings are used. Bronze flatwounded strings for laraj & kharaj and plain steel strings for jora. And this thick steel jora again causes some weird troubles. The intonation is far from correct and has this strange behaviour that the tone is too high rather than too low. This means that pulling meend to correct the difference is extra complex. One can only play a higher note on the particular parda…!!
The solution is to shorten the jora string. This is done by adding an intonation block to the tar daan under the jora. This block needs to be made at a particular lenght. My good friend and fine sitarplayer Bert Cornelis helped me to tune the sitars very accurately. Then we temporarily fixed a small piece of bone under the string to immitate the intonation block and as such we were able to measure its desired lenght. SAS-01 needs 10mm of intonation block lenght, SAS-02 only 6mm and SBS-02 12mm.
Day 68 & 69: The intonation block on the SBS-02 and SAS-02 is made out of a piece of extra hard and strong indian rosewood. The block is inserted into the tar daan and is armed with a short pin into the head to make sure it will not become loose when playing meend on the jora.
On the SAS-01 a small piece of stagg horn is used. It is also armed with a steel pin into the head’s wood. Now these sitars are very comfortable playing on the jora without hardly any correction up to reaching the middle SA parda.
Finaly, the third new sitar SAS-02 is also ready. The same Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup, made by Kent Armstrong, as with the SAS-01, Jazz Sitar is used. The only difference with SAS-01 is that on this sitar the taravs and taravbar are not installed. So, I call it the Jazz Sitar “light”…
Day 63: Removing the hardware to be able to finish the body: Sanding with grid 240 & 400 followed by 2 x pumice powder treatment, which is applied with alcohol and shellack. Ultimate finish counts 4 layers of Danish oil subsequently rubbed with 000 steel wool and drying periods during the following days. Continue reading →