If you are unfamiliar with Sitar, then here is a brief history lesson on the instrument. Now that you are caught up, lets look at the schematics of what the parts are in greater detail:
Bada Ghoraj – The main bridge. Traditionally, this is made from animal bone or, more recently, ebony or Delrin. The feet are usually made of wood. The strings, particularly the baj tar, will wear away the surface of the bridge, or jawari, requiring the occasional work to bring back the proper sound. Jawari is a difficult art, and masters are well-respected.
Baj Tar – The main playing string. It is set about halfway in the middle of the neck to facilitate mends, or bending, which is the primary technique used in sitar music to imitate the human voice.
Baj Tar Kunti – The main string tuning peg.
Chikari Kunti – The chickari string tuning pegs. These are usually the same size and shape as the main string tuning pegs.
Chikari Mogara – These are the small posts which hold up the chikari strings.
Chikari Tar – These are the chikari strings. Strung up very close to each other in a group of three and played as a group, their primary purpose is for droning. There are various strumming patterns used which, when alternated with the baj tar, allow for complex rhythmic figures to be played.
Chota Ghoraj – The sympathetic string bridge.
Dandi – The neck of the sitar. It is hollow, and contributes somewhat to the sound of the sitar as sound can resonate through it. Traditional sitar necks are usually made from a single piece of teak or tun wood, which makes it prone to twisting and warpage over time. Because of the hollow structure of the neck, a truss rod cannot be installed, unlike a guitar. Neglect of the dandi or extreme changes in the weather can lead to the sitar becoming unplayable.
Kadu Ka Tumba – The body of the sitar. Traditionally made from a large dried gourd. They are usually extremely fragile, and great care must be taken to protect it from being struck or dropped.
Kunti – The tuning pegs. Usually made from spun wood, they are traditionally tension-held, making them prone to slippage.
Lakadi Ka Tumba – The upper tumba or resonating chamber. Made from another gourd, the purpose of it is to add volume and resonance. Not all sitar makers or sitarists use the upper tumba.
Langot – This is the tailpiece which protects the main body from where the strings are tied on. This adds reinforcement to the body in order to better handle the extreme tension from all of the sitar strings.
Meru – The nut
Parda – The frets of the sitar. They are curved in order to sit above the neck and sympathetic strings, and make it easier to bend the strings across them. They are usually tied onto the neck with strong string, which allows them to slide up and down the neck for different tunings.
Tabli – The main soundboard of the sitar. Along with the jawari, this piece has the biggest effect on the sound. Traditionally they are made from a thick piece of tun or teak wood.
Tar – A sitar string.
Tar Gahan – The string guide which aligns the main strings for feeding into the sitar nut.
Taraf Tar Kunti – The sitar’s sympathetic tuning pegs.
Taraf Mogara – The dandi’s protective grommets for the sympathetic strings.
Taraf Tar – The sitar’s sympathetic strings. These are usually tuned to the notes of a raga, and begin to vibrate sympathetically whenever that string’s pitch is played. These give the sitar its distinctive reverberated and resonant sound.
Tardani Mogara – The tailpiece posts which hold the loop-end of the strings.
Seems like a lot of parts for a complex instrument. And you know what? There are. Since we had never worked on a sitar before, both me and Rich really put our heads together on how to properly restring and setup this beast. In the end, Rich overcame the insane tuning setup for this instrument and its intonation. It did take several hours at a time to complete it. Christian was extremely stoked that this turned out great and was able to get strumming right away once some fine tuning was done (10-15 minutes). We hope you enjoyed seeing a really unique ethnic instrument. As always play well and play on!
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this article is NOT a “how to” of setting up a sitar. We are merely showing you what we went through so you know what to expect on a sitar as it is a very complex instrument.