Sitar | The Mystical Stringed Instrument From India
The Sitar is an odd-looking instrument, resembling something that you would get from crossing a guitar with a contrabass. With a usual height of around 1.2 meters, pear-shaped body and a long, wide and hollow wooden neck, it looks like something a mad scientist would create.
But its interesting and exquisite appearance, is not the only mesmerizing aspect of this instrument. The sounds, which the Sitar creates are unlike those of any other instrument..
What is a Sitar
The Sitar is a part of the Lute family of instruments, which refers to all instruments, which are plucked when played and have strings that run parallel with the neck of the instrument and have a deep round back.
The Sitar typically measures about 1.2 meters in length, with a wide neck and a pear-shaped body. A Sitar can have 18, 19, 20 or 21 strings. I know, that is quite a lot of strings. However, (only) six or seven of these strings are played, and these strings run across curved, raised frets. The remainder of the strings run underneath the frets and work as sympathetic strings. Sympathetic strings are found in many Indian musical instruments and are very seldom actually played by the performer, but rather indirectly by resonating the tones from the main strings. Some describe the effect that this string structure has, as Natural Reverb. It is possible to go underneath the main strings and play the sympathetic strings, but this is usually not done.
The video down below demonstrates the structure of the Sitar strings and the effect of the sympathetic strings:
It is this natural reverb that makes the Sitar sound so special and gives it the “buzzy” aspect.
The Sitar has two bridges, where a guitar only has one. A bridge in subject musical instrument, is a device, which supports the strings of an instrument and transmits the vibrations of these strings to another part of the instrument. If you look below you will see that bridge of a Cello.
The larger bridge of the two is called the Badaa Goraa and supports the main playing strings of the Sitar. The smaller bridge, the Chota Goraa is used for supporting the sympathetic strings.
The neck of the Sitar as well as the faceplate, are made of a variation mahogany, while the resonating chambers are made of a material called Calabash Gourds. The two bridges are usually made of deer horn, ebony or camel bone (this is seldom!). However, as with every other instrument, which originally was made with such authentic materials, the modern times have made them more affordable and they are now made with a wide variety of materials.
Sitar History – Sitar India
Not only is the Sitar interesting in its appearance and sound, but it also has an intriguing history. The earliest origins of the Sitar can be hard to determine. There are quite several theories, which with some investigation can be disproven. And a general lack of information from these theories, raise the question whether or not the instrument discussed, in fact is a Sitar as we know it today. The Sitar is such a complex instrument, that it would at times be hard to believe some of the theories, which state that the Sitar originates from around the year 1300 AD.
Even though the earliest mentions of the Sitar are not 100% accurate, the version of the instrument, which we know today was most likely developed in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent in the end of the Mughal Era. The Mughal empire also known as the Mogul, was an empire in the Indian subcontinent, which was an absolute monarchy, unitary state with federal structure.
The beginning of this empire is said to be after The First Battle of Panipat, which took place in the year of 1526. The Sitar is said to have been invented in the 18th century by a fakir named Amir Khusru, with inspiration from the Persian Lutes, which were played in the Morgul courts for hundreds of years.
The Sitar has for a long time been the backbone in music throughout the period of the Indian subcontinent. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Sitar saw a great increase in interest in western countries, when the Sitar was presented to them by a man by name of Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar was by many titled the Pandit (meaning Master) and was an Indian musician and composer. In 1956 he started touring Europe and the United States, where he performed Indian Classical music. This resulted in a great interest in this alien-looking instrument and world renowned bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Doors all have used the Sitar on some of their tracks.
Due to the Sitars size, it has to balance between a player’s foot and opposite knee. The strings are plucked using a metallic pick or plectrum, which is called a Mezrab and is used in several Iranian and Indian string instruments.
It has, as mentioned, been used in classical Indian music for a very long time. However, with the growing popularity in western countries, the Sitar has been included in a lot of music, which the western countries define as modern.
There is also a great interest in the Sitar in meditation music. Down below you can see some of the uses the Sitar has in music. The first video is the beautiful works of Anoushka Shankar, which has gotten over 7 million views on YouTube. The second video is The Beatles with the song “Within You Without You“, notice the Sitar used in the intro. Lastly there is a meditation video featuring a Sitar, take a minute to indulge in the soothing sounds.
Buy Sitar Online
The Sitar can be bought many places online. There are many websites that specifically sell Sitar, such as:
An alternative place to acquire a Sitar is of course Amazon. They sells a wide variety and they can be found in different price categories
Down below you can find various Sitar from Amazon, increasing in price from left to right:
(Keep in mind that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase via those, the website gets a small portion of the sale, which will help greatly in keeping it running).