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Ravi Shankar Style
Vilayat Khan Style
CONSTRUCTION AND MATERIALS OF THE SITAR
The Sitar is the most popular melody instrument in classical
northern Indian music today and is, together with the
Surbahar and the Tanpura, part of the family of long-neck
lutes. The large resonance box is made of a dried pumpkin;
- neck, cover and a possible second smaller resonance
box are mostly made of Tun wood, an Indian variety of
teakwood. Metal strings made of steel (bass strings also
of brass or bronze) run across two bridges made of bone.
The frets are movable by cords that are tied to the neck
and are also made of steel. Depending on the special features
of the Sitar (full decoration, plain decoration or Sitars
in Vilyat Khan style) it is more or less lavishly decorated
with inlaid work of celluloid.
TWO SITAR CATEGORIES: RAVI SHANKAR STYLE AND VILAYAT
The Sitars that are being made nowadays can be divided
into two main categories. One group complies with the
so-called "Ravi Shankar Style" (Kharaj-Pancham)
in construction and features, the other group orientates
itself to the Vilayat Khan Style. On both forms of Sitars,
different musical styles are played. Sitars in the Ravi
Shankar style usually have 2 resonance boxes, 13 sympathetic
resonant strings and 7 playing strings. 4 of the 7 playing
strings are played as melody strings and comprise 4 octaves.
Sitars in the"Vilayat Khan Style" (Gandhar-Pancham)
have only one resonance box on principle.There are 11
sympathetic resonant strings and 6 playing strings, 2
of which are played as melody strings over a range of
three octaves. The design is unsophisticated and decorations
and inlays are sparse.
DIFFERENT TUNING POSSIBILITIES OF THE SIITAR
The central element in tuning a Sitar is the keynote which
can be selected individually and is usually between c
and d, often c sharp, depending on the desired sound pattern.
Tuning in Ravi Shankar style (Kharaj-Pancham):
2nd string (Jure) - tuning to the keynote
4th string (Kharaj) - tuning an octave lower than the
6th string (Chikari) - tuning an octave higher than the
7th string (Chikari) - tuning two octaves higher than
5th string (Pancham-Chikari) - is the fifth over the keynote
3th string (Pancham) - is the fifth in the lower octave
1st string is the main playing string (Baj) and is tuned
to the fourth
if you have chosen c sharp as the keynote, the following
tuning results: f sharp, c sharp, G sharp, C sharp, g
sharp, c' sharp, c'' sharp.
sympathetic resonating strings (Taraf) are tuned to the
applied scale. The longest resonating string is tuned
to the keynote and then you tune from the lower seventh
upwards to the high third. An especially important note
in the middle octave can be tuned twice.
Tuning in Vilayat Khan style (Gandhar-Pancham)
first two strings are tuned exactly as in Kharaj-Pancham
style (see above), neither is there a difference for the
two Chikari and the Pancham-Chikari strings. Instead of
the two low melody strings Pancham and Kharaj, however,
in Gandhar-Pancham-Sitars only one additional Chikari
steel string is used. This string is tuned either to the
big or small third. Thus the complete tuning of the playin
strings with c sharp as keynote looks like this: f sharp,
c sharp, f, g sharp, c' sharp, c'' sharp. For the resonant
strings the tuning usually starts with the seventh and
then goes up the scale to the third in the high octave.
As standard tuning for a Kharaj-Pancham Sitar (see above)
the following strings can be used:
1st 0,30 mm steel
2nd 0,40 mm bronze
3rd 0,55 mm bronze
4th 0,85 mm brass
5th 0,27 mm steel
6th/7th & taraf 0,22 mm steel
These (and other) strings can be ordered from TARANG either
as a complete set or individually or on rolls.
THE PLAYING TECHNIQUE
Both, the Sitar and the Surbahar are played in a sitting
position on the floor. The pumpkin body rests upon the
musician's foot and the instrument is held in a way that
the neck is in a slanted position of about 45 degrees
in front of the player. The playing strings that run across
the large bridge are plucked using a wire finger pick
on the right index finger. The resonant strings that run
across the small bridge vibrate automatically without
being plucked. The left hand fingers the melody on the
frets. The strings are not only pressed down on the frets
but also pulled sideways. This technique makes the unbelievable
variety of ornamentation and microtones possible that
is so essential in Indian music.
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