SAROD - The big question thread

All things pertaining to the sarod.

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SAROD - The big question thread

Postby Xianzai » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:11 pm

Hello, everyone.

As a semi-new player of this fantastic instrument, I feel that there is a large hole to be filled when it comes to information about the instrument. Obviously, this is largely because I am not involved in a community that focuses on ICM. I live in Sweden, Europe, and would love to learn this instrument properly. I play several other instruments, and would like to believe I am a "semi-pro". But to delve into this instrument, as a beginner; it is tough. Compared to the repertoire the sitar has when it comes to gentle newbies to the instrument, it seems that there is less from the sarod community. With so many questions on your mind when starting to play, you begin to wonder where you can turn.

I own McNeils "Inventing the sarod" and the "Classical Music of North India the First Years of Study" from the great Ali Akbar Khan, and neither adresses/or focuses on the technical aspects of playing the sarod. I was hoping this thread could serve as a FAQ of sorts, for everyone who has any question regarding the instrument and how it is played. I realize to some of you this may seem trivial, but please keep in mind, that I am a beginner wishes to learn as much as possible about the instrument while living very, very far away from India. Not everyone can have a guru teach them, even if they really, really, really would like to be in that spot.

Please, everyone, share your questions, opinions and facts that can contribute to the pool of knowledge we can all utilize!

VIDEO: From "plectrum" at the SAROD TUNING thread: ... ncert.html

This is an excellent video where Alam Khan demonstrates the form of the raag. It is interactive, so you can click around to have small videos show you how to tune the tablas, the sarod, etc. An absolutely fantastic resource that I am really glad they made.

To start off the thread,

1) Concerning fingerings; I know there are several schools. I have heard you should use your third finger (of the left hand) on the Ga and Dha, for instance. This seems very akward to me, and most of the time it seems players primarily use their index-finger to properly play mends anyway. So why is this important?

2) When it comes to action (height of strings on the fretboard), are all sarods the same height? Would it be very difficult to lower the strings? I suspect you would need to file the bridge, has anyone done this successfully? Does more expensive instruments, like the Hemen sarods, have a better setup than the "unknown" ones (generally speaking)?

3) If the tuning pegs on the sarod are loose, what would be the best way to fix them to be more stable? Would applying some glue help?

4) This one is pretty important to me. With regards to fingernails; I see that there are alot of differences with several players. I've seen pictures and videos of players with very, very long nails, to some of my favourites, who appear to have short nails (Ali Akbar Khan, Amjad Ali Khan). To have long nails for me is a problem, since I play several other instruments. I suppose one could say that, "You need to focus on one instrument," "You need to make a choice". But if I have to choose, the sarod will go, so I have to be able to make a compromise somehow. Fake fingernails just seems wrong; I'd much rather play with short nails than fake nails.

How long nails do you really need to play sarod well? Can become a decent player with relatively short fingernails? What is your preference regarding this, and why?

5) How often should one change strings and skin? Will having very old strings leave a noticable effect in terms of sustain on the instrument? What are the effects of having an old skin on a sarod?

6) What are a couple of technical excercises you can do to get a better handling of the instruments? When you started out playing, how did you get better? If you could be slightly specfic, it would really help.

7) As a beginner, who has very little knowledge of what a raga really is, where can one start to get a better theoretical overview of the raags? I suspect the Ali A. Khan-book would be a decent start, but I haven't got it at hand at the moment.

I realize this is alot of questions, and alot to ask. But if anyone of you would please answer some of the questions to your best ability, I believe it would be a great help to the community, aswell as to me personally, ofcourse. We all do this because we love the music from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you very much for your time.



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Re: SAROD - The big question thread

Postby Jhaptal » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:59 pm

Hello Xianzai,
Most, if not all these questions have been asked and answered in some depth in various posts on this forum. May I suggest that you spend a little time familiarizing yourself with these posts and should you need further clarification on something then I'll do my best to answer them. I would suggest first and foremost that if you do have access to Khansahib's book, make a point of reading all of it. Between that and existing posts on this board I believe you will get answers to all of your questions.
Best of luck.

sayak barua
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Re: SAROD - The big question thread

Postby sayak barua » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:11 pm

hello xianzai,

your questions are basic.and it's good.basic in the sense that the things you have mentioned must have always crossed every sarod players mind.good in the sense that it reflects your intensity and involvement with the instrument.
point wise i would state what i feel.

1.using of 3rd finger for natural re and dha is used in a particular gharana.though when playing meends they use 1st fingers.usage of third finger enhances the staccato form when playing fast passages which are devoid of meends.and in the case of meends u can or should try to practice with all the fingers.i.e. a meend from re to ga should be practiced using all the fingers.this practice helps in the long run and to manage yourself when u r in a tricky technical situation when playing.the more usage of fingers when playing fast passages the less effort is required,but initially this seems not the case.
2.not all sarodes r of same size in whatever aspect.this is one great problem/uniqueness of Indian instruments.i play a Hemen Sen sarode but the height of the strings from the bridge was a little bit more than usual which was responsible for less sustenance of notes and subsequently greater effort on both hands.i filed the bridge on skin and lowered the bridge at the other end with pro help.never attempted myself.hemen sarodes r surely great.but others too r coming up thick and fast which is good.
3.if tuning pegs r loose u should better change them.
4.i prefer short nails and also use the finger creates a soft and mellow sound.using only nail has a different effect.u dont need very long nails but u need nails that are not brittle either.u need to file them properly.
5.whole set of strings should be changed within 1 changing depends....maybe 1 year and half.yes,old strings does have a bad effect on the instrument. for exercises....well which school of playing u r following has to sorted out first.
7.true understanding of a raaga should be taken from a guru.books only act as references.indian music is a mouth to ear training.books and scriptures only help as support accessories.i too have the A.A.k by George Ruckertt and it's the best i have come across.
i hope i have been of some help.

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Re: SAROD - The big question thread

Postby Finn » Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:03 pm


it seems like you and I are in the same position! I live in Norway, and you in Sweden. I guess we are the only Scandinavians playing this instrument!.. :D Where in Sweden do you come from? Do you know of any teachers in Sweden? I might go to Sweden to be taught if that is possible. I used the search function, it's pretty easy to find the topics you are asking about. I.e. fingernails will give lots of results on Google. Also, I would like to recommend Arnab (he posts on these forums alot) at if you haven't already started taking lessons with him. I had one lesson today over Skype and it was alot of fun.

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Regarding loose pegs

Postby plectum » Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:36 am

Firstly, DO NOT APPLY GLUE OR ANY OTHER CHEMICALS. Your sarod will be damaged.
For loose pegs here is what I do.
1. Take out the loose peg from the peghole. Gently turn the peg so that the string is loosened, while tugging it out slightly and the peg should come out.
2. You will see that that surface of the peg has become very smooth and shiny, almost as if it has been varnished. Since the surface has become so smooth, no friction is generated and the peg becomes loose easily. Take a piece of the finest grade of sandpaper and slowly rub the surface of the peg, going along the long axis of the peg. Generally giving 5-6 times wipes on any particular place is enough. You have to create a slight roughness, so that the shininess is no longer there. That should do it. Do not overdo the rubbing with sandpaper thing.
3. Wipe the peg with a clean cloth and then rub chalk on the surface. In India, I apply blackboard chalk, but it seems in other places they add things like wax to the chalk. In that case you have to select a chalk free of any additives. I should repeat, any unwanted chemical might damage the peg.
4. Now push the peg down in the peghole. While tuning your instrument you have to always apply a slight pressure pushing the peg into the peghole. This way the peg will not get loose.

Hope this helps.
You know, music, art - these are not just little decorations to make life prettier. They're very deep necessities which people cannot live without. ~~ Pablo Picasso

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Re: SAROD - The big question thread

Postby aparajit » Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:18 am

I have written several posts over here which address quite a few things asked here. I will look through all questions and answer them the best I can within the next 2 or 3 days. I also intend to write a detailed article on the plectrum (jaba) holding position and the mechanical advantages of one style over another, etc.


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Re: SAROD - The big question thread

Postby aparajit » Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:28 am

One exercise for improving fingering and technique -

BTW, on this video, I am playing a different sarod than my usual one and the strings are closer together. At one point in time, I deliberately make my Ra stroke stronger than the Da stroke in this particular diri exercise.

The video starts and ends in the middle of a single aaroh run so it is confusing to understand ....but here is the pattern


and so on.

The other thing is that in a good diri run, the time lapse between the di and the ri on one diri and the ri of the first diri and the di of the next diri should all be equal as should the volume on each note. In this particular video, if you hear carefully, you will notice that the distance between the ri of the first diri and the di of the next diri is larger (more time) than the distance between di and the next consecutive ri of a given diri stroke. This is because the strings are closer together on this sarod than what I am used to. This phenomenon is also btw the opposite of what you hear from most players.

BTW, this video is from my first practice session after several years due to trigger finger issues.

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Re: SAROD - The big question thread

Postby periklistsoukalas » Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:13 pm

As for the pegs i use chalk IN COMBINATION with soap.
Chalk will make your pegs stable and soap will help slip. So the good combination of these two will make your pegs tuning better than even gear pegs with stability and easy to use.

Usually it takes a choke around the peg and just one line of soap through the peg in the part where the peg enters the pegbox.

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