Materials about surbahar technique

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StVitus
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Materials about surbahar technique

Post by StVitus » Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:50 am

Surbahars.com has the following to say about surbahar technique:
I only know of two basic different techniques between sitar and surbahar.
When playing the chickari strings surbahar players may prefer to use the 4th finger rather than the mizrab.
It is common to use both the 1st and 2nd fingers of the left-hand together particularly for meend in an Alap section. I have also seen references to the use of two mizrabs, the second on the 4th finger.
Of course this is what I have been taught and neither of these modifications to playing technique are essential.
Is that all there is to it? Are there any DVDs or books that describe and/or explain surbahar technique in English? Should I read up on Rudra Veena technique instead?

barend
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by barend » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:38 am

The above quote is correct. There are essentially two surbahar styles:
The Dhrupad style: Pushpraj Koshsti is an example (one of the few). He plays with both his index finger and middle finger of his right hand and also the pinky for the chikaris. This technique is coming from Rudra veena as far as I know. Check this video around 8:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J39zQPHsTuE

He is also using the third finger of his left hand for meends. Kushal Das also uses his left hand third finger a lot on surbahar.

Then you have the sitar style: Most others play that way. Imrat Khan being the most well known. It is just regular sitar technique translated to surbahar as far as I can tell.

What I wonder is how long the transition/adjusting time is from sitar to surbahar. Does it take long? or is relatively easy to learn if you already play sitar for a long time? I think if you use the sitar style surbahar technique it shouldn't take you too long to adjust. But I have only played on a surbahar once for a short time.

Curious what others have to say who made the transition from sitar to surbahar.

StVitus
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by StVitus » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:33 pm

Thanks for the video. I’ll let you know about the transition after mine has strings on it and I’ve played it a bit. I’ve had little trouble going from guitar to bass and guitar to sitar. So I expect the hardest part of surbahar to be learning to balance it.

Regarding the third finger, I’ve noticed the same thing with Kushal Das’ playing. I’ve also watched some Mita Nag videos this week and noticed that she will slip in third finger techniques on sitar. It seems like she does it to avoid rushing her fretting—she seems determined to stay cool and collected when she’s playing.

barend
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by barend » Sun Jan 29, 2017 10:56 pm

StVitus wrote: Regarding the third finger, I’ve noticed the same thing with Kushal Das’ playing. I’ve also watched some Mita Nag videos this week and noticed that she will slip in third finger techniques on sitar.
Yes it is not uncommon on sitar. Check Anoushka Shankar. She is using the 3rd finger all over the place. Also Ravi Shankar. What is different with Pushpraj Koshti and Kusal Das is that they also use it for meends. Pushpraj Koshti is holding the 2nd and 3rd finger together to do meends on the low strings for example.

He is also using a cool technique where he replaces different fingers on the same fret when doing downwards meends while holding the same note. Never saw that before with other players. I tried it yesterday and I can do it but I don't totally get the benefits or the reason why he is doing that (?).

barend
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by barend » Sun Feb 05, 2017 5:22 pm

No surbahar lovers here?

jaysitar22
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by jaysitar22 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:22 am

Congrats on your Surbahar! I think more than anything Surbahar is a different mindset than sitar, it is really designed for Alap, It is introspective first and foremost. Meend is king on Surbahar, you can practice all the sitar stuff but use as much meend and sustain as possible. Use the sitar compositions and exercises to program your reflexes to form an improvised Alap, Jor, & Jhala, in a given Raag.

Technique wise you can just play it like a big sitar, but depending on your approach you can use 2 mizrabs and pinky on chicari like on rudra veena.

If you listen to Ravi Shankar alaps, he plays the sitar like a small surbahar in a quasi-dhrupad style, if you get software where you can slow down, loop and change the pitch of recordings to match your Sa ,you can use those recordings as study material.

Also, maybe the headstock feels heavy because you have it below the balance point? Try raising the angle until it feels weightless? Or experiment sitting on a pillow and adjust the angle, or try the surb on a pillow and adjust the angle. I guess experiment until you find what works. Or the foot on the surb could be in the wrong spot.
"If a man follows the mind given him and makes it his teacher, then who can be without a teacher?"
“To be truly ignorant, be content with your own knowledge.”
-Chuang Tzu

StVitus
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by StVitus » Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:33 pm

jaysitar22 wrote:Congrats on your Surbahar! I think more than anything Surbahar is a different mindset than sitar, it is really designed for Alap, It is introspective first and foremost. Meend is king on Surbahar, you can practice all the sitar stuff but use as much meend and sustain as possible. Use the sitar compositions and exercises to program your reflexes to form an improvised Alap, Jor, & Jhala, in a given Raag.
I love being able to do slow, big meends on this instrument!

Is it safe to bend more than a half step with the second string on a surbahar? Or will it break like on a sitar?
jaysitar22 wrote:Technique wise you can just play it like a big sitar, but depending on your approach you can use 2 mizrabs and pinky on chicari like on rudra veena.
I’ve seen this described differently in different sources. Is the point to use a mizrab on both of the first to fingers to pluck harder? And/or to use a mizrab on the pinky to avoid having to swing the big fingers so far?
jaysitar22 wrote:If you listen to Ravi Shankar alaps, he plays the sitar like a small surbahar in a quasi-dhrupad style, if you get software where you can slow down, loop and change the pitch of recordings to match your Sa ,you can use those recordings as study material.
Good suggestion! Right now I’m mostly listening Bahauddin and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar for dhrupad style playing.
jaysitar22 wrote:Also, maybe the headstock feels heavy because you have it below the balance point? Try raising the angle until it feels weightless? Or experiment sitting on a pillow and adjust the angle, or try the surb on a pillow and adjust the angle. I guess experiment until you find what works. Or the foot on the surb could be in the wrong spot.
I think the problem is the design of the foot. This has a bird-shaped foot, and foot is pointy enough that it dips into the carpet much more than the tumba. This makes sense—thick padded carpet isn’t common in India! I’m probably going to order a case from GS Musicals, so I’ll see if they can send me the simple foot they use. I may also just do a 3D scan this one and design something different to be 3D printed.

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:18 am

I’ve seen this described differently in different sources. Is the point to use a mizrab on both of the first to fingers to pluck harder?
I think this is mostly a school of thought thing, and ultimately dependent on the sound you want. With the veena technique, you can use either bare fingers, 2 mizrabs playing veena style plus one for chik if you want, or just one mizrab sitar style.

From the little experience I have had with surbahar, the bare fingers give a richer tone, but I imagine they will never be as loud as one of the mizrab approaches. However, that is just my surface value observation.

For the three mizrab style, see if you can find any recordings of Mushtaq Ali Khan. More available are recordings by his student Steven Landsberg. Also some good reading about surbahar tradition and its state in the contemporary raga world on his website: www.ragascape.com

Also, a note on Pushparaj Koshti, while he may sometimes use the veena technique, from what I hear he often uses sitar one-mizrab technique, and maybe even more-so these days, as a quick survey of youtube videos out there typically show him playing like this. See here for an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuwhAGlS0-E
Is it safe to bend more than a half step with the second string on a surbahar? Or will it break like on a sitar?
I have been told that the second string situation is similar to sitar, unfortunately! On the sitar, at least, I've been bending from the third string to get those notes. The jawari starts to go a bit up there, but still gets the job done. Imagine this is also be possible on surbahar.
No surbahar lovers here?
Checking in here! Been admiring from afar for the last 10 years, and looking forward to finally having one of my own this summer. Had my first experience playing one over the summer and it was wonderful.

Going back to the OP, though - StVitus - I don't know about too much surbahar instructional material out there, though I imagine it is scant. I hear Jeff Lewis gives great lessons over Skype, though, so you might look him up. You would likely learn the veena technique without mizrabs, from what I hear.

StVitus
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by StVitus » Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:03 am

CheesecakeTomek wrote:From the little experience I have had with surbahar, the bare fingers give a richer tone, but I imagine they will never be as loud as one of the mizrab approaches. However, that is just my surface value observation.
:o :o :o I just tried playing with bare fingers like a bass. That sounds amazing. A little quieter, but still louder than a sitar.

I’m having the time of my life with this $400 Craigslist junker. Now I just need the money to buy a great one from Lars.

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:20 am

hey- if it sounds good, it's not a junker!! Sounds like you got a good find :D

yeah, the difference is striking... oh... whoops :mrgreen:

enjoy the sounds!

barend
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by barend » Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:17 pm

CheesecakeTomek wrote:
Also, a note on Pushparaj Koshti, while he may sometimes use the veena technique, from what I hear he often uses sitar one-mizrab technique, and maybe even more-so these days, as a quick survey of youtube videos out there typically show him playing like this. See here for an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuwhAGlS0-E
Is it safe to bend more than a half step with the second string on a surbahar? Or will it break like on a sitar?
I have been told that the second string situation is similar to sitar, unfortunately! On the sitar, at least, I've been bending from the third string to get those notes. The jawari starts to go a bit up there, but still gets the job done. Imagine this is also be possible on surbahar.
As for the PK video. It seems like he is also plucking the string with his middle finger sometimes in that video. But it is hard to see exactly.

As for the second string. I have seen PK and other surbahar players meend that second string 1,5 step (say Re to Ma). So on surbahar the second string can be used much more for meends than on a sitar. There are no rules so just try it. On sitar the max for the second string is a 1/2 step. It goes out of tune quickly on a sitar and with more than a 1/2 step there is a big risk of string breakage.

jaysitar22
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by jaysitar22 » Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:22 pm

Good suggestion! Right now I’m mostly listening Bahauddin and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar for dhrupad style playing.
Nice! Doesn't get better than that.

I don't have any experience with the two mizrab style. It seems like it would have it's merits because using all da strokes has a particular sound, that might be louder, but also unless you studied with a dhrupad musician, you will probably have to figure it out on your own.

On my surb the 2nd string always feels like it is on the verge of breaking, after 2-3 notes. I have heard of (and been meaning to try) players using a steel .018-.02, steel string for the 2nd, has anyone tried this? That would definitely have a larger meend range, but the trade off would be that the open string would sound more thin, maybe negated by technique and jawari? It would be worth it if you could do 6-7 note meends on that string.
"If a man follows the mind given him and makes it his teacher, then who can be without a teacher?"
“To be truly ignorant, be content with your own knowledge.”
-Chuang Tzu

seepersaudc
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by seepersaudc » Fri Feb 10, 2017 2:54 am

Shall I make a compare and contrast video? My sitar is ib C# and surbahar in F#. I can explain differences with video and sound.

What questions would you like me to address?

seepersaudc
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by seepersaudc » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:09 am

Being a person with both instruments and a teacher...
The main difference between surbahar and sitar is TEMPERAMENT.
Surbahar takes so much effort to meend and hold and stroke and even tuning (reaching the pegs is not easy)---
But the reward is huge.

Surbahar has a round warm dark tone.
In all honesty I believe Pushpraj K. Surbahar sounds awful. His jawari in a few live videos I saw sounded so flat and didn't ring long at all.

My surbahar was played by Chandrashekar Naringrekar who has great recordings of surbahar on YouTube. Chandrashekar was the teacher of the person who owned my surbahar before me. His recordings show the divine depth of surbahar---

Surbahar is about Alaap.
Timed compositions become the strength of sitar---hence the old court tradition of playing alaap on Surb and switch to Sit for gat.

My surbahar is so special, made sometime in the 50's. I'll make the video this weekend please ask for things I can demonstrate.
I feel confident I can answer your questions with pleasing sound! (Crossing fingers)

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Materials about surbahar technique

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Fri Feb 10, 2017 5:41 am

Thank you for mentioning Chandrashekar Naringrekar - I had never heard of him before, and and currently enjoying the conclusion of his Mallkauns. Do you know anything about him? I tried looking him up, but could not find much information at all. His playing is exquisite.

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