I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

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LD67
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I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by LD67 » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:50 pm

First, i have NEVER played a sitar before. I Know almost nothing about them. However, i do play guitar. Quite abit, in fact. I love the sound of the sitar and i don't think it will be too difficult for me to work my way into it. I basically taught myself guitar, piano, violin, banjo, upright bass, and mandolin. Hopefully a sitar won't be a bigger challenge.

Anyway, after a little research, i ordered the sitar linked below. I KNOW it is a beginner sitar, which is what i want. I'm not looking for a pro model yet. I'd like to start out with something simple. But for some reason, it seems really hard to find much technical information of the variety of sitars out there. For instance, i didn't even realize the one i ordered has 19 frets while others have 20. That's the type of thing i'm not familiar with. Some also have 13 tuning pegs while some have 11. I'm guessing that the number of sympathetic strings is more a matter of choice. But why the difference in frets? I understand that they can be moved, removed, and more added. But should there be at least 20?

I'd like to get a decent handle on this before i move on to a $600 - $700 model and any info provided will be appreciated greatly!

https://reverb.com/item/640415-dark-red ... -w-gig-bag
Last edited by LD67 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

StVitus
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by StVitus » Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:14 pm

A sitar doesn’t need nineteen frets. The twentieth fret often isn’t even used. Players tend to bend up from the nineteenth fret. I’m sure that there’s a practical reason for the nineteenth fret, but you won’t be missing much by not having one.

sason
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by sason » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:16 am

Did you already buy this Sitar? If you did not, better you ask for advises here before buying one.

You can easily add or remove a fret. In any case, at your stage, you do not need to be bothered about it.

The way of producing (good) sound from a Sitar is unique and it is different from the way one produces sound from any other string instrument. You should get some instructions. If you want to play Indian music, you surely need a teacher.

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nicneufeld
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by nicneufeld » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:14 pm

LD67 wrote:First, i have NEVER played a sitar before. I Know almost nothing about them. However, i do play guitar. Quite abit, in fact. I love the sound of the sitar and i don't think it will be too difficult for me to work my way into it. I basically taught myself guitar, piano, violin, banjo, upright bass, and mandolin. Hopefully a sitar won't be a bigger challenge.
I mean this in the nicest way since I was much like you when I started :) But that paragraph is basically a caricature of every guitarist who winds up on this forum interested in sitar, myself included years ago. While some of the mechanics of guitar playing may aid a new sitarist, old habits and assumptions die hard, and a guitarist who picks up a sitar and tries to "adapt" his technique to it is going to be in for some frustration, or at least will soon hit a wall in progressing with the instrument. As I did, before I found a teacher, who basically had to rip out 6 months of my sitar playing experience built on a bad foundation.

But still...it depends on your goals. If you want to learn to play an Indian classical raga, alap, gat, all that stuff...you're best off with a good teacher and setting correct form from the beginning, in posture, technique, all of that. None of which is too terribly analogous to guitar technique... Even just learning the fundamental theory...something you should be doing even before you lay hands on an instrument. If you aren't interested particularly in Indian classical music and aren't as invested in learning it (ie., just want to add an interesting instrument to your tinkering repertoire...hey, not that I can judge there...) then sure, strum away!

Sillofthedoor
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by Sillofthedoor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:24 pm

You sound like me when I started.

Sitar is about learning a different music as well as a different instrument if you are going to take it far.

You probably aren't convinced you need/want a teacher but you really need to get the basic technique right how to hold and pluck hand positions etc.

I'd recommend this CD: http://www.raincitymusic.com/sitarbasics.htm

from rain city and probably this one as well: http://www.raincitymusic.com/sitartechnique.htm

There is a volume 2 as well, I'd advise that later so you aren't tempted to skip steps.

that way you could do exercises that train you to properly,and build up the necessary strength, while leaving you to explore until if and when you want to go farther.

Then there is the actual India music and what makes it different from western. One thing to realise, its simple but missed by a guitarist, is that the sitar is a melody instrument not a rhythmic accompany one. In that regard it is more like a flute than a guitar (to deliberately pick an instrument with quite different physical characteristics) and is designed to play the main melody, the "voice" as it were, rather than accompany it.

The vids can help you with the music too: usual a teacher will start with raag Yemen and it is advisable because it has some of the characteristics that define Indian classical music while still being fairly straight forward in how they are applied and utilises a lot of technique that is transferable.

You can actually go some distance using these video's, they are very good. But still a teacher becomes necessary if you want to take the plunge, as it were,...

LD67
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by LD67 » Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:39 pm

Thank you all for the info!

I hardly plan on becoming a professional sitar player. I'm doing it mostly because the sound and i want to use it in my own compositions. Mainly, i'm worried about the quality of this particular instrument. I do plan on taking some lessons to learn the basics. Hopefully, the teacher will be able to tell me if my new sitar is worth keeping or not. It arrives today, so we'll soon see!

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nicneufeld
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by nicneufeld » Wed Feb 22, 2017 5:23 pm

Well, good luck with the new instrument! Less expensive sitars are always a bit of a gamble, but hopefully you get lucky with that. The introductory DVDs sold at RainCityMusic might be a cheaper option if you want a more solid footing to start tinkering...cheaper at least than being taken on as a serious student by a teacher, anyway.

Tuning will be a challenge...or might be...unless you get lucky with the instrument and the pegwork is better quality than usual at that pricepoint. Be patient and don't take "almost in tune" for an answer...a humble sitar properly in tune with itself (note, to itself is key...not critical to tune to a tuner or anything like that) sounds so much better than an expensive, expertly built sitar that hasn't quite been tuned properly.

Have fun though...we'll be happy to answer any questions you've got (not that I'm an expert, but there are plenty I consider experts around here...)

LD67
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by LD67 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:28 am

Well, they sent me the wrong one. Plus, one of the tuning pegs for the sympathetic strings was snapped inside the neck. I turned it and it came off in my hand. Now i have half a peg dangling inside the neck attached to the string.

Not a good start.

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:59 am

Not sure if you'll be looking into return/exchange possibilities, but if so, I would consider cutting this one loose and checking to see if Lars still has this available: http://raincitymusic.com/marketsitarused.htm

Guaranteed to be properly set up with acceptable sound and all, shipped properly, and overall quality guaranteed.
You'd be able to grab one of those intro DVDs in the package as well...

I wasn't going to say anything before, as you had already purchased the instrument, but a quick look through this seller shows they really don't know what they are doing with sitars.

Just a thought - sorry that this hasn't been a great experience so far...

StVitus
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by StVitus » Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:13 am

Do yourself a favor and send it back for a refund. Trust me, I’ve been through the junk sitar battle. Rain City Music and MusiciansMall are where you need to shop.

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nicneufeld
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by nicneufeld » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:32 pm

CheesecakeTomek wrote:I wasn't going to say anything before, as you had already purchased the instrument,
I think we were all feeling that way a bit!

Yeah, if you have the option of return/refund, and can extend yourself to one of the less expensive ones available from a reputable seller (assuming you are in US, but probably should not...) that might be a fortuitous thing and save you a lot of grief in the end. In US my first choice would be Rain City Music, then maybe the former Ali Akbar School store, which turned into this: https://www.musiciansmallusa.com/sitars/ However, no personal experience with the latter. Have bought a sitar and plenty of accessories from Lars at Rain City Music, definitely a safe choice for a good instrument there in my opinion.

katyrow
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by katyrow » Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:42 pm

nicneufeld wrote:if you have the option of return/refund
CheesecakeTomek wrote:I wasn't going to say anything before, as you had already purchased the instrument,
You really should do that if you can. It's very difficult to learn sitar, even on a good instrument, but it's almost impossible to learn on a bad one.

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cwroyds
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by cwroyds » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:36 am

Yup, send that sitar back as soon as possible.
Do not buy another one like the one you originally chose.
They are basically useless.
My first sitar was a $350 one off ebay, and it was absolutely terrible.
No tone at all and was basically trash.

Do yourself a favor and save up a little and get one from Rain City Music or another reputable dealer.
I would go with www.raincitymusic.com
Lars is awesome.
Tell him what you are looking for and he will steer you in the right direction.

LD67
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by LD67 » Fri Feb 24, 2017 3:08 pm

I figured for $350, i could try and get a feel for it and see if it's for me or not. I tuned it to a reasonable level and actually played it a bit. However, the sympathetic strings don't seem to make any noise at all! Plus, the upper toomba connection seems odd. It's just a wobbly piece of wood screwed into the top of the neck with a hole in it. I'm guessing the toomba gets screwed into the neck itself, but it looks like a recipe for disaster with the way it wobbles.

I think this is going back and i'll be getting this one instead, but without the upper toomba as i didn't hear any difference with it on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkdZzC33Fg8

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nicneufeld
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Re: I Could use Some Help With My First Sitar

Post by nicneufeld » Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:57 pm

That seems like a good basic instrument. Hearing/not hearing the sympathetic strings is going to come down to setup issues...getting the jawari on the sympathetic bridge just right, etc. In that video you can hear the sympathetics ring out, but just making sure you understand, there is also a tanpura drone in the background, and that is different from the sympathetic resonance.

I would skip the upper tumba myself, but then, I am learning in the Imdadkhani style, so that is the way of things for us :D . Opinion varies on the usefulness of the upper tumba, but mostly between "it doesn't affect anything but it makes a nice stand and looks cool" and "it VERY SUBTLY affects sound, mostly for the player".

One thing I'd give a lot of consideration to...buying a good fiberglass case. Cheap insurance in the long run, and will cost more to buy one after the fact, have it shipped separately, etc. Otherwise be VERY CAREFUL with that instrument...

Edit: I totally understand "give it a shot, see if its for you" with the cheaper instrument...sadly the problem with that common approach is there is no more effective deterrent to someone learning the sitar than trying it out on a bad/poorly set up instrument. It's no fun at all playing on an instrument that keeps dropping out of tune, pegs slipping, and sounds like rubbish, and I imagine a lot of people get discouraged by those problems and decide "sitar isn't for me". Which is why we on here tend to steer people not towards premium instruments, but at least respectable lower-middle tier instruments from a dealer that has a good reputation...

Good luck, and meanwhile start saturating your ears with some good Indian classical...

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