Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

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Yishai
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Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:22 am
Location: Columbia Gorge, USA

Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Yishai » Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:37 am

Hey all! Complete newbie, and my first post :)

I just purchased the first sitar I've ever actually seen in person. I've never owned any instrument, and I'm probably in WAY over my head! But...I'm excited, and I want to learn the right way.

First, I have to tune the silly thing, and I have no desire to learn the western music note system and then translate it to the Indian system. Does anyone know of an electronic tuner that utilizes the Indian notes?

Maybe it's a non-issue, and if I'm making things more complex than they have to be, please let me know!

Thanks in advance! I'm happy to be a part of this great resource, and hope to be a productive member in time.

OM GUY
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by OM GUY » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:36 am

Yishai wrote:Hey all! Complete newbie, and my first post :)

I just purchased the first sitar I've ever actually seen in person. I've never owned any instrument, and I'm probably in WAY over my head! But...I'm excited, and I want to learn the right way.

First, I have to tune the silly thing, and I have no desire to learn the western music note system and then translate it to the Indian system. Does anyone know of an electronic tuner that utilizes the Indian notes?

Maybe it's a non-issue, and if I'm making things more complex than they have to be, please let me know!

Thanks in advance! I'm happy to be a part of this great resource, and hope to be a productive member in time.
Hmmm.... fresh meat, huh? :lol:

Well, there is good news, not so good news, and bad news.

At the outset, please let everyone know the details about the sitar, where you purchased it and if there is a name on it. The good news is, congratulations on joining the fun-filled world of music and the ever fun-filled world of chandy's dot com! Welcome, indeed. :)

You say you want to learn the right way, but then say you have no desire to learn western notes. Well, the bad news is....... you are gonna have to. Simple as that. :wink:

I don't know of any electronic tuner that reads in any other notation, 'ceptin English notation. In any case, it's not that big of a deal since the 3 main tuning notes are C, C#, or D. But, don't fret, in short order you'll learn the notation, it's better than running from it. It''s as easy as...well.... A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, with some sharps and flats tossed in. Once you learn, it's like riding a bike.

There are few books on sitar, some of them are written in English/western, some not. Some give both transcriptions. Some are even written with Hindi or Sanskrit. If you want to step out of your realm to get the info later on, you just do it or lose out. It all depends upon how driven you are, but for the mean time, plan to aspire to learn. If you are young, you'll thank yourself for having learned, if you are old, then pledge to live longer in order to enjoy the low hanging fruits! That's the not so good news, you will, have to invest some effort with sitar and ICM. And, no matter how experienced these folks are here, we're ALWAYS learning. Don't slam any doors shut, right off the bat.

But you are right, you've got an excellent resource here, with tons of great folks who are more than willing to shine their own headlights on any issues you may have.

Again, welcome aboard to both sitar and the forum! :D

Let's hope 2016 is less violent and that people discover the soothing influence of ICM. Hari OM!

Yishai
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Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:22 am
Location: Columbia Gorge, USA

Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Yishai » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:28 am

Hey Om Guy!

Thank you for the well thought out and written response! I appreciate your input.

I didn't mean to sound as if I was against learning the Western note system. I expressed myself poorly, I'm afraid. I meant to say that I'd prefer to not have to learn a system just to unlearn it to apply it to the sitar. Ah well, I'll get a tuner locally and make it work!

My sitar is a "Bhargava & Co." from Mumbai. It's interesting in that it has only four main strings, but five pegs. And it's not just a broken string; the bone plate on the headstock (I forget the name) has only four holes! Perhaps the fifth string can come later. I have plenty for right now :) It seems like a nice enough unit and is in pretty good condition.

I'm just a few hours away from Bothell, maybe I'll buy you lunch when I come through Seattle!

Thanks again!

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nicneufeld
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by nicneufeld » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:58 pm

If it has only one bronze coloured string, it is likely a gandhar pancham style sitar...these give you an extra chikari string (drone string) and don't have the lower pitched "kharaj" strings. These have 6 total main strings (including the chikari strings which should be at the side of the top of the neck before the sympathetic strings start) instead of 7, and they have an extra empty peg...just the way it is! :D

As for tuning, learning the western notation systems, etc....Indian music is about relative pitches, not absolute pitches. So there is no C# or D equivalent. The "sa" or root note changes depending on the instrument although C# is an ideal one for a sitarist to start with. If you can get a pitch pipe, tuning fork, drone, anything like that (a tamboura machine/audio loop/software would be ideal and what is most often used to tune against) you first tune to match the Sa, then you tune against all the other notes relatively. Takes a bit of practice getting used to.

If you have an iOS device (iPod touch, iPhone, iPad) the iTabla Pro application is very good and you can use its tambura effect to tune against. But in general its a better practice to learn to tune relatively against a drone than to depend on electronic tuners (IMO, your mileage may vary). But however you tune...please, just tune... An in-tune sitar is a happy sitar, and so are those within earshot! :D

Yishai
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Location: Columbia Gorge, USA

Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Yishai » Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:10 pm

Hi all!

Thanks for the help. I should be able to find a decent tuner in town & get this thing at least close! Is a GP sitar tuned in the same way as any other type?

Also, I purchased it in an antique shop in Lincoln City OR, and they didn't know much about it. I'd never actually seen one before, but I'd been on the lookout since I am really enjoying ICM and want to learn something new :)

The poor thing could be totally shot, and I'd never know! But it will be fun learning.

I appreciate you responses. Thank you!

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:20 pm

Hi Yishai,

Welcome to the sitar. It is beautiful thing. If you have an iphone or ipod touch, there is a wonderful app called itabla pro. Besides getting a great time-keeping device, you also get a great tanpura drone, which you can set to any pitch (C, C#, etc, plus micro adjustments). The great thing is that once you have set the tuning of the root note (Sa), you can proceed in sargam (indian note names, sa re ga ma pa dha ni). You can tune one of the drone strings to the next note you are trying to tune, and so you can get all your pitch references here for checking that your frets are positioned correctly and for tuning the sympathetic strings. Take your time to listen to how they sound against sa, and slowly you will get to know them and ultimately be able to tune up the whole thing from a standard Sa-Pa drone.

Enjoy!
-Tomek

Yishai
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Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:22 am
Location: Columbia Gorge, USA

Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Yishai » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:21 pm

Thanks for the app ideas! I think that's gonna be the way to go. They seem to be far more versatile than just using a tuning device.

I will now attempt to post a pic of my twangy pumpkin (as the kids call it).

Image

I hope that worked! :roll:

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Fil
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Fil » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:24 am

If you need something to tune to for now, just Google "online tuner that plays notes". There are dozens of online tuners that will either listen to your instrument and tell you the pitch, or play a tone that you can match your strings to to be in tune with.

Here's one I just used Google to find, I'm sure that there are others that are probably better, but this will get you started.

http://www.seventhstring.com/tuningfork/tuningfork.html

As for what Western notes to tune to, there are tuning charts to follow on this site and elsewhere. Just Google "tuning chart for sitar" and you will find what you need, showing Western pitch as well as the Indian notation of sa re ga ma pa dha ni ( like the Western do re mi so fa la te). Start by tuning your sitar so that Sa equals C natural in Western pitch. This will probably be a bit low and the strings may be a tad too floppy. But no harm done, as you find the strings easier to play at first, especially with soft fingers. Also, you have less chance of breaking a string by over-tightening as you learn. Then later, move up so that the Sa note equals C# in Western notation. Bear in mind that the Sa note is not a fixed pitch as in Western notation, where A above middle C equals 440hz, or cycles per second. Sa is whatever your instrument is happiest with. It may be a flattish C# or higher. It's the relative pitch that is important in ICM, not tuning to a standard pitch.

Also I have just realised that I have typed all this wearing a mizrab. No wonder I had to make so many corrections. lol

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Fil
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Fil » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:24 am

Double post.

Mizrab induced error.

Edit: Will uses extra post to say to OP... Nice sitar, welcome and enjoy your new journey!

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nicneufeld
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by nicneufeld » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:08 pm

Fil wrote:It's the relative pitch that is important in ICM, not tuning to a standard pitch.
I was about to echo this by saying its chiefly important to be in tune with yourself, not primarily others, but then realized how much that sounds like new age Oprah Winfrey pop psychology, lol. But still, it is true in a practical way. The instrument itself determines where the Sa should lie...you then just have to make sure that each string is perfectly in tune with the raag in relation to the Sa.

Of course, jughalbandhi or fusion is another matter...

Yishai
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by Yishai » Fri Apr 12, 2013 5:46 pm

nicneufeld wrote:If it has only one bronze coloured string, it is likely a gandhar pancham style sitar...these give you an extra chikari string (drone string) and don't have the lower pitched "kharaj" strings. These have 6 total main strings (including the chikari strings which should be at the side of the top of the neck before the sympathetic strings start) instead of 7, and they have an extra empty peg...just the way it is! :D
It does only have one bronze colored (coloured :mrgreen: ) string, and two chikaris. Bronze one is next to the main (baaj?) string. I'd really like to be sure that it is strung correctly before I try tuning it.

Also, is a gandhar pancham type played any differently than another type? Does it sound different? Could you pick it out of crowd just by hearing it played? Does anyone every add a string to the "empty peg" to make things even more complex? :wink:

I know I have lots of silly questions, but I'm happy to have access to all you "virtual gurus". Everyone I know just thinks my sitar is a banjo.

Thank you for your patience and help!!!

jaan e kharabat
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by jaan e kharabat » Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:19 am

Don't use a tuner. Take the time and use your ears. Learn the tuning scheme for all the strings on the sitar and do it by ear. There are harmonics and also sorts of lovely areas for exploration, discovery and learning to be had tuning such an instrument, why forgo all that by using electronic tuners?

The frets and the tarabs are going to be the most difficult part.

Re the two types of setups, they are both played the same way, the gandhar-pancham will have a different tone in the drone chikaris to the other setup and you won't be able to explore the lower octaves as the strings are missing for that! The rest is the same.
If there are just ''six tones'' in an octave [sic] then why have frets for tones that don't exist?

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Sat Apr 13, 2013 5:09 pm

I would not suggest tuning every note on the sitar to the closest pitch on the western scale. I say closest because the intervals are in fact different. If you tune to Sa = C, that does not mean Re = D, Ga = E, etc. It is close, but not correct. I would not even use it as a starting point, as you are just training your ears for the wrong intervals from the start. Use the harmonics of the strings, as Jaan mentions, but I also see nothing wrong in using the iphone app, as it will play the correct pitches in relation to your Sa. You can the sit with them, sing them, get to know them in relation to Sa. And, if you have a good tanpura drone, you should be able to hear a fair amount of the notes from the bilawal scale from some careful listening. Sa and Pa are there already, as the strings are tuned to that. Re and Ga appear as harmonics and are pretty easy to catch. Ni, as well as komal Ni appear way up high, so it may take a a but of work to hear, but I am listening to my iphone tanpura now and hear all of these notes. It is a wonderful practice and once you hear them you can not un-hear. So that leaves us with Dha and Ma, which you will get find a suitable tuning for with some practice and then refine with good listening.

jaan e kharabat
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by jaan e kharabat » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:19 am

Dha and Ma are easy too. Just do a Pa on Re (to get Re, you can do a Pa from Pa!) to get Dha, and do a reverse Pa from Sa to get Ma. Obviously, you have to first get your ears attuned to the Sa-Pa interval, the perfect 5th, in order to do these.
If there are just ''six tones'' in an octave [sic] then why have frets for tones that don't exist?

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Electronic tuner with Indian notes?

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:59 am

there we go!

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