stringing the tarafs on sarangi

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martin spaink
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stringing the tarafs on sarangi

Postby martin spaink » Mon Feb 08, 2016 10:33 pm

Busy fixing a sarangi. After having done a few repairs, it is now being strung. The right hand lower taraf strings I did in steel wire (Rőslau) starting with 0,33 mm. for the longest strings. I did not like the results: the strings being rather short, and aiming at pitch D#, the strings hardly get stretched. Tuning is very difficult, the smallest movement and the tone jumps all over the place. I then decided to string the chromatic lower tarafs in brass, hisoric harpsichord wire, and compare, as the strings are of similar length. Brass wins on all accounts. Nicer tone, more responsive, and a lot easier to tune. 0,36 mm.for the first 10, 0,33 for the higher and shorter ones. I'll now have to redo the first choir.... Steel will hardly ever break, but here it is no good. What I learned in the harpsichord world is that the speaking-length of the string and the desired pitch will give a certain tension and stretch to a string. Also a string of a certain material wants to be stretched a bit for optimal tone, and all these data change with the materials used: steel, bronce, iron or brass. If the strings were longer and tuned to a higher pitch, the brass would be stretched well beyond its elastic limit, and break. Then iron would be called for. Steel is at the very far end of this spectrum, meaning long strings and high pitches.

More about strings: today we see mostly Röslau steel. Steel is the hardest and most dense type of wire and allows for the highest tension before breaking. (there are gradations, piano-wire is harder than harpsichord wire) That is not a simple advantage, as the drawback is that they can sound twangy and unfocused, and generally be a bit unresponsive. In the lower tarafs, the higher notes are also shorter, and there is a traditionally fixed way of tuning them with minor variations as to how many strings you have per choir. Here it is 8 and 13, so one diatonic octave and one chromatic octave that could both start and finish at Sa, here D#. The steel was unsatisfactory, not enough tension to make the stings speak. For the same pitch and speaking stringlength, the brass will be stretched more. At the desired pitch, if I chose the diameter correctly, the string will be within it's elastic comfort zone and sound best. So the lower tones with the largest speaing lengths may be a little bit thicker - say 0,36, then I use 0,33 and end with 0,30. Too much tension is as bad as too little, only strings won't break in the latter case, just sound bad. Now for the longer, upper tarafs, it's another matter. These are basically all the same length. So here, the chosen svara for each string sort of dictates a particular material and diameter. The way to understand the difference in stringmaterial is immediately clear once you start tuning: steel is up to pitch with fewer turns of the peg than brass, so the brass offers a far better control over general tuning. The steel does not yet stretch, gives a dead tone, and is difficult to tune and not stable. A balanced brass stringing will be easier to tune and will definitely stay in tune better. If for a cerain given length and desired pitch the brass won't hold, I'll change to bronce wire, and in the extreme cases steel may be called for.
I got the left-hand long tarafs on now, tuned the lot and I'm most pleased. With all the attention to details, such as properly seating the strings at the nut and a balanced stringing, some jivari-work, this sarangi is humming like a bee-hive when I pluck the laraj-string. Since there is often a lot of variation in how the long tarafs are tuned, this is what I did: left hand: p s n d S right hand m g r N (only 3x3 pegs)

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