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(Composite chordophone sounded with a plectrum)
The sitar (English pronunciation: //) is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Hindustani music, or classical Indian and Pakistani music. It is believed to have been derived from the veena, an ancient Indian instrument, which was modified by a Mughal court musician to conform with the tastes of his Persian patrons and named after a Persian instrument called the setar (meaning "three strings"). It subsequently underwent many changes, and the modern sitar evolved in 18th century India. It derives its distinctive timbre and resonance from sympathetic strings, bridge design, a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber.
Used widely throughout the Indian subcontinent, the sitar became known in the western world through the work of Ravi Shankar beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s after the Kinks' top 10 single "See My Friends" featured a low tuned drone guitar which was widely mistaken to be the instrument.[contradiction] The sitar saw further use in popular music after the Beatles featured the sitar in their compositions "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and "Within You Without You". Their use of the instrument came as a result of George Harrison's taking lessons on how to play it from Shankar and Shambhu Das. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones also used a sitar in "Paint It, Black" and a brief fad began for using the instrument in pop songs.
Etymology and history 
In his Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya Dr. Lalmani Misra traces the instrument's development from the Tritantri veena through the nibaddh and anibaddh Tamburas[when?] (so named after Rishi Tumbru), also called tanbur and later the jantra. Construction of the similar tanpura was described by Tansen. During the time of Moghul Empire in the Indian subcontinent from about 1526 to 1757. Persian lutes were played at the Mughal court and may have provided a basis of the sitar; however, there is no physical evidence for the sitar until the time of the collapse of the Mughal Empire between 1690 and 1720. For comparison, lute-like instruments were depicted in Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings dated to the 18th Dynasty (c. 1350 BC), so possibly predating evolution of the Sitar by 3,000 years.
General layout 
A sitar can have 18, 19 or 20 strings. Six or seven of these are played strings which run over curved, raised frets, and the remainder are sympathetic strings (tarb, also known as taarif or tarafdaar) which run underneath the frets and resonate in sympathy with the played strings. The frets are movable, allowing fine tuning. The played strings run to tuning pegs on or near the head of the instrument, while the sympathetic strings, which are a variety of different lengths, pass through small holes in the fretboard to engage with the smaller tuning pegs that run down the instrument's neck.
The Gandhaar-pancham sitar (used by Vilayat Khan and his disciples) has six playable strings, whereas the Kharaj-pancham sitar, used in the Maihar gharana, to which Ravi Shankar belongs, and other gharanas such as Bishnupur, has seven. Three of these (or four on a Ghandar-pancham sitar or "Vilayat Khan"-style aka Etawa gharana), called the chikaari, simply provide a drone; the rest are used to play the melody, though the first string (baajtaar) is most used.
The instrument has two bridges: the large bridge (badaa goraa) for the playing and drone strings and the small bridge (chota goraa) for the sympathetic strings. Its timbre results from the way the strings interact with the wide, sloping bridge. As a string reverberates its length changes slightly as its edge touches the bridge, promoting the creation of overtones and giving the sound its distinctive tone. The maintenance of this specific tone by shaping the bridge is called jawari. Many musicians rely on instrument makers to adjust this.
The bridges are fixed to the main resonating chamber, or kaddu, at the base of the instrument. Some sitars have a secondary resonator, the tumbaa, near the top of the hollow neck.
Materials used in construction include teak wood or tun wood (Cedrela toona), which is a variation of mahogany, for the neck and faceplate (tabli), and gourds for the resonating chambers. The instrument's bridges are made of deer horn, ebony, or very occasionally from camel bone. Synthetic material is now common as well.
Sitar construction styles 
There are two popular modern styles of sitar offered in a variety of sub-styles and decorative patterns. The two popular styles are the "gayaki style" sitars (sometimes called "Vilayat Khan style sitars") and the full decorated "instrumental style" sitars (sometimes called "Ravi Shankar style sitars"). The gayaki style sitar is mostly of seasoned toon wood, with very few or no carved decorations. It often has a dark polish. The inlay decorations are mostly of mother of pearl (imitation). The number of sympathetic strings is often limited to eleven but may extend to thirteen. Jawari (bridge) grinding styles are also different, as is the thickness of the "tabli" (soundboard).
The other type of sitar, the instrumental style, is most often made of seasoned toon wood, but sometimes made of (Burma) teak. It is often fitted with a second resonator, a small tumba (pumpkin or pumpkin-like wood replica) on the neck. This style is usually fully decorated, with floral or grape carvings and celluloid inlays with colored (often brown or red) and black floral or arabesque patterns. It typically has thirteen sympathetic strings. It is said that the best Burma teak sitars are made from teak that has been seasoned for generations. Therefore instrument builders look for old Burma teak that was used in old colonial-style villas as whole trunk columns for their special sitar constructions. The sources of very old seasoned wood are a highly guarded trade secret and sometimes a mystery.
There are various additional sub styles and cross mixes of styles in sitars, according to customer preferences. Most importantly, there are some differences in preferences for the positioning of sympathetic (taraf) string pegs (see photo).
Amongst all sitar styles there are student styles, beginner models, semi-pro styles, pro-models, master models, and so on. Prices are often determined by the manufacturer's name and not by looks alone or materials used. Some sitars by certain manufacturers fetch very high collectible prices. Most notable are older Rikhi Ram (Delhi) and older Hiren Roy (Kolkata) sitars depending upon which master built the instrument.
Though not technically a sitar, the electric sitar is a guitar with a special bridge, known as the "buzz bridge", and sympathetic strings, to mimic the sitar. It has 6 strings, and lacks movable frets.
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Tuning depends on the sitarist's school or style, tradition and each artist's personal preference. The main playing string is almost invariably tuned a perfect fourth above the tonic, the second string being tuned to the tonic. The tonic in the Indian solfège system is referred to as ṣaḍja, ṣaḍaj, or the shortened form sa, or khaṛaj, a dialectal variant of ṣaḍaj, not as vād, and the perfect fifth to which one or more of the drones strings are tuned is referred to as pañcam, not samvād. [D.R.W.]
The sympathetic strings are tuned to the notes of the raga being played: although there is slight stylistic variance as to the order of these, typically they are tuned:
- I Sa= D
- VII Ni= C#
- I Sa= D
- II Re= E
- III Ga= F#
- IV Ma= G
- V Pa= A
- VI Dha= B
- VII Ni= C#
- I Sa= D
- II Re= E
- III Ga= F#
(the last three in the upper octave). The player should re-tune for each raga. Strings are tuned by tuning pegs, and the main playing strings can be fine-tuned by sliding a bead threaded on each string just below the bridge.
In one or more of the more common tunings (used by Ravi Shankar, among others, called "Kharaj Pancham" sitar) the playable strings are strung in this fashion:
- Chikari strings: Sa (high), Sa (middle), and Pa.
- Kharaj (bass) strings: Sa (low) and Pa (low).
- Jod and baaj strings, Sa and Ma.
In a "Gandhar Pancham" (Imdadkhani, school of Vilayat Khan) sitar, the bass or kharaj strings are removed and are replaced by a fourth chikari which is tuned to Ga. By playing the chikari strings with this tuning, one produces a chord (Sa, Sa, Pa, Ga or Sa Sa Ma Ga or Sa, Sa, Dha, Gha depending on the raga).
To tune the sympathetic strings to raga Kafi for example: I Sa, vii ni (lower case denotes flat (komal) I Sa, II Re, iii ga, III Ga (Shuddh or natural, in Kafi the third is different ascending and descending), iv ma, V Pa, VI Dha, vii ni, I Sa, II Re, iii ga.
There is a lot of stylistic variance within these tunings and like most Indian stringed instruments, there is no default tuning. Mostly, tunings vary by schools of teaching (gharana) and the piece that is meant to be played.
The instrument is balanced between the player's left foot and right knee. The hands move freely without having to carry any of the instrument's weight. The player plucks the string using a metallic pick or plectrum called a mizraab. The thumb stays anchored on the top of the fretboard just above the main gourd. Generally only the index and middle fingers are used for fingering although a few players occasionally use the third. A specialized technique called "meend" involves pulling the main melody string down over the bottom portion of the sitar's curved frets, with which the sitarist can achieve a seven semitone range of microtonal notes (it should be noted, however, that because of the sitar's movable frets, sometimes a fret may be set to a microtone already, and no bending would be required). Adept players bring in charisma through use of special techniques like Kan, Krintan, Murki, Zamzama etc. They also use special Mizrab Bol-s, as in Misrabani and create Chhand-s even in odd-numbered Tal-s like Jhoomra.[clarification needed]
See also 
- Julien Temple (2011-07-18). "BBC Four - Dave Davies: Kinkdom Come". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology, p 71.
- Ragini Trivedi, Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi, ISBN 978-0-557-70596-2, 2010.
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