Electric sitar

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Star's Electric Sitar,[1] a copy of
Coral/Danelectro Electric Sitar 3S19[2]

An electric sitar is a kind of electric guitar designed to mimic the sound of the sitar, a traditional musical instrument of India. Depending on the manufacturer and model, these instruments bear varying degrees of resemblance to the traditional sitar. Most resemble the electric guitar in the style of the body and headstock, though some have a body shaped to resemble that of the sitar (such as a model made by Danelectro).


The instrument was developed in the late 1960s by Danelectro,[3] when many western musical groups began to use the sitar. The sitar is generally considered a difficult instrument to learn.[4] By contrast, the electric sitar, with its standard guitar fretboard and tuning, is a more familiar fret arrangement for a guitarist to play. The twangy sitar-like tone comes from a flat bridge adding the necessary buzz to the guitar strings.


In addition to the six playing strings, most electric sitars have sympathetic strings, typically located on the left side of the instrument (though some do not have these). These strings have their own pickups (typically lipstick pickups are used for both sets of strings), and are usually tuned with a harp wrench (a difficult process). A unique type of bridge, a "buzz bridge" (developed by session musician Vincent Bell), helps give the instrument its distinctive sound. Some electric sitars have drone strings in lieu of sympathetic strings. A few models, such as the Jerry Jones "Baby" sitar, lack both sympathetic and drone strings, while still retaining the distinctive buzz bridge.

The "sympathetic" strings on most electric sitars do not resonate strongly enough to match the effect of an acoustic sitar. There are resonant chambers in the solid-body instruments that have Masonite tops, however it is not enough to excite the 13 strings into true sympathy. The strings are tensioned over two rosewood bridges with fret material as saddles so the sound is more like an autoharp than a sitar.

Versions of the electric sitar were also developed mainly in India. These are smaller sized sitars that look like a sitar. These sitars are tuned the same way as the original classical sitar would be tuned.


Because the tone quality and playing technique differ significantly from that of the sitar, it is typically used in rock, jazz, and fusion styles. Notable early hit singles featuring electric sitar include Eric Burdon and the Animals' "Monterey", Maná's "Siembra el Amor", Joe South's "Games People Play", Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her" (played by Eddie Willis) and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", B.J. Thomas' "Hooked on a Feeling" (played by Reggie Young), The Spinners' "It's a Shame", The Box Tops "Cry Like a Baby" as well as some sides by The Stylistics and The Delfonics.

Other recording artists who have featured the electric sitar include:

On his award-winning 1969 instrumental rendition of the Joe South tune "Games People Play" saxophonist King Curtis teamed with guitarist Duane Allman on the electric sitar (he also played slide guitar). This can be found on the Duane Allman album An Anthology.

The 1971 album Somethin' Else recorded by Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass prominently featured an electric sitar, a first for the country music industry. The instrument provided accompaniment on such songs as "Snowbird", "Rose Garden", "Are You from Dixie?" and others.

On ABBA’s 1979 recording of "I Have A Dream" the refrain is played on an electric sitar. However the recording for the movie version of ‘Mamma Mia’ (2008) featured a real bouzouki.[5]

The 1992 album Bloody Kisses by Type O Negative used an electric sitar in the song "Can't Lose You" played by Paul Bento from the band Carnivore.

Glass Hammer guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh performed electric sitar in the band's song from 2009 to his departure in 2018.

In 2010, MGMT released their album Congratulations, where the electric sitar was played on many tracks by lead singer and guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden. Blues musician Buddy Guy played, among other guitars, a Coral electric sitar in shows on his 2010 tour.

The 2014 album Black Messiah by American neo-soul singer D'Angelo and backing band The Vanguard, features use of the electric sitar on tracks such as "Another Life" and "The Charade".

The 2015 song "Multi-Love" by Unknown Mortal Orchestra makes use of the electric sitar.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Star's Electric Sitar". Quest International Ltd. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
  2. ^ "The Worlds First Electric Sitar". Danelectro Bellzouki, Hawaiian Lapsteel, and The Electric Sitar. VintageDanelectro.com. Retrieved 2017-11-25. Late 1960's Coral Sitar 3S19 Image Image 1 (with Original Gig Bag), 2, 3, 4 (with Original Hard Case)
  3. ^ US A bridge for stringed musical instruments of the guitar or sitar type having a relatively wide upper surface which is contacted linearly by the strings, the bridge having a front to rear convexly arcuate upper surface and being angularly adjustable by rocking and then locking the bridge in a desired position. The rocking adjustment of the bridge effectively shifts the position of contact by the strings axially of the instrument in accordance with requirements of dimensional guitar characteristics. 3422715, [|Gambella, Vincent] & Nathan Daniel, "Bridge Construction in Guitar-like Instruments", issued 1969 
  4. ^ HypWax (December 14, 1998). "Odd Pop: Pop Sitar". Hyp Records.
  5. ^ http://www.abbaomnibus.net/ask/qa_apr09.htm

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