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Instruments of India

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Saved by Andrew Alder
on March 27, 2009 at 1:56:21 pm

This page covers instruments associated with the subcontinent of India, including Pakistan and Bangla Desh.




There are many patterns of sitar, and not only the tuning and stringing but even the number of strings varies from player to player.


The tuning is in just intonation. The frets are movable, and tuning involves setting the fret positions as well as the string tensions.


There are from 18 to 23 strings in all, of two types:


  • Six or seven playing strings above the frets, most commonly seven. These strings can be plucked and fretted. They are further divided into melody strings, the first three playing strings, which are the ones which are in practice played, and drones which are playable but not actually played. Most of the playing takes place on the first string.
  • Eleven to sixteen sympathetic strings which lie beneath the frets, and can neither be plucked nor fretted. Eleven and thirteen are the most common numbers; Sitars from around Mumbai and Delhi for example tend to have eleven sympathetic strings, while those from Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal have thirteen.


The tuning pegs for the playing strings are those on or closest to the head, and are  larger then those for the sympathetic strings. Fine tuning of the more important playing strings is achieved using tuning beads between the bridge and tailpiece.


There is no standard tuning. The tuning depends not only on the type of Sitar but also on the player and the piece; Student tuning depends upon the teacher, who may give different tunings to different students, tailored to their needs at the time. Some start their students on instruments with playing strings only.


Westerners often start on a C tuning based on Ravi Shankar:

Seven playing strings:

  • c ' ' - c ' - g - C - G - c - f

Eleven sympathetic strings:

  • c ' ' - b' - a ' - g ' - f ' - e ' - e ' - d ' - c ' - b - c '


Common tunings range from B tunings up to D tunings.



Ravi Shankar



C# tuning

Seven playing strings:

  • c# ' ' - c# ' - g# - C# - G# - c# - f #

Eleven sympathetic strings:

  • c# ' ' - c' ' - a# ' - g# ' - f # ' - f ' - f ' - d# ' - c# ' - c' - c# '


( From:


http://www.buckinghammusic.com/sitar/sittut/lgsitar.html )


External links




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