Thursday 6 April 2023

Some Sitar Sounds

 Haufcut Sitar

Some video of me playing the haufcut sitar.

Sitar Stringing

 Sitar Stringing

Loop ending strings in to slip knots. Expect breakages and stab wounds !

Sympathetic strings go under it, to the tail. Main 7 strings go over it, and slot in to notches before tying to the tail pin.

Each tarab string gets threaded through its peg twice, and wound, anti-clockwise,before the peg is slotted back in the neck, lining up with the holes on each side of the neck.

Threading a sympathetic 'tarab' string in to its hole. after passing it under the frets, and looping the tail end, then passing it over the small bridge.
Also note the slotted, side post that holds a chikari string.

Close up of the small bridge, with grooves for the 13 tarab (Jangly, sympathetic, unstrummed strings)

Pulling the string through the peg hole.

Note the neck holes where the strings get threaded. The further from the tail, the lower the string tuning.The highest strings are nearest the camera in this picture. (The opposite of a guitar)

Tweezers used, to bring the string from its neck hole to the peg.

I used a metal screw, instead of the weaker, ivory, glued, tail peg.
I also fitted a strap button ! Rebel !


The small, low bridge for the 13 sympathetic (tarab strings).
These strings need to be fitted before the main strings. Be careful to keep them in their respective grooves, without crossing strings. The loop ends need to be tied securely around the tail pin. You may swear ! 

Geared tuners and a pair of nuts. (String holes in the upper one, grooves in the lower)

Tuning beads go between the  tailpiece and bridge. Slightly redundant if you have geared tuners for the main 7 strings.

A peg. Note the tapering, the rough wood, so it stays in place, and the chalk at the contact point, so it will turn. The hole position varies to correspond with the hole in the sitar neck.

The 13 'sympathetic' tarab strings, (the jangly ones that don't get strummed) are fitted and tuned first. - These strings are all the same thickness. Some Sitars have 11.

Each sympathetic string is looped at the end, with a slipknot, like a noose. I add 6 twists, and put the tail through the loop. The loop goes over the tail peg, and runs from the grooves in the tailpiece, over the small bridge, carefully fitting the string in its allocated groove. Be careful not to cross them. These strings go beneath the frets, and get slotted into holes in the neck.

Unlike a guitar, the highest string is to the left, if the instrument is upright.

The most conventional (D) tuning of these 13 strings, from low to high is D C# D E F# G G# A B C# D E F#.

Each string is tuned by a removable, wooden peg. Holes are drilled in the back, curved section of the neck, to secure these pegs. The pegs have small holes in them.

So... The string needs to be threaded through its neck hole, then pulled through the neck peg hole (I use tweezers. A hook was too fiddly). The end of the string gets threaded through the peg. Wound anticlockwise, then threaded through again. Then the peg goes back into its hole, aligned with a corresponding hole on the other side of the neck, and tightened / tuned with anticlockwise turns.

Chalk, or wax can be used to make the pegs turn more easily, but they should be pushed tight, so they don't de-tune.

Part 2 - The main 5 strings.

They are 'unwound' wires , that are also looped over the tail peg and tailpiece. They then pass through fine tuning beads, (Swan and egg(s),

and go over the big bridge, lleaving two grooves on the left for the side strings. The strings go above the curved frets, over the curved nut, (using cut grooves) Then through holes in the upper, string guide nut.

My sitar has geared tuners. Traditional sitars have pegs. These strings are different thicknesses and are strings 1 and 5 are steel, (as are the chikari side strings - 6 and 7) Strings 2,3 and 4 are bronze. Conventional (D) tuning. is G D A D A (The last two being the bronze, bass pancham and karaj strings)

The tail beads can be tightened by pushing them nearer the tail. This fine tunes the strings. Geared tuners really make this unnecessary though.

Part 3 - The 2 chikari side strings.

These strings have side tuners at the top of the neck, (mine have geared tuners on an attached wooden section.) They are loop ended and slot over the tail peg, tailpiece and grooves in the large bridge. They travel above the frets, but unlike the main 5, get slotted in to their respective posts, between fret 5 and 6 for the low string, and

fret 13 and 14 for the high one. From the slots, they go to their tuners or pegs. In conventional (D) tuning, they are tuned to a low D and a high D.

Part 4 - Fret positions.

The frets are moveable, curved steel, attached by thread loops. This makes setting up a bit more complicated than other instruments.

It may help to think of the 11th fret as the mid 'octave' point, where you'll get a harmonic note, in the same way the 12th fret on a guitar is the octave point, but there are three octaves on a sitar neck. The nut to fret 6 is the low octave. 7 to 16 is the middle octave. 17 to 20 is the upper octave.

The frets sit between the side peg positions, but need to be adjusted to achieve the following notes, when the first (right hand side) G string is fretted: Moving the fret towards the tail makes the note higher. Note that there is (normally) no D# or A# fret in the middle octave, and no D# or F# in the upper octave.

Conventional (D) Fret Positioning -

Open - G. Fret 1-G#. 2-A. 3-A#. 4-B. 5-C. 6-C#. / 7-D. 8-E. 9-F. 10-F#. 11-G. 12-G#.13-A. 14-B. 15-C. 16-C#./ 17-D. 18-E. 19-F. 20-G.

This guide is mainly for my quick reference. Hopefully of interest to anyone with a sitar, or anyone thinking of making one. ?

Accordion Restoration

 Repairing and Restoring A Piano-Accordion.

Emma Taylor gave me this amazing Gretsch La Tosca 120 button piano accordion.
It just needed a good clean and some new straps.