Me and my Sitar

Now, the fam I grew up in is famous for retaining all sorts of Mundane Pointless Stuff that We Must Share (that’s why 50% of us who are computer literate are dopers) BUT…
When I was a poor college guy and could only afford to ride the bus I ran into this guy who was talking about the very interesting non-western instrument he was learning to play in pursuit of his music digree. We had a fairly long discussion wherein he described many of the instruments physical attributes etc. He seemed to avoid mentioning the name of the instrument in question, as if it were so exoteric no one could have possibly heard of it so therefore the name just really didn’t matter.

I had in mind that it was a sitar but his attitude of ‘no one has ever heard of this thing’ impossibility intimidated me a bit. I guess I had a deadpan look on my face when he finally asked me if I’d ever heard of a sitar and I said ‘Yeah, of course, who hasn’t heard of a sitar?’ No I don’t know much about the thing but I’ve SURE heard of one.

I am I just a big dork or do most y’all at least know a sitar is a string type intsrument?
MODS, sorry if this should be in CS

While my Sitar gently weeps

Who do you think you are
Barging in on me and my sitar…

Yeah. Weird. That’s common knowledge, AFAIK.

I am aware that a sitar is a stringed instrument…

I own a sitar and jam a few ragas now and then in my living room or outside in shade if the mood suits me. See pictures here and here which coincidentally I also posted in that picture thread over the weekend.

Unlike the college guy mentioned in the OP, I never assume that any single person has not heard of a sitar. In fact, about half the people who encounter me playing it can identify it or ask something like ‘that’s a sitar, right?’ The other half have no idea what it is. Some of these people are simply passersby or just friends and friends of friends and housemates who stop by here. If I were playing an esraj, swarmandal, or dilruba, then I would assume most people who encounter me would not have not heard of the instrument in my hand since those are far more rare in western music.

I love the sound of the sitar; though, it’s not a convenient instrument like a guitar which I can pick up and tune in 60 seconds and jam away. It takes 20-30 minutes to really achieve a near perfect tune on the sitar. Also, the melody string needs re-tuned during play since it undergoes heavy bending typically. The tuners are not machine crafted gears and screws and pegs like on a guitar but are just hand carved wooden pegs with a string wrapped around each. The bottom of the instrument (called the “toomba”) is made from a pumpkin gourd so that doesn’t help and the rest is mostly teak wood. Sitar stays in tune reasonable well during constant temperature and humidity

Sure. Owned one for many years. First song I learned to play on it: “Louie, Louie” of course. Had a “How to play the sitar” book and all that.

Also own a Ravi Shankar album.

From someone who plays the sitar; my experience is that perhaps a quarter of the people I meet have never heard of it (rough estimates, of course), about half have heard of it and know only that it’s an Indian stringed instrument, and the remaining quarter know something about it. That’s in the UK. In India, of course, I would blithely assume that everyone knows what a sitar is.

I automatically assume that if you know who the Beatles are, you know what a sitar is. If you don’t know who the Beatles are (or that they used the sitar in some of their music) then I have to assume you are living under a rock.

I had a friend who played sitar back in the early 70s. It’s a very interesting instrument.

I’ve heard of a a Sitar and know what it looks like (in fact, I recently met a guy with a Sitar).

I’d assume that most people know what a sitar is or have at least heard of it. I personally would assume the other person know what a sitar is when I talk about one. It’s the sort of thing I think enough people know that you ought to assume a random person you are talking to know it too. If they don’t, they can ask you what it is.

I can assure you from my experience that this not a safe a assumption. Many people are not familiar with all of the vast oeuvre of Beates’ songs. Really, only three Beatles songs incorporate the sitar prominently: “Norwegian Wood,” “Love You To,” and “Within You Without You.”

It varies depending on one’s location. Here in Kentucky, USA the sitar is not especially recognizable to many people.

I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked when half the folks in the US can’t place a name to a picture of Dick Cheney (and he’s in line to push THE BUTTON) or Condi Rice. I was once reprimanded by my younger brother for being shocked that he didn’t know what I meant by ‘I need your John Hancock.’

Yeah, but how old was he then?

I couldn’t help but think of this upon reading the title:

…and we might lose,
the very things that make us us:
Me and my sitar.

With apologies to Co&Ca.

(actually, that sort of does sound like sitar-music lyrics)

I learned what a sitar is when I was in college, probably about 20 years old at the time. Am I a late bloomer?

Could you build a sitar with guitar-style tuning pegs so that it would stay in tune better? Is there some reason that sitars just aren’t like that, just tradition…?

I’ve played sitar for 9 years (just posted a picture with it in the picture thread). I’ve got all kinds of wacky questions about it, but most people know what it is. I too have a problem with tuning it – usually takes me around 15 minutes if I tune the sympathetics, I only really tune the sympathetic strings if I’m really playing. My technique for getting it right on the ma string is to tune it, then meend (bend) sa->ma a few times, retune, do it again. Eventually the peg will sit right. I also have fine tuning beads on the bottom of my bottom two strings, so I can readjust from time to time without touching the big pegs, especially after heavy-duty meends in the alap movement.

I used to take lessons on Saturday morning, then go into work (at a medical school). I didn’t leave it in the car, so I would carry it in. In late 2001, I started getting all kinds of questions about it, usually involving me opening it up and once, even playing it for the security guard.

ArchitectChore – what kind of instrument do you have? From your picture, it looks like a Vilayat Khan-style unornamented instrument. Very pretty. Single/double gourd? Is it a Calcutta instrument? Mine is a mid-range Calcutta (Radha Krishna Sharma) instrument with lots of ornamentation (it was the only one I could find for sale in Houston when I bought it, I would have prefered a less decorated instrument).

Such a sitar would not really be an authentic sitar. The traditional construction is what gives the instrument unique resonation.

Moreover, It’s been done already…well, sort of. There are so-called “electric sitars” which are basically like electric guitars with buzzing strings and an extra side bridge of sympathetic strings. Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Don’t Come Around Here No More” if you want to know what an electric sitar sounds like. It is an instrument good for creating psychedelic sounds for rock or techno, but would not be used in classical Hindustani music. The electric sitar cannot drone and resonate like a real one, lacks ‘chikari’ strings, does not have the arched movable frets (just a neck with frets like those found on guitars), and does not allow the same string bending action.

Try using sandpaper on the pegs and pegholes to increase the friction between each. I get pegs to stay in place easily; it’s just difficult to get to the right pitch just right to begin with. The pitch changes a lot with little peg rotation.

Mine is a double gourd sitar made in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) with very little ornamentation. It’s 48" in length…not sure if it is a “mid-range” as your is.

Vilayat Khan sitars have 6 main strings while mine has 7, so it’s a Shankar style sitar AFAIK.

I think my little bro was 12 or 13 at the time, but as a super wiz student with only two B’s his entire 18 years of education I guess I expected more… Although I do recall him virtually stumping me with, ‘well how many letters are in the alphabet?’
I knew it was 26 or 27 but then, I was much more interested in which alphabet we were talking about, english, greek, etc.

16 years.

And a half for kindergarten