Lady Playing Sitar :
Parts of the Sitar
It is always problematic to discuss the names of the parts of the
instruments. India is a land with many different dialects and languages.
It is the norm for the parts of sitar to be called very different
things in different places. Remember, the terms that we use here
are fairly representative, but by all means not the only ones to
The kuntis are the tuning pegs. These are simple friction pegs.
The sitar has two types: there are the larger kuntis that are for
the main strings. There are also the smaller kuntis which are used
for the sympathetic strings. The larger kuntis come in three styles:
simple, fluted, and lotus. A quick look at the kuntis is usually
an indication of the care that went into the instrument.
Baj Tar Ki Kunti -
One of the most important kunti is the baj tar ki kunti. This is
the one used for the main playing string. This one will be used
more than any other.
drone Strings -
There are a number of strings on the sitar which are strummed but
not fretted, these are referred to as drone strings. Two of the
kuntis (pegs) control special drone strings; these are referred
to as the chikaris. These two strings are raised above the neck
on two camel bone pegs; these pegs are known as mogara. There are
other drone strings which continue all the way down the neck.
These drone strings are important to the musical performance. During
a normal performance, these strings will periodically be struck
to provide a tonic base for the piece. The chikari are especially
important in a style of playing known as jhala.
Many sitars have a gourd which is attached to the neck. This is
known as tumba. Not all sitars have a tumba.
A tar is a string. There a number of strings on the sitar. Numbers
may vary, but 18 is a common number. These strings fall into one
of three classes; there are the drone strings (previously described),
the sympathetic strings, and the playing stings. The playing strings
are the strings which are actually fretted to produce melodies.
It comes as a surprise to many newcomers to Indian music that only
one to four strings are actually played to produce a melody. In
most cases there are really only two playing strings. These are
the two strings located furthest from the sympathetic strings.
Baj Tar -
The absolute furthest string is referred to as the baj tar which
literally means "the playing string". Virtually all of
the playing is done on this one string.
The tarafdar are the sympathetic strings. They are almost never
strummed, yet they vibrate whenever the corresponding note is played
on the playing string. They are located underneath the frets, so
fretting them to produce a melody is impossible.
This is the neck of the sitar.
These are the frets. These are metal rods which are bent and tied
to the neck with fishing line. Although they are held firmly in
place, they may be adjusted to correct the pitch. There are two
pardas, the Re and the Dha, which require constant adjustment as
one moves from rag to rag (see scale structure, that, and rag for
The gulu is a wooden cowl that connects the neck to the resonator.
Although it does not command much attention for the casual observer,
it is actually one of the most important parts of the instrument.
It is a common problem on sitars for this part to be weak, especially
where it meets the neck. If this is too weak then the whole instrument
goes out of pitch anytime one meends (bend the note by pulling the
string laterally across the fret). This is very annoying and is
definitely a mark of inferior workmanship.
Chota Ghoraj -
The chota ghoraj, also known as the taraf ka ghoraj orjawari, is
a small flat bridge for the sympathetic strings. The highest quality
ones are made of antelope horn. However, the high cost of this material
makes them very rare. The most common material for fabricating them
is camel bone. Camel bone is a very usual material that is used
as a common substitute for ivory.
Bada Ghoraj (Main Bridge) -
The bada ghoraj also known as jawara, or jawari, is similar in construction
to the chota ghoraj. This is used for the playing strings and the
drone strings. It is raised to allow the sympathetic strings to
Tuning beads -
There are several tuning beads on the sitar. These allow minor adjustments
in pitch to be made without having to go the large tuning pegs (kunti).
The tabkandi, also known as the tabali is the face plate. It is
extremely important in determining the tone of the instrument. If
this is too thin, it will produce a loud sound but a very poor sustain.
Conversely if it is too thick, it will improve the sustain, but
at the cost of a weaker sound. It is very important that this wood
be clear and consistent. Any knot-holes are a definite weakness
in the instrument.
The kaddu is the resonator. This nothing but a gourd. These are
extremely delicate and must be protected against shock at all times.