A publication of the Batish Institute of Indian Music and Fine Arts

Letters to the Editor

Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 19:17:17 -0700
From: gdavis
Organization: DePaul University
To: info [at] batish.com
Subject: sitar lessons
X-URL: http://batish.com/RagaNet/Issues/4/sitar4.html

thanks for the lesson on adjusting frets. i'm glad you printed the letter and response. it was very helpful because i was also having an intonation problem. i fixed my problem by starting with an in tune perfect fourth on my two top open strings (Sa&Ma). i then proceeded to tune the fifths and the octaves against the open C (Sa) by moving the frets accordingly. i then tuned the rest of the notes from the scale by singing the correct pitches from Sa. I have had schooling in ear training and you must have a good ear to do this witout a pitch generator.i fixed the problem but i really think the action is just too high on my sitar. could you give me details on how to lower it without sanding the bridge down. thanks for all your help. my sitar is sounding better every day. please email me back with answers.

First ... congratulations on the adjustment! Now to your problem with the action.

This is crucial as bad action can hinder you from attaining full mastery. But there is another issue you have to keep in mind where action is concerned.

Some sitarists like to play more meend (glissando) on their sitars hence they want the sound and action to reflect the best production of meend. This might not be the perfect setup if you want to play fast.

To play fast you need a low action as close to the frets as possible without the frets buzzing. But in meend, I like the action to be a little higher and the main string to be set a little further into to the sitar so I can pull out atleast 5 or even 5 and a half notes in meend. This action is murder on your finger tips but when the calauses build up, the advantage of the extra notes can add a lot to the overall expression.

Now if you do want to lower the action, it the best way is to file the wood under the bridge. You need to be careful you don't overdo (and I'm sure you are aware of the consequences) If by chance you over file, the wood shims should be glued under the bridge to raise it back up again. Just make sure that the contour of the wood matches the resting surface.

In doing all this there is another problem you have to keep in mind. Grinding the wood must be done in a manner so as to not loose the original angle of placement else it might change the tone of the sitar's jawari. I'm pretty sure there will be a change in the tone doesn't matter how you file the wooden legs. But just keep checking often to ensure the least ammount of deviation.


Ashwin Batish

Subject: Thank You
Date: Sat, 21 Sep 96 21:03:00 PDT

I greatly enjoyed your site on the Tabla. Thank you for providing such a valuable service over the Internet.

I am looking for a Tabla teacher in England, in the London or Surrey area. Would you please help me in finding one?

I tried to use the Guru-Shishya Database Database, but didn't seem to be able to work my way around it.

Awaiting your reply,

Thank you. I'm glad you are benefiting from our service.

I haven't received too many responses from England yet. But if you contact the BBC they should be able to point you in the right direction. When we were in England, that's how many interested people would find us... including the Beatles :)

If I get a submission for Guru-Shishya Database I'll be sure to inform you.


Ashwin Batish

Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 13:36:11 -0600
From: John Willis
Subject: Sitar articles.
X-URL: http://raganet.com/Issues/6/

Hello Ashwin:

I very much enjoy your articles on the sitar - I have been searching high and low for any information on this magical instrument and you are filling a big void.

Thanks. Glad to be of service. The field of Indian music is really a great topic for the Net. There is so much information that needs to be made available I just hope I get the time to put a more serious effort into this project.

I was especially looking for information on fixing the gourd and that article was very timely. My sitar was given to me by a friend that had no use for the thing or its music. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity and have since learned quite a bit, and will be saving up to buy your video tutors.


Following along the line of your articles, I have a question. How long is the scale length beween tarrhga and jawari?

This is not a fixed length. Although it is close in a full size sitar the larger issue is if the fret intonations work out right at a particular bridge placement. Sometimes the bridge is so much out of wack that the frets have to be slid really close to the pegs to the point of interference (spelling?) with the operation of the sympathetic pegs.

This then is obviously the wrong placement for the bridge to be in. I think I explaing how to adjust your frets according to harmonics in one of my published lessons in RagaNet. By using the proceedure mentioned you can set any sitar's bridge and frets.

My jawari looks like it has been moved slightly out of position (a clue I got from looking at the varnish finish under the jawari).

This is often the case if someone tried to install a new set of strings and mis-placed the bridge.

Also are both main and tarab jawari exactly perpendicular to the string direction? Guitar bridges are cocked somewhat or offset at an angle to handle intonation problems.

Not in a sitar although I think it would be a good experiment to suggest to a sitar maker. It will correct the intonation of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. Many sitar players will remove these strings replacing them with drone strings for the simple reason that they don't fret in tune. The other reason is that many sitar player play with an open hand and two many strings clumped together means that they strike all of them thus diminishing the sound of the main strings. It all sounds like a wash. I personally teach my students to have all the strings in place and learn the art of control in their right hand.

The instrument sounds good, so I would think that jawari position must be a bit forgiving. If you intend addressing these questions in future articles, I can wait till then. Keep on buzzing!!!


Hope that helps,


Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 14:33:03 -0700 From: gdavis Organization: DePaul University To: info [at] batish.com Subject: sitar lessons X-URL: http://raganet.com/Issues/4/sitar4.html

i was wondering if you could talk about strings breaking in an upcoming lesson. the chikari strings often break on my sitar when i am tuning them and also my sympathetic strings break as well. is this just a problem with the guage or what? it is frustrating because sitar strings are not easy to come by in chicago.

Which key are you tuning to C, C#, D ?? It could be a gauge problem but which brand of strings do you use?

Is there anyway i can order decent strings and other needs from your company?

Absolutely!. I personally cut and package the sets we sell. A laborious but necessary task. Even in India they sold me the wrong gauge strings. I think they only had one roll or something that they cut the top 5,6, and 7th strings and the sympathetics. The gauge was the same! The price was cheap so I actually got them to make me about 20 sets so I wouldn't have to cut them in the US...... but the strings were hopeless and I only realised this after I had installed all the 13 sympathetics. They tuned OK but after a week the constant retuning started snapping them like dry twigs. So I know exactly what you are going through.

Visit our catalog section at http://batish.com/catalog and check out the misc section. I believe the string sets are listed there. I can also sell you a whole roll of this stuff.

also i was wondering if you had a directory or listing of schools of indian music and/or teachers in the U.S. that i could study with. please email me back with answers if possible. these lessons are fantastic. thanks. greg davis.

I just started this service called the "Guru-Shishya Database" You should be able to get to it from any of our home pages. Look at the bottom links section.

Glad you like the lessons!!

Best wishes,

Ashwin Batish

Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 16:39:28 +0200
From: Armin Giebel
Organization: Institut für soziale Pädiatrie Universität München
To: info [at] batish.com
Subject: Jawari

Dear Ashwin,

I've got a problem with the jawari procedure. I spent half a day (and a lot of chai, too..)

he he! I live on that stuff :-)

with filing my two sitar bridges. The result was amazingly good: a very nice sound - on the tarab strings and also on the Ma melody string on all frets and the 2nd string (Sa). I think I got a good parabolic shape. The chickary sound is rather acceptable, too.

Good. you are obviously close to the sound.

But the Pa (3rd) and first of all the lower Sa (4th)!!: they rattle or they sound dull and boring :-( :-(

Probably because of one or a combination of these reasons .....

  1. The gauge
  2. The back grove where the string enters the jawari
  3. The shape of the jawari surface

For my understanding the rattling (is this the right word in English)

excessive buzz? sound is caused by the strings touching the bridge too far away from where they lay on the bridge. So I cannot produce the sound I am waiting for!

You need the string to lie flat touching the whole bridge from the point it enters the jarawi. This gets rid of the buzz. Very gently grind the back of the jawari area of the buzzing string only until the buzz disappears. That's it!

Can you help me? Should the angle between the strings and the bridge be wider as for the other strings? I am hopeful because I succeeded in getting such a good sound for the other strings. I also had a good jawari manual. But before my bridge becomes 10 mm thinner, I would like to get an advice from you.

Each string tends to lie at different angles so it is normal to fine tune them individually after you have attained a general jawari tone.

Thank you very much for your reply. Looking forward to the next sitar lesson

Me too!



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