A publication of the Batish Institute of Indian Music and Fine
Sitar Lesson 8
by Ashwin Batish
Traditional and alternative sitar holding and sitting positions
Hold your sitar right!
There have been a
lot of questions put to me regarding how to hold the
sitar. Many of you are familiar with the half lotus
sitting position. This is the position portrayed in the
image to the left. This is the traditional position and
probably used 99 percent of the time. So with this
acceptibility level why bother. Just try your best and
follow it and you are there.
Striving for the
half-lotus position is your best bet. But, ever
since I have been in the West I have noticed the Western
student struggle. A part of me tells me to leave it at at
that. After all that's the only way to get atuned to the
posture, and, improvements can be made over the years
.... yes you heard that right "over the years!"
In Indian music terms we think of the learning process
over time unlike the TV ad I recently saw that promised
to teach the guitar in 10 easy lessons :) But then there
is the part of me that has coached many students to break
this traditional posture for one that is easier on the
limbs especially if the student is handycapped. To be out
of proper position means you are not going to play much
sitar and eventually you will abandon it. To me that is
very sad. So, I will suggest some newer approaches that I
have had success with. I hope some of you will find these
beneficail and hence provide you with another chance at
playing this beautiful instrument
Therefore, I would
like to share with you some alternate holding positions
for anyone finding the traditional half-lotus position is
totally impossible. Choose the one that most suits you.
The relaxed half-lotus
This is when
instead of placing your sitar gourd on your left foot you
drop the gourd so that it rests on the floor instead. You
need to have a carpet underneath or carry a pillow so
that the gourd does not get scratched.
This a common way
recommended for women since a half-lotus position is
frowned upon in India as it shows off too much. It is
similar to how women were taught to ride side-saddle on a
horse. You simply sit with both your legs crossed over to
one side and lean with your right hand over the main
squating lap position
Instead of the half-lotus
position squat with both legs crossed. Now place the
sitar over your right lap and place your right hand over
the gourd to stabalize it. The problem with this position
is that the sitar fretboard becomes a bit too high. This
is probably best for tall people.
This is best if you
cannot sit at all. In this position you simply stand like
a flamenco guitar player and place your right leg over a
chair or a stool. Then place the gourd over the right leg
and your right hand over the gourd to stabalize the sitar.
Actually, I use this position whenever I play with a rock
band and there is no where to sit. Well sometimes you
have to play in tight spaces!!
The Table position
You simply place
the main gourd on the table and stabalize the sitar with
your right hand. Just make sure you have some sort of
cushion for the gourd to rest on
You simply sit on
the chair. Have a small 6 inch stool to place your right
leg on. Then place the sitar gourd on the right leg and
stabalize the sitar with your right arm over the gourd.
lying down position
.... just kidding :)
but hey I'm going to try this ....It just might work!
It is very natural
for us to be ambitious and want to grasp knowledge and
skills as quickly as possible so we may enjoy the fruits
of our interests ASAP. This is probably the strongest
part of the human programming gene. It is a good thing
but remember not all skills and knowledge come instantly.
There are steps to follow and blocks to build on, and,
some skills are honed by practice and a lot of repetition.
This is probably the biggest secret for learing music. As
the famous saying goes...... "to be great, it takes
99% perspiration and 1 % genious!" That means
practice! This practice applies to your siting position
and your hand positions and your playing etc.
Many of you are
familiar with yoga. This will help you sustain the
I have created a couple of new instructional videos that walk you through some of this process.
Video #1 is titled "Changing Your Sitar Strings" and Video #2 is titled "Tweaking Your Sitar" they are the first two in a 3 part series on Maintaining your sitar's peak performance.
Two Tutors for learning the sitars are also available "Introduction to Sitar" and "Beginning Sitar Exercises". Please visit the above links for more information.
email: info [at] batish.com
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