Saturday’s Instrument: Sitar, the Indian pluck string.

The Sitar is India’s most famous musical instrument. This plucked string is used in Hindustani classical music. In the 20th century, the use of the Sitar in western popular music made it a famous instrument, world wide.


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Sitar is believed to be developed form another Indian instrument named Veena. Amir Khusrow, a famous Sufi, inventor, and poet of the thirteen century has the credit of inventing the Sitar.


Sitar has between 18 to 21 strings. Six or seven of these are played strings which run over curved, raised frets, and the remainder is sympathetic strings which run underneath the frets and resonate in sympathy with the played strings.


The instrument has two bridges: the large bridge “Badaa Goraa” for the playing and drone strings and the small bridge “Chota Goraa” for the sympathetic strings. Its timbre results from the way the strings interact with the wide, sloping bridge. As a string reverberates its length changes slightly as its edge touches the bridge, promoting the creation of overtones and giving the sound its distinctive tone.


Some of the most famous Sitar players are:


  • Ravi Shankar

  • Anoushka Shankar

  • Vilayat Khan

  • Enayat Khan

  • Shahid Parvez

  • Nikhil Banerjee



Sitars can be divided into three categories.


  1. Sitar with seven main strings and no sympathetic strings.

  2. Sitar with seven main strings and 11 to 13 sympathetic strings.

  3. The same as the second kind with an additional resonator box attached behind the frets.


Led Zeppelin's guitarist, Jimmy Page talked about his love of Indian music and the Sitar, saying: "I went to India after I came back from a tour with the Yardbirds in the late sixties just so I could hear the music firsthand. Let's put it this way: I had a sitar before George Harrison got his. I wouldn't say I played it as well as he did, though...".


Kora, the African pluck string instrument
Benju or Bulbul Tarang of the south Asia

Sitar has become one of the main instruments in most of the genres around the world and it is not limited to India anymore. Though the greatest Sitar players are still from India, many instrumentalists around the world play this amazing instrument too.


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