Contents copyright N. P. Cutchey 1999/2000/2001 et al.

About this FAQ:

Throughout the time that I have been importing and selling Indian instruments many questions have come to me from customers. I have used some of these questions as the basis for this FAQ and hope that this will help others answer their questions. Indian instruments are often mysterious to Westerners so here's a chance to find out more about them. As I get more questions this FAQ will grow. If you have specific questions please e-mail me.
Note: These questions should be of a non-musical theory type as we look at instrument type questions here.


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Lazarus wrote: I received the sitar [from you, a #105] and it is magnificent! truly a work of art!
My girlfriend is learning the Dilruba, however; we are having difficulty in tuning it properly. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you for your time and the sitar.

Hi Craig, glad you are pleased with the instrument. When one handles many of them one gets to take them well, a little for granted, so it's great for me to have input from players like yourself.
Dilruba. This seems to be becoming more popular and I sense a 'gaining' market for these, also Esraj. So much so that I am placing a sample order for a very large Esraj which will be here in about 3 months or so. I can't wait to see this as it looks about 1-1/2 times the size of a regular Esraj. I think the tuning for Esraj is very similar to Dilruba.

Ashwin Batish has a video that explains a great deal about Dilruba, including complete tuning of all strings, some nifty bits & pieces, exercises, and more. It is available for $39.95 plus $5:00 for shipping and I have this in stock.

Meantime here are the tunings for the top 4 strings which I have taken down from this tape today:

1st string: Ma F below middle C
2nd string: Sa C octave below middle C
3rd string: Pa G 2 octaves below middle C
4th string: Pa G below middle C

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My name is Brian. I was wanting more information about your electronic Indian instruments. I really was serious most about the Sarang, but please tell me about all of them. Do they electronically reproduce the sound of an acoustic instrument? Can they be used with external speakers? Please tell me everything for I have no idea about them. Thank you very much I am very interested in your product. Brian

Many Indian electronic instruments are fairly unsophisticated when compared with normal western standards. Most of them are used as practice instruments because practice times for, say, sitar may be 10 hours at a stretch and it's not easy to find someone who is willing to just stroke a Tanpura (the background drone instrument) for 10 hours or more. MIDI is virtually ignored in Indian classical instrumental circles.

The item that sounds most convincing is the Riyaz master professional sampled electronic tabla. It plays 24 tabla bols (rhythms) and has pitch, tempo and level controls as well as a balance control to regulate the balance between the small and large tabla drums. It also has a speaker extension socket which, by using an appropriate audio impedance transformer (not provided - may be bought from Radio Shack), may be used to place the sound into an audio mixer. The Sur Master Tabla is $240.00 plus $20 shipping and packing.

The other tabla machines are for practice only and have oscillators that produce different pitched beep sounds representing the two drums. These sounds don't sound at all like tablas - the rhythms are all there but the sounds aren't.

For drones the Riyaz SUR Master electronic 4 string imitates a 4 string Tanpura fairly well. It, too, has an extension speaker socket. Price of this is $212.60 plus $20.00 for shipping.

It is unlikely that you will be favorably impressed with the Radel Electronic Sarang as it isn't very lifelike, and is used mostly by sitar or Sarod players who want to practice.

I was looking at your page and came across the Electronic Sarang 6 String. Is this some sort of effect that makes a guitar sound like a sitar? Could you please tell me what it does and possibly give me any information about it.

These are all stand-alone units and don't transform sounds from one instrument into another. The nearest thing I can suggest to provide what you're asking about would be in the realm of MIDI guitars and samplers from people like Roland and Yamaha. Also, I am told that Danelectro may be re-issuing the original Dano Sitar Guitar known to most people as the Coral Sitar. Jerry Jones Guitars also produces a version of this.

This being said, none of these things produces the real sound of Sitar, just "sorta" imitations.

JÄrgen of Denmark wrote:

Hi to everybody there at Buckingham Music, Inc.
electronic shruti,-tabla,-sarang? sounds interesting; but what is it? instruments or preamps for pickups or synthi?
I'd be glad if you could supply me w/ info.

My site shows you what these units look like and from this you should be able to gather the unit's functions.

Click this Link to get to the specific page that shows these units

Because Indian practice times for, say, sitar may be 10 hours at a stretch. It's not easy to find someone who is willing to just stroke a Tanpura (the background drone instrument) for 10 hours or more (grin). MIDI is mostly ignored in Indian classical instrumental circles.

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Karl wrote: I am looking for a Harmonium. Do you have just the one? Is there a higher end model available? Does it ship well?
Are there pickups for Harmoniums?
Also what do the contraptions on your electronic page do-are the recording loops?-do they have outputs to plug into PA systems? Does the Sarang 6 string play back in different keys? What is a Shruti?

Harmoniums aren't generally amplified except by placing a microphone near them. A gooseneck mic. that attaches/detaches would work well. The gooseneck base with mic is placed on the harmonium, much like you would see at press conferences, this way the mic can just be put away when you carry the instrument around. This kind of mic is available at most../Audio Visual stores. It may be made by Shure or AKG for good quality sound.
There's no real need to fix the mic to the instrument as the harmonium is usually just placed on the floor or on a table, etc. so the mic and base will just stand on top.

No problem with shipping as long as this is in the US. Cost would be about $60 with insurance. The "contraptions" are generally used as practice pieces and performance aids. You hear them in the background at many Indian concerts. Apart from helping keep everyone in tune they also provide background drones and background fullness.

About the 6 string electronic Sarong by Radel Electronics: It has an extension jack for speaker. If a matching transformer is placed in line it could be put through a PA mixer or guitar amp.
There is a mute button for each string so you can play it with any number of strings up to 6.
Controls are as follows: Front panel: Tempo, tune, and the six mute buttons for the strings. Top panel, all are rotary controls: Vol (ume) Pluck, Sa tuning, Sa tuning, Sa tuning, tuning, Pa tuning and tuning. So you have the tuning for the 6 stings here.

Rear of cabinet: Battery compartment (this runs from ac mains or batteries) Mains lead socket and 240V/120V voltage changer. Price is $170.00. Shipping is $20.00.

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Jerry Jones Sitar/Guitar

Larry wrote: Hi Peter - I love your great sitar pages on the Web - thanks!
One thing - I just purchased this funky wacky guitar from Jerry Jones' company:
http://www.jerryjonesguitars.com/sitr.htm for a description.
As you can see the guitar is set up with 6 strings like a typical guitar - but the sympathetic strings (13 of them) on the left in the picture - are on the guitar as well.
What do you think of tuning the guitar to regular E tuning - and the sitar to C? What would you do with this thing?
Also - could you tell me the notes of what the sympathetic strings should be tuned to? I'm kind of lost on this - I never worked with a sitar.
Hi Larry, glad you like my web pages. One of my "other lives" is as a Webmaster - been doing this for about 6 years now.
I know a little about the JJ item.
Mostly it is good to tune the "harp" to whatever scale you are using. It is rare to hear these strings resonate with any note you play on the main neck which is their main purpose on sitar.
So, really, you're looking for a cascade of notes in the key in which you're playing so you can roll the pick across these strings to provide "zzzzzzzings" every so often in the song. Good for recording sessions but difficult to deal with live - unless you stick to one key for the numbers with the "zzzzzzzzings" in!
On sitar it is typical to tune the last three notes like this: C - B - C for the scale of C so you get an interesting drop off at the end of your downward roll. So you can tune the notes ascending in C upwards like C B C D E F G A B C D E F. This usually sounds neat!
The key your tune these harp strings in really depend on the strings you have installed on the instrument. While a sitar will normally tune to C scale a sitar-guitar may not. Just feel the tension of the strings as you tune them up and make sure you have some spares before you begin. Then, course you can tune the flattened 3rd for minors and so on.


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Tell me what I can expect (when I get my sitar from you). Thank you again, Brian

Tweaking a new Indian instrument is so important, especially for a beginner who doesn't usually know how the instrument should really sound or, often, what's wrong with it. Usually it's just a matter of adjustment, but this time the problem was a little larger.
When I tuned and started adjusting your sitar the jawari wasn't right on the 4th string and it's buzz was very excessive, so I changed the bridge for a Radha Krishna Sharma bridge and now it sounds 100% better.

This is what I mean by many stores pursuing the "boxes in - boxes out" approach where they never see the instrument from the time they get it in to when it goes out - they just leave it in the box and ship it out.
Quite often the store personnel don't know enough about the instrument anyway because they don't play sitar.
Problems like the above just get passed on to the customer. Often a beginner won't know what the problem is or, sometimes, that there even is a problem. This isn't the beginner's fault, but is the fault of the store in not inspecting the instrument and correcting any problems before shipping it. I get quite a few beginners telling me stories about these kinds of things.
Anyway, it sounds nice now.

The next stage would probably be to change the strings for the Ravi Shankar style tuning but if I were you I'd play with this sitar a while to get to terms with it a bit before getting back to me about changing the tuning.
I have enclosed a tuning sheet that shows both the common Indian tuning as well as Pdt. Ravi Shankar's tuning so you can see the difference.
The best of luck to you on your new musical journey with sitar. Best regards, Peter.

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I am looking for some type of hook system that mutes the second string of a sitar during fast playing. I was wondering if you knew where I could locate such a device. I read about this hook system in one of Ravi Shankar's CD booklets. TS.

This is actually a double hook consisting of a piece of wire that is made into a hook at either end. It is bound onto one of the frets in such a way that you can push one string under each hook. It is not actually a mute, but moves the strings downward so you don't hit them during fast passages.
Does the CD booklet show a picture of this? If so you can make one yourself from a piece of piano wire and bind it on to a fret in the right place for the two strings you wish to move out of the way.
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Peter, I will try and keep this as short as possible. My name is Sean and I have been playing the guitar for some time now.
Recently I have been looking for a new instrument to pick up and the sitar has really struck a chord with me. I have searched and searched found nothing locally here in Portland Or where I live. I have spent numerous hours investigating and researching on-line as well but needless to say I am hesitant to buy an instrument on-line. I have talked via Email with Mike Strickland and he said that he had a Calcutta sitar, and he seemed pretty happy with it, not to mention it sounded decent on his recording. I was looking to spend between 4 and 5 hundred dollars and I clicked back on your site tonight and what did I find but a new link to the Calcutta model that Mike owns.
Can you please tell me the major differences between this model and the Bombay model that you sell. Are they made by the same company?
Which would you recommend if I intend to spend a reasonable amount of time attempting to learn this instrument?
What are the drawbacks to buying the cheaper model?
Also I have bought instruments in the past that go out of tune like nothing else (banjo, mandolin) and it is very frustrating. Does this tend to be a problem with the cheaper model?
Do you offer any kind of guarantee on the product and any possible shipping incident?
And finally can you give me a price quote on buying both of them and shipping them to Portland OR.

Hi Sean, I'll try to answer these things one at a time. This is probably a longer reply than either of us bargained for, but the subject is quite involved:
For a beginner, Calcutta should last about 12 - 18 months of reasonable practice for the serious player before the individual becomes all too aware of the limitations of it and seeks a better instrument. This awareness usually grows progressively over this period as is the normal pattern with any beginner's instrument. This is true of most "generic" sitars. These can often be detected because they have letter codes like "STRG" or whatever.
While 12 - 18 months of reasonable practice is true of many people, one has to say that what I'm describing here is an average. One also finds people at both ends of the bell curve so there are people who hang on to their inexpensive sitars for much longer than this, but also people who get unhappy with them more quickly.
My personal attitude to purchasing an instrument has always been to buy the best I could afford, as in this way there are no excuses for me. When I was a pro bass player for 5 years this philosophy held good for me in the early/mid '60s when the Fender Jazz Bass was simply the best available. I had that '62 JB for about thirteen years before trading it in for my first sitar.

Calcutta should stay in tune OK provided that you take care of this as with any sitar. Give the strings a bit of a pull when tuning them up and use carpenter's or sidewalk chalk on the pegs to help them lock in place. Never use blackboard chalk as this contains wax as an anti-squeak ingredient which will ruin your pegs.
Price is $350.00 plus $60.00 packing, shipping and insurance.

What are the drawbacks to buying the cheaper model?
As all sitars are made by hand, each one is different, so with generic sitars each one has its own different problems.
Calcutta is the lowest grade sitar that I will sell as it is a playable instrument that sounds quite nice.
I do have to perform about 5 hours work "tweaking" each one I sell. Problems range from sticky tarb (sympathetic string) pegs to fret polishing, string replacement, fret and bridge re-positioning and so on. At the end of all this one has an instrument that plays fairly well and comes with a hard-shell case for a very reasonable price.
Sometimes there are blemishes in the instrument's polish. At the price they fetch there really isn't the time and money available to put this right as a re-polishing job may take as much as 30 hours. So any blemishes have to be left as they are on Calcutta. This being said, however, the new supplies of Calcutta seem to be better so far as blemishes are concerned. The overall quality is better, too.

Can you please tell me the major differences between this model and the Bombay model that you sell?
The Radha Krishna Sharma Bombay model is no longer available as it didn't sell very well. Bombay was/is a much better sitar than Calcutta, though. We now have a version of Bombay that isn't made by Radha Krishna Sharma and this is a better sitar than the old Bombay.
Most people buying Radha Krishna Sharma went for the top models at $750 to $850. You can find some used examples of these at:
Radha Krishna Sharma is really a mid-range brand of sitar, but the Krishna and Krishna Deluxe 105 are concert models.

Are they made by the same company?

Do you offer any kind of guarantee on the product and any possible shipping incident?
Once received you have 48 hours to notify me if you wish to send the instrument back for refund. All instruments are fully insured against shipping damage and, should such occur, keep everything (packing materials as well) and notify me so I can claim on the insurance and replace the instrument quickly.

Which would you recommend if I intend to spend a reasonable amount of time attempting to learn this instrument?
Currently I have a number of Krishna models that are nice and sell for $750 with case. See http://www.io.com/~peterc/sitar/sitar_krishna.html for details. Or you could wait for the Manglas (see below) to arrive.
(These have now arrived and are available via our www pages)

The different ranges go something like this:

Level 0: Bottom range: Tourist type sitars. Terrible stuff. Generally unplayable.
Level 1: Generic sitars. Playable but rather limited. Serious students grow out of these rather quickly.
Level 2: Mid range: Radha Krishna Sharma. Good for some time, depending on how dedicated the student is and how quickly his sensitivity to the instrument develops. This is generally a function of practice and learning.
Level 3: Top range: Rikhi Ram, Hemen, Hiren Roy, etc. This being said, the quality of these instruments is still rather variable and the only current real way of being assured that has the instrument from these makers that one truly wants is to go to India and hand pick it. Those who stock these over here don't generally go and pick them out in India so the brand name is no guarantee that one will have the instrument that one actually wants if purchased in the US.

It became obvious to me that the only way to get consistent top quality in an Indian instrument was to have a well rated player supervise the making of instruments, so this is what I have arranged.
Indrajit Banerjee is a very fine, young, up-and-coming sitarist who has kindly agreed to supervise the making of sitars from the ground up by the maker of his choice, Mangla Prasad Sharma of Calcutta. All this has taken about a year to arrange and I'll be getting my first instruments../about June 10th, 2000.
These will be fairly expensive but it is my hope that we'll get very high quality sitars this way without paying absolute premium prices.

Here's how these appear to work out price wise:
Sitar # 3: With no case $783.44. With regular case $913.44. With fiberglass case $1150.00
Sitar # 2: With no case $900.00. With regular case $1013.00. With fiberglass case $1250.00
Sitar #1: With no case $1706.00. With regular case $1836.00 With fiberglass case $2056.00
All instruments will be supplied with 1 velvet cover, 1 set of strings, 1 oil pot (to lubricate the strings/fingers) 2 spare pegs, fret tying material and 2 mezrabs (picks).
Packing, insurance and shipping is still $60.00 to all US states, same as it has always been on my sitars. Others seem to charge about $120.00 which seems to me to be excessive.
I intend to still offer generics of a reasonable standard to satisfy those to whom price is the driving force
By the way, I have pursued the same exercise with tablas. Indrajit Banerjee's tabla player, Gouri Sankar Karmaker, is supervising the making of these to see that they come up to the highest standard.

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I would like to know how to purchase a sitar. A.

The easiest way is to use the new "Buy It" button and enter your credit card and other details in our 128-bit encrypted, highest security, e-commerce server. This is the safest from of shopping I can think of... and I use the web to shop all the time.
A word about this if I may; probably the most insecure way of using a credit card is to go to a store and buy something with it. Just think - someone you don't know is taking your credit card in that store or wherever. Would it be easy to just note down the card details and pass these on to someone else? You bet !
Now let's think about ordering on the web. Not only are the servers highly protected, but the actual transaction is highly encoded so rigidly that the FBI wanted to have a back door into the systems (this didn't happen) simply because the encoding is so hard to break.
Which methods of purchase would you trust more... some guy in a store who writes down your stuff and perhaps passes a copy on to someone else, or 128-bit encryption? I know which one I choose!
If you wish to e-mail us the credit card info. please send your name as it appears on the card, the card number and the expiry date, or 'phone this through to me at (512) 459-7482.
Then I need your billing and shipping addresses.
All sitars are plus $60.00 for shipping, packing and insurance in the continental US.

BTW, despite the press trying to tell us that there's a fiendish band of credit card number thieves feverishly trying to intercept every single card number from every Email ever sent I've never run across this once. Still - it does sell newspapers!
If you feel better about it send the number in two e mails marked "first part" (first 8 numbers) and "second part" (second 8 numbers).

Otherwise you can send me a cashier's check or money order to:
Buckingham Music, Inc.
5035 Burnet Rd. Ste 100
TX 78756

Personal checks are OK but take about 10 days to clear due to bank slowness.
Oh yes, tell me your finger size so I can get the mezrab (sitar pick) the right size for you.
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Dear Peter
I found your internet site today and would like some advice. I purchased a sitar in Kathmandu a year ago and I have recently started taking lessons here in Perth Western Australia. There is a makers name plate on the head stock with the following inscribed on it:

Mrs. R.K.Sharma
243 E2 Missir Pokhra
Varanassi 221010

Would this maker be the same as Radha Krishna Sharma maker that you sell?
The sitar has a beautiful sound, especially when played by my teacher. It's conceivable that the instrument was second hand when I purchased it as the shop I bought it from only sold percussion instruments.
Hoping you can help me.

Hello Roy, it would seem much more likely that this instrument was made for the person to whom the name and address belongs. I say this because:
a) Radha Krishna Sharma are in Calcutta and have always had the same premises.
b) They have always been owned by a male member of the family.
c) I have never heard of a female sitar manufacturer in India.

It would seem likely that this was brought to Oz by an Indian person and subsequently sold after it was, perhaps, passed on in a will. If this is so then naturally one supposes that it may be quite old.

I suggest the one way of tracing this further would be to ask the music store where this came from and trace it back this way. Failing this perhaps you'd care to write to the current person at the address on the sitar inquiring as to whether they have knowledge of this person. Since Indian people tend to be less mobile than Westerners It may be that their neighbors would know about Mrs. R.K.Sharma, her family, etc.
Most everybody in India seems to know a great deal about their neighbors as traditionally there's much socializing there and a fairly tight sense of community. They may even recall who her teacher was in which case this is the person who would know all about the instrument.
The postal system in India is very slow, so you'll need quite a bit of patience with this.
Perhaps it's possible to get the phone # for../243 E/2 Missir Pokhra, Varanassi 221010. Certainly you'll learn a great deal about India in your quest to ID the sitar.
Another thing to try is to find a sitar expert in Oz, maybe at one of your universities, or through the web elsewhere to ID the sitar. Posting detailed photos on the web may help when you find someone likely able to render an opinion.
Best of luck, let me know how the detective work comes along.

Best regards, Peter.

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Peter, Your sitar has more strings than most (this is actually an attraction for me). Will this cause problems when trying to tune it?
What type of materials is the # made of?
I live in Charleston, SC (right in between two rivers and next to a bay) and my apartment does not have an efficient means of heating or cooling or more importantly for maintaining steady humidity from day to day let alone from season to season. How will this effect the stability of the sitar and its structural integrity?
In a few years I will move, likely to the north east/west. How will it be effected then?
Is the sitar something that one can pickup and explore or is it something that MUST be taught?
Basically, what I am asking is can I make some decent music without first learning years of proper technique ?
It's not that I don't want to learn proper technique, I am accomplished at the keyboard, but have no experience with other instruments and I won't have the money to invest in a teacher for the next several years. Do you think I will enjoy the sitar without proper education?

I already love its sound and the energy that it creates in me, when listening to recordings that is.
Are there any other questions that I should be asking (from you or of myself) before making my purchase?
Are there any instructional materials included (like with the beginner instrument)?
From your stash, is there an instrument whose sound you think would fit my personality? Are you aware of any other second hand instruments coming up that may be less expensive than the yet sound equivalently? Best, - Scott

Hi Scott, sorry it took a day to reply but yesterday was "difficult" for me. Just tons of things happening.

More sympathetic strings = more resonating notes. There should be very little more difficulty tuning it because of these "extra" strings. A basic sitar has 11 strings but professional sitars usually have more.

The is made from tun (pronounced "toon") wood which is Indian mahogany.

Climate, etc.: My best advice to anyone owning a musical instrument is if you're comfortable so is the instrument. Don't subject your instrument to anything that your own body wouldn't care for or enjoy. This way your instrument will be happy and stay well. Watch out for extremes of heat with the finish or it may bubble.

One can pick up and explore the sitar. That's what I did. Unfortunately in 1972 it was difficult to find out much about sitar so this took me about 18 months. We sell videos and books that shortcut the long learning curve that is experienced due to the lack of a teacher. You can see our selection at: http://www.io.com/~peterc/indianmusictutorials/pages/sitartut.html

I do include a free tuning sheet for sitar with instruments upon request but that all. Other instructional materials need to be purchased. Your will come with a spare set of strings, case, and two mezrabs (picks).

Personality: well, as you can imagine, this a kinda difficult as I don't know you very well. I set up and tweak all sitars to be optimal. Most other sellers don't do this. Beyond that it's difficult to say.

What size are your hands? Small, medium, or large? This is specially important as I need to be able to supply you the right size of mezrabs (picks) plus small handed people would need a smaller instrument. I do have one which is smaller than typical.

Perhaps you'd like something already electrified so you can plug it into an effects unit and an amp? There's a pre-owned sitar at: http://www.io.com/~peterc/sitar/othersitars/othersitars.html but this is more expensive at $700 plus $60 shipping.

Perhaps you'd like to read the on line sitar tutorial at: http://www.io.com/~peterc/sitar/sittut/btut.html
Also look over Dave's on line tutorial at: http://mikestrickland.net/sitar/
These things should tell you plenty about how to play and take care of your sitar.

Best regards, Peter.

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I live in Arlington Texas and am very interested in purchasing a sitar. I have been wanting a sitar since I first heard Rubber Soul and Revolver which was when I was like 8 years old.
What I'm interested in is if you have them in stock and which one would you recommend. I can save up the money for a while and buy the Krishna 105 which is my dream one, or I could spend what I have right now on a Calcutta That's the only thing in question.
Also I was wondering is there a warranty on your products? Thanks for your help

Hi Pete, I was a pro. musician in England when Rubber Soul and Revolver came out so you can imagine the impact on me... staggering - just simply staggering! I mean - they turned the world upside down every time they released a new album. I'm still amazed by what they did. I can understand your feelings when you were 8. But what about when Sgt. Pepper came out? Wow!

My best advice to you is to wait and save up your money. The instrument is likely to be with you for some time so get the best you can. To me it doesn't make sense when people say "I'll get the cheapest I can and see how I get on with it" because cheap instruments rarely respond well in the player's hands so the chances of a person succeeding with the instrument are greatly reduced.

Warranty: we treat our customers with respect and give them as much information as we can so they can take care of their instruments. I have never seen a sitar go wrong all by itself. It's a matter of how they treated. If a case does arise where something may have happened that could be seen as a genuine fault then we would look into it with the customer, figure out what has to be done, and do it. We insure all instruments we ship.

I personally go over every sitar that passes thought here and tweak it so it's at its best. This way I know that the instrument is in top condition when it leaves me.

Perhaps you'd like to read the on line sitar tutorial at: http://www.io.com/~peterc/sitar/sittut/btut.html

Also look over Dave's on line tutorial at: http://mikestrickland.net/sitar/

These things should tell you plenty about how to play and take care of your sitar when you eventually have one.

My best advice to anyone owning a musical instrument is if you're comfortable so is the instrument. Don't subject your instrument to anything that your own body wouldn't care for or enjoy. This way your instrument will be happy and stay well. However one should still use common sense with this as, for instance, your instrument in very unlikely to enjoy a nice shower, a couple of hamburgers, sex, a beer, or other obvious things that you may like (grin)!

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Hello, I was looking at your site and was wondering what the electric-acoustic conversion kit was. Is it a pickup/transducer for a sitar? Eric.

Hi Eric, yes, it comes with a complete set if instructions.
Apply the transducers and plug into any regular guitar or bass amp, perhaps via a reverb, echo or other guitar-type effects processor. Tweak the amp's EQ to shape the sound. Unlike a Mic. very little feedback.
Price $66.00 plus $5.00 for shipping.
You can buy these on line by clicking on the "Buy it" button.

Hello ! I'm interested in buying a sitar acoustic/electric conversion kit. I would like to have a little more information about it before buying it. For instance:
Is there an equalizer ?
Are the pickups two normal piezos or were they modified ?

Thank you !

Charles R. Cauchon

Hello Charles, No, there isn't an equalizer, although, if you like I can obtain an external EQ box for you.

Personally I use an SWR Redhead amp because of its awesome voicing, EQ and tone - it's really the amp that counts with this. I tried at least 5 in my home and many more in stores before ending up with this one.

The pickups are large piezos and I also tried many of these before I found just the right thing from Germany.

The kit comes with instructions for attaching it to the sitar authored by me as my feeling is that I've been though a bit of a learning curve with this and so can help people short cut the problems.

Best regards, Peter.

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Dear Mr. Cutchey, I am a 14 year old in Houston, Texas. I have been looking into playing the sitar for a while now and I am ready to buy one. I do not know exactly where to start as you most likely know that there are no sitar sellers, teachers, or players around here except for yourself.
I do have musical background as I play the violin, viola, and piano. If possible, could you please send me information on what type of sitar would be right for me. I already have the Introduction to Sitar book by Harihar Rao.

Hello, thanks for your E-mail.
Ummmmmm, well, the starter instrument is Calcutta at $350.00 plus shipping at $60.00.
Calcutta is very playable and I doubt that you'd grow out of it musically for about 12 - 18 months. As you probably already know this depends on how much you practice. Although there are two other models in the student range I wouldn't recommend them in your case because they really don't have that much over Calcutta musically speaking.
The next step up is really the Radha Krishna Sharma Krishna model. This should last you quite a while before you felt you really needed the best - Mangla Prasad Sharma.
Mangla Prasad Sharma has subtleties that take an experienced player to appreciate. The most telling comment I've heard about them is that they're twice as easy to play as most other sitars. I'm not saying a beginner shouldn't start with the best - just that one generally plays something a littler lower down to "See" what Mangla Prasad Sharma offers you.
My personal take is that everyone should buy the best they can afford. This isn't "Just a sales thing" - it's because there are no excuses left for playing badly! However, having a less expensive instrument does generally make one practice more in hopes of getting the best eventually!
Harihar Rao's book is very useful, however there's no substitute for a personal guru. Go to college at UT in Austin and learn from the best - Dr. Steven Slawek, a pupil of Ravi Shankar's for 6 years, teaches sitar there :-)
If I do find a sitar teacher in Houston I'll let you know.
Hope what I have said here has been of some help.

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What should I use to tune my sitar?

A tuner with speaker is a considerable advantage. LED guitar tuners, etc. are OK but later on you'll find that you just need that one master note - probably C or C# and you'll be able to tune the top 7 strings to the master note. You may well find one of these "speaker tuners" at a pawn shop for $20 - $40. There's plenty of time to look around and an LED tuner will do fine for a while. New "speaker tuners" are made by Korg but are quite expensive. One can do a lot of looking around pawnshops and music stores for a used one instead of paying $150 or so for a new one. Perhaps you'd care to go to http://www.io.com/~peterc/sitar/sittut/tune.html for Ravi Shankar's tunings. If you're in C just knock his notes down a semi-tone. C# is traditional Indian concert pitch but all sitars tend to differ and some sound better in slightly different keys such as B, C, C# or even D.

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How do I work with and replace broken tarbs (sympathetic strings)?

Replacing the Tarbs:
Remove the broken string's peg and remove the broken string from the peg noting the way it was threaded on the peg. Make a loop on one end of the replacement string. Making the loops is a little difficult at first but you'll soon get the knack of getting them tight enough so they don't de-tune themselves.

Thread the unlooped end of the replacement string though the small bone grommet in the neck and using a hooked tool, hook it out through the peg hole. You can make this hook from a paper clip by unwinding it from the outside and leaving the smallest hook part. The large size of paper clips work the best.

Thread the string through the hole in it's peg twice using the same method as you noted when you examined the broken string's attachment to the peg. Wind a little of the string onto the peg and, while pulling on the part of the string that protrudes from the grommet in the fingerboard to maintain a little constant tension, push the peg back into it's hole in the side of the neck.
Carefully thread the looped and of the string under the main strings and frets, under the main bridge and slide the loop over the sitar's string peg.
Carefully rotate the peg to tighten the tarb string, being sure that the string goes in it's notch in the small tarb bridge. Now you can carefully tune this string.
In some string sets there are shorter and longer tarbs so please be careful otherwise you may use up all the long ones on shorter runs and then need them for the longer ones. In other string sets the tarbs come as a coil where you need to cut the wire to size. Please be careful to leave enough for the loop as well as to thread the peg when you cut your new string from the roll of wire.
Most tarbs are broken because the student "loses" the note and goes on tightening the string past where it needs to be. The feeling for the target note and tension of the tarb strings will also come with time. Replacing them is such a hassle that this tends to make people much more careful with these strings! Replace a few and you'll see what I mean.

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My new sitar is constantly breaking strings at the bottom end. What could be causing this?

If they are breaking in the "tailpiece" area it is possible that you have some sharp edges there where the string goes over angle at the end of it. If so, you can carefully file this edge down using a fine file. Think about whether your strings are breaking at this same place. If so, that's probably the cause. This tip about the "tailpiece" is from Dr. Stephen Slawek of UT Austin.
Stephen was a pupil of Ravi Shankar's for 6 years and has had a relationship of over 30 years with him. Stephen has a pupil who had this problem and this was the answer.
Also make sure the tuning beads have no sharp edges.
Breaking strings may also be caused by over tightening the strings when the beginner momentarily "loses" the note and continues to tighten the string in search for the elusive note. Sitar strings won't take too much of this. Usually this happens to the tarb (resonant) strings as these are normally the biggest problem for beginners.

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How do I make the loop in my strings to make it go around the tailpiece?

Making the loop shouldn't be a problem. Some people try to make the loop when they already have the string tied to a tuning peg - not a great idea! Do it while the string is free of peg and sitar. Being fairly brittle wire, sitar strings tend to break very easily if there is a kink in them and getting a kink in them is quite easy to do for beginners. If the other end of the string is free when you make the loop you can allow it to spin freely as you turn the loop round and round to wind the string into a loop. In this way you are less likely to get kinks in your strings.

Can I get strings with the loop ready made?

Finding strings with premade loops on them won't be easy. Most professional players don't buy sets of strings but, instead, they buy 1 or 2 oz. coils of wire and cut pieces from this coil to make their strings.

Here's a picture of the loop showing how it should look.

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How can I find a local sitar teacher?

Calling your local college to find a teacher is a great idea. Also look for local Indian musical appreciation societies.

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Matt wrote: My sitar goes out of tune a lot and rattles. How can I fix these things?

First of all changing the strings can't hurt. As you know strings stretch with time and, yes, when they do that you won't get your sitar in tune. Also, when strings are de-tuned they sometimes take a little while to stretch back and stay in tune. Tuning the strings, pulling and retuning them can help a bit with this problem. New strings usually take a couple of days to settle down properly.

Clenching the neck can make it sound out of tune. Guitarists often do this without noticing that they are doing this. The finger rests behind the fret just firmly enough - too tightly and the note will be bent up a little (or a lot sometimes).

Did the bridge move? Check the indentations where it sat on the polished front to make quite sure it is back where it should be. People sometimes scribe fine lines around each corner of the bridge to make sure they can get it back where it belongs. One may use a sharp grease pencil for this instead of a scriber.

Some things to cure sitar string rattles:

Sometimes a tuning bead isn't tensioned against the wood. Tune the string a little flat then pull the remaining flat note up by means of the fine-tuning bead. This will make sure it doesn't rattle. It's best to do this with all the strings that have tuning beads as they could be rattling anywhere!

Place your sitar flat on the floor or across your legs as you sit on the floor if it hasn't got a top tumba. Play the offending string while pressing down here and there with the fingers on your other hand. When the rattle disappears investigate the exact spot where your fingers were pressing. Chances are you'll see where the rattle was coming from fairly easily.
The bridge itself or the tarb (resonant string) bridge may rattle sometimes. Playing the offending note while a friend gently pushes down on either of the bridges may expose this problem. A small lick of varnish at the side of the particular bridge where it meets the sitar's body can solve this problem - just a "tad" of varnish, not much at all.

Keeps going out of tune:

As one tunes a string one needs to push the peg into the sitar in the same way that a violinist does. Not too hard - you'll get the right pressure as you practice more. Guitarists often don't do this when they play sitar as they're used to steel geared tuners that don't slip much. Flamenco guitarists, however, use this technique all the time with their wooden pegged instruments. Generally there are two things that make out of tune problems happen. The loop at the bottom peg isn't tight enough, or the pegs are slipping. Tightening a bottom loop is an easy fix. Usually there's plenty of string left at the top peg to enable you to cut off the old loop and form a new one. However, since these strings didn't slip before it doesn't seem that this is likely to be your problem.
Are the pegs slipping? That's a lot more likely to be the cause of your problem. Pull out a peg that belonging to a string that has caused you a particular problem and examine it. If the wood looks a little shiny at the two places where it bears on the hole then try chalking the peg with carpenter's or sidewalk chalk. Don't use blackboard chalk as it uses wax as an anti-squeak ingredient. This wax will cause your peg to slip. Push the peg back in and tune the string up to see of this solves your problem.
Still slipping? Look at the places where the peg bears on the headstock again. If you see a ridge on these places facing the knob end of the peg, or the wood looks too smooth, you need to sand the peg down at these areas to remove these ridges. Just sand the peg enough to roughen it up using fairly coarse sandpaper, re-chalk the peg, then try it out again. Some people like to use a file for this, but I feel that coarse sandpaper is a better tool to use until one is more used to the procedure.
Eventually pegs have to be replaced as they don't fit anymore no matter how much they're sanded, but hopefully this won't happen for some time.
Beginners really shouldn't start with cheap sitars. They're more difficult to play, keep in tune, and don't sound very good - not encouraging to someone who needs to build confidence in what they're doing.

The more inexpensive a sitar is the more problems it inherently has. I passed by one of my Radha Krishna Sharma Bombay 103 models that I hadn't retuned for about 6 weeks today. When I stroked the strings they were still in tune.

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Brad from Colorado wrote: Hello I am interested in a sitar I have some ?'s though. First, I live in CO. When I moved here my guitar kind of dried out I guess. It was affected by the low humidity. I had to adjust the bolt in the neck to make the high E string sound out on the 1&2 frets. Will this happen to my sitar as well? Also I have pretty good pitch, but I will need to hear a pitch to tune off of. Is this provided in the video? I will be moving back to San Diego in 3 months do you have a list of teachers or know of any in the Southern Ca area? And finally how fast do sitar strings go dead (lose that new string sound)? My fingers get pretty smarmy when I play.

Hi Brad, sitars are built for a hot climate. India has extremes of hot and humidity. So I don't see a problem there. Neither CO or San Diego should give you much of a problem. All wood parts are french polished so, unlike a guitar, they're not quite so affected by climate. You should never leave your sitar in bright sunlight, though, or shut up in a car in the summer as the heat may cause the french polish to bubble. As with most musical instruments, if you're comfortable in a fairly normal environment, so is the instrument.
Being non-wound, sitar strings last a long time provided they're wiped over now & then, usually after playing. Use Scotchbrite to rub the strings with to remove tarnish, etc. I cut a 1" wide piece and twist a corner of it round the string. Then I rub it up and down to "de-gunge" the string. They come out bright and shiny and the tone largely comes back.
Tuning is described both in the video and in the books I have on the web. Obviously the video is more help as, being visual, everything is clearer and easier to understand.
It's a good idea to purchase a tuner that produces actual notes. A guitar with a needle or meter isn't much use. Failing this a pitch pipe is useful or, at a pinch, a harmonica.
I have no teaching contacts in San Diego. Calling your local college to find a teacher is a good idea. Also look for local Indian musical appreciation societies.

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Could you please tell me each note of each string of the 11 sympathetic strings of a sitar. Western names please, if possible. Thanks Ray .

Ravi Shankar says this in his book "My Music My Life" (now out of print) it is, from the lowest string to the highest:
C#, C, C#, D#, F, F, F#, G#, A#, C, C#.
First note is C# above middle C.
This for an instrument that is tuned to C# which is Indian concert pitch.

If you check out my sitar tutorial aids you'll see Sitar books and video tapes. Any of these will give you much knowledge about re. tuning, holding, playing, your sitar. Ravi's tuning is shown Here.

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A, Houston, TX., wrote: Do you have all of the sitars in stock? Any scratch and dent items? I have been playing guitar for 10 years and have wanted a sitar for almost as long, I am not experienced with sitar in any way but I am used to good quality guitars (martin, gibson, some fender, etc..) do you think the Calcutta model would satisfy me? And remember I am a musician so I am trying to spend as little as possible.

It is my feeling that the Calcutta may last you as long as 2-3 years before you felt the need for a better instrument - but then, who can tell how quickly you may progress? If you are practicing in a dedicated manner and taking lessons for a year, you may easily be ready for a better model, say a Krishna or Mangla Prasad Sharma, at that time. Suffice it to say that with a Calcutta you begin with a reasonable student grade instrument.
My new Calcutta sitars come with hard shell cases to protect them, a spare set of strings, a beginner's book, mezrabs and a sitar bag so there is nothing extra to pay for.
Also I inspect and adjust (tweak) every instrument that comes through here so they work properly when you get them. I have yet to come across any new Indian instrument that doesn't need something doing to it - it's just the way they are. Naturally the less expensive ones usually have more wrong with them as less time and trouble is taken when they are made. The really cheap ones have so much wrong with them that they aren't worth fixing... a bit like cheap Mexican tourist-type guitars. I don't deal in this class of instruments, but there are many that do. Beware - if it sounds too good of a deal or the money... it usually is!

I do have used instruments that come in as trade items from time to time.

Since you live in Houston, perhaps it isn't too far to come to try these instruments out. Shipping costs about $60.00 which may be more than the gas bill from Houston and back. Mostly I see people by appointment including Saturdays and Sundays. How would this suit you?

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Allen wrote: Hello, I purchased a sitar from another company. When I received the instrument, it was in the worst condition imaginable: strings were weak enough to be cut with safety scissors, only one tuning bead and it was way too small, the frets needed retying and replacing, and two pegs wouldn't move.
So far, I have gotten the pegs to move, replaced the strings and added the correct number of tuning beads.
However, there is one more thing to be done that I didn't realize until after I replaced the strings: The frets need replacing. Is there any way you can help me find a set of good frets and tying thread for a reasonable price?
Also, I am curious about your mizrab: In what condition are they? Plain steel, plastic covered, etcetera.

As I figured when you previously told me you were going to buy a very inexpensive sitar, your knowledge of sitar construction is going through a rapid upward curve... congratulations! It was either that or you'd give up and I'm very glad to see that you didn't do that.

I realize that you probably aren't feeling tremendously happy about this right now but when you look back on all this you'll know that you have gained knowledge that many sitar players never possess.

What is so wrong with the frets that you need to replace them? This is such an uncommon thing to have to do! If they are simply dull them you may polish then with 0000 steel wool and they will come up nicely. If they are badly bent e.g. not bent uniformly you may elect to make a hardwood or metal forming tool and re-form the curvature of these frets.

Plastic covered mezrab are for beginners only. Those who have played for a bit soon grow calluses where the mezrab fits behind the first joint of the index finger. If your mezrab won't fit behind this joint then it's too small - tell me how long your index finger is from tip to first joint.

Caveat emptor! With inexpensive sitars - you get what you pay for. I do handle one inexpensive model of sitar called "Calcutta", but I have to put about 5 hours of prep. time into each one that goes out of here!

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Zepi wrote: One more question: With my sitar I received a little box. It says "Microthin Sitar/Sarod Oil"... Do you happen to know, what I can use this for?

Hi Zepi, it's for the fingertips of your left hand. Best way is to make a pad of cotton wool in a small box and dampen the pad with the oil. This way you can dip your fingertips in the oil-soaked pad and then smooth the oil over the strings with your fingertips. You'll find you can slide up and down the strings much faster this way. Put the lid on the tin/plastic box to carry it in your bag, or whatever. A round pill box from a pharmacy is good for this. Ashwin Batish teaches you about this oil in his sitar video available

Another mystery solved!

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Hugh wrote: Hello, I've been trying to get started playing the sitar for a few years now, and will hopefully be purchasing one soon. I read through your site and was wondering if you might be able to give me some advice as to what resources you have found over the years for the sitar and Indian music in general. Right now I'm just trying to get a start and it sounds as though you've been down this road before. Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Hugh, you'll find instructional sitar books and videos available on my tutorials page
Here. For tutorials on other Indian Instruments please click this link

There is also an out-of-print book by Ravi Shankar called "My Music My Life" which you may care to search the out-of-print bookstores for. This is half autobiography and half tutorial.

Pic of Shruti box is at: http://www.buckinghammusic.com/shru/shru.html This is a drone instrument played in typical vocal and sitar, etc. concerts
The CD EXCELL is an electronic equivalent of this. It would need a mic to amplify it.

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Francesco wrote:

Hello, my question is: are sitars made for left handed players?

Yes, sitars are made for left handed players.
As with most left handed instruments not very many are made.
I can supply a left handed deluxe model for $690 including case, 2 mezrab (picks), and a spare set of strings.
Shipping and insurance, if you are in the US, would be about $60.00.
Payment may be made by cashier's check or money order. Personal checks take about 10 days to clear. Credit cards are not accepted as this is a small business.
I have just made up a special page showing a photo. of this for you.
You can see this at:  http://www.buckinghammusic.com/shru/shru.html

This is a fair quality sitar which should carry a beginner for a few years depending on how dedicated the student is i.e. how quickly study progress is made so how soon a fully professional instrument is required..
Custom, professional grade, left handed sitars can be made but these are expensive and the wait for one to be made would be about 3 months . For example a Rikhi Ram (Rikhi is a very good custom maker) left handed sitar would probably be in the realm of $1700 - $2000 plus case.

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Any ideas on tuning my sitar to D?

Yes, D is fine, but I would de-tension the strings at least once a week for a day or so and leave it resting "into" (front in) to a corner or in it's case while it's de-tuned so the neck stays back. Otherwise the action may rise up a bit. D is tough to play in, as everything gets so tight. Note bends are difficult in D. Still 'n' all you'll build calluses and finger muscles like crazy!

Surbahar plus pickups

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Hello, I'd like a price on a Surbahar but first I have a few questions about the blue transducers :
"The big advantage of using transducers instead of magnetic pickups is that the natural tonality of the instrument is preserved as well as enhanced."
I tried to use magnetic mics on my Sitar and the mic would not "hear" certain strings ?
How did you use magnetic "electric guitar" mics ? Were some people able to do so ?
What is price of that blue transducer ?
Where do you put the mic on the Sitar? What is a Vinnie Bell Indian Sitar ?
Was the coral guitar played like a Sitar or a guitar? (7 strings with chikaris or 6 strings like a guitar)

Thank you for your help.... Nicolas.

Hi Nicolas - naturally you need to ask some questions. Indian instruments are confusing enough without adding my sales "blurb" on top of it all! From the above you may get the feeling that I don't take myself too seriously... well - you'd be right. Having just reread Herman Hesse's "Siddharta" for the umpteenth time there's no way I can take this world seriously! But... I ramble...

I do, however, take the info. I give to people quite seriously, soooo... You can use a magnetic pickup on a sitar provided you change the non-ferrous (see - sounds serious already - [grin]) strings for steel strings. I have a Japanese Rajah "Zeetar" from the '60s that has 2 mag. pickups on it and uses all steel strings. This being said one should be very careful when fitting a regular sitar with steel strings. The tension that develops may stress the neck unduly. You may have to tune the instrument down. It would be your experiment and your risk.

The original Vinnie Bell sitar was, so I have been told, a sitar with steel strings and magnetic pickups. I haven't ever seen one, but it seems likely. Later on the Coral sitar-guitar was evolved for Vinnie. It's not much like a sitar, much more like an electric guitar, but it has a "harp" of strings on the left hand side of it and a fairly standard guitar neck. The harp doesn't resonate because it lacks the acoustic connection that one gets with sitar, but it can at least provide a cascade effect when stroked with a guitar pick. The guitar neck has six strings and is tuned like guitar with an open or regular tuning according to the player's taste. Frets aren't moveable. There's a modern version available from Jerry Jones (use the web search engines to find this). The sitar-like sound comes from a special bridge which has a sort of Javari.

A set of blue spot transducers is $66.00 plus $5.00 postage and packing. Payment may be by means of credit card (name and address as shown on the card, card number and expiry date please) cashier's check, or money order. Installation instructions are included with the transducer package. This includes tips on placement. Personally, I now place one transducer on the top of the bridge between the 1st string and the end of the top of the bridge. The other one goes next to the small tarraf bridge but not touching this as it will buzz if it actually touches the tarraf bridge..

Surbahar - I have a Radha Krishna Sharma Surbahar electric in stock. Price is $1300 plus shipping which I think will be about $120+ as it's so big that it can't be sent by normal transport methods like Fedex ground or UPS, but must be sent by truck. Its root tuning is around G or G#.

Thank you for your detailed answer. I've read Siddartha in English (with an English dictionary, I'm french) and maybe I should read it again.....because at the time I understood half of it.
Any way your blue transducer sounds interesting but one more question : if you plug your sitar on a guitar amp and use a distortion effect, how loud can you go without feeding back ? have you used it in a rock context ( I mean playing along with a loud drummer without feeding back even with a clean sound ?)
The price of the surbahar is not to expensive I'll get one soon, what do you mean by electric surbahar ?

Hi Nicholas, mmmmmm - I've read the book many times and understand more every time I read it again.
Really I suppose the truth is that every time I've read it I've been at a different part of my life so a different facet struck me at the time. This time I'm getting the feeling that life is a great game and not to worry about it, everything will be OK in the end and not to get too serious. Sounds so simple - but how can one tell oneself this? Not really, it takes something from outside to work the change.

First and foremost I have to say that a microphone for sitar in the environment you describe is worse than hopeless.
In a rock environment I'd look at using the sitar with transducers and guitar amp miked up with the mixer and foldback to give you the performance level you want.
What's out front on the house speakers won't feed back provided the speakers are properly positioned. Then the transducers will perform nicely.
EQ is the thing to get the natural sound from transducers. Play around with EQ until you get the voice you want.
Get the distortion effect so when you bring it in the level isn't that much more than when the sound is clean. Rely on your mix man to boost the level in fold back and FOH PA.
If you wish, use cordless in-ear phones - they are quite common these days and are hard to see. Bashing one's ears with naked sound, while exciting, will cause hearing loss and this is, of course, permanent.
I was a pro bass player for 5 years in the '60s and because I always stayed away from the lead amp my hearing is still quite good. I am originally from London and toured France for 6 months, Germany 2 years, Scandinavia 8 months. The rest of the time in Britain. We had the hits (as the group THEM) and did the whole bit. I was also in Joe Meek's studio band as well as other things. It was a great time...
The Surbahar is already fitted with Blue spot transducers so that's what I mean by electric.

Swarmndal, Shehnai, Sarode, Tablas, Beatles and more...

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Dear Peter, I'm very excited about your instruments and presentation. Is your Swarmandal the exact sound and instrument from Strawberry Field Forever? Please don't think me common for I would use this for my won music as well as My Unplugged Beatles Band. I noticed all the red tuners at the bottom of the instrument. It seems very precise, tuning wise. That's my musicians instinct talking. Now the Big question? Is this instrument as precise as the one George Harrison played? It reminds me of an old 1800s instrument my grandmother had in her attic. I suppose the tuning is different.

PS. I'm the same person who E-mailed you about "The Inner Light" I lost that info., because my computer was new to me. Is their anyway you can e-mail me on that same information, i.e., do you still have that letter on file? To reiterate, what tuned drums did The Beatles use on The Inner Light. I sincerely am interested in purchasing something to get going. I'm not very rich, but I work hard to get what my soul desires to please others. What's your favorite Tabla and Sitar? What do you suggest as a nice student Sitar? Could you tell me about yourself. Are you a musician? Myself and my two brothers are. We've traveled parts of the world always pushing ahead. We're in our 30's and 40's. We have a deep appreciation of world music/Classical/Pop and are own.

All the best Peter

Hope to hear from you soon.....................

Hello, What's the chime instrument on Strawberry Fields? About "The Inner Light", could you tell me what tuned drums are played in this song? Do you sell this instrument. also, what other instruments are played in this song? It's on Beatles past masters vol. # 2 (white cover)

Hi, Swarmandal is really an Indian Zither and is almost certainly the instrument used to give many of those cascades in, for example, Strawberry Fields, etc. However, please remember that multi-tracked Mellotrons were also used a great deal by the guys at that time so some cascades and plucked harp type sounds may have been done using a harp tape on one of these "Mellos". The intro. to Strawberry Fields is composed and played on a "mello" by Paul. At any rate, failing your discovery of a secret cache of Mellotrons and the tapes that go with them ;-) it would seem that the Swarmandal would do the best job for you. Yes, it has fine tuners and so can be quite precise.

Calcutta is good starter sitar as it will give you a good feel for the instrument before venturing into the better models. The point here is, I think, that Calcutta is very playable and something you can learn on. There are inexpensive sitars out there that aren't a good idea to buy as they're made so cheaply that they don't function properly and are discouraging. I don't, and won't, sell these.
If you go for this option, when you have had a Calcutta for a while and get a higher class sitar you'll immediately notice the difference in "feel". It is quite a revelation, but won't happen without you have the experience of Calcutta. It's like playing a Les Paul copy and then wrapping your hands round an original - wow!
However, people I have sold higher priced sitars to as their first sitar also seem very happy with what they're doing, so it's a matter of how you want your approach to be.
The student tabla set at $170.00 is OK for a beginner. The same applies as Calcutta, really. This set is functional but not great. It is inexpensive but playable for the beginner. The others at $265 are much better tablas.

Perhaps you'd like to review the tutorial tapes and books to see if you'd want these with your instruments as they do help a great deal.
Click this link for sitar:
and this link for tabla:

OK, well, I'm English, 56 years old and was a pro bass guitarist from 1962 - 1967. Played with "Them" for a couple of years. Got my first sitar in 1972 and enjoy Indian instruments so started this small business.
Lots more to say about this, but time is too short. Maybe I'll put my story on the WWW sometime.

Peter (Mark Scott was my stage name).

Here's the old message and reply:
As John sang on "All you need is love" - "S easy"!
Click on the links to get to the pages:
Original info. from:

Harrison: vocal
Lennon: backing vocal
McCartney: backing vocal

Sharad Gosh or Hanuman Jadex: shehnai
Shehnai can be obtained - about $45.00 plus $10.00 shipping. Delivery about 7 days. Spare reeds $4.50 ea.

Hariprasad Chaurasia or S. R. Kenkare: flute
Any music store unless you want Indian in which case come back to me re. this.

Ashish Khan: Sarod
Ashish tried out my Radha Krishna Sharma Sarod and quite liked it.

Mahapurush Misra: tabla, pakavaj
Tabla is likely the drums you hear featured most prominently. Rij Ram Desad: harmonium

Rec.: 12th January, 6th/8th February 1968
Rel. UK: 15th March 1968 (B single / Lady Madonna)
Rel. US: 18th March 1968 (B single / Lady Madonna)

Song: The Inner Light
Duration: 2.35
Track No.: 6
Composer: Harrison
Vocals: George Harrison
Year: 1968


Without going out of my door
I can know all things on earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows
Without going out of your door
You can know all things on earth
Without looking out of your window
You can know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows
Arrive without traveling
See all without looking
Do all without doing

Instruments & additional info.:
The B-side of 'Lady Madonna', and the first George Harrison composition to appear on a Beatles single. The instrumental track was recorded in five takes by Indian musicians, under George's direction, at the EMI studio in Bombay on 12 January 1968. George's lead vocal and John and Paul's brief backing vocals were overdubbed at Abbey Road on 6 and 8 February.

Harrison: vocal
Lennon: backing vocal
McCartney: backing vocal
Sharad Gosh or Hanuman Jadex: shehnai
Hariprasad Chaurasia or S. R. Kenkare: flute
Ashish Khan: sarod
Mahapurush Misra: tabla, pakavaj
Rij Ram Desad: harmonium

Rec.: 12th January, 6th/8th February 1968
Rel. UK: 15th March 1968 (B single / Lady Madonna)
Rel. US: 18th March 1968 (B single / Lady Madonna)

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"Do you do a trial period for your tablas? Are the tablas brand new? and also is there a trial period when one purchases a pair?
What if the tablas get damaged in the mail ? Can they be exchanged or returned then? Also, can you tell me the differences between your tablas (brass vs. copper, etc) and which is the best value tabla for its price in your opinion?" Thank you, D.J.

We allow 48 hours from arrivel for return of all our instruments and ask that the same packing that they came in is used to send them to us, also that they are insured. CODs aren't accepted for returns.
All our tablas are imported from India and are all new. We have no used tablas at this time. We only sell good, properly inspected and prepared instruments. Most people don't do this, but sell them still in the box they came in. Frankly I couldn't imagine doing businness in musical instruments that way as I would have no idea of what problems I would be sending people!
Tablas are delicate instruments and good tablas are also quite expensive as you may have seen. The first skins that come on a tabla set from India are usualy the best that will ever be fitted to them in the US because the place that originally made them usually shapes the rim of the dayan (small drum - dayan means "right hand") to suit that particular skin. Because most people don't realize how intricate and delicate they are, damage to tabla skins may be much more easily inadvertently caused by the uninformed. Beginners often ruin the heads of their first sets of tablas - it's not their fault - it's just that they don't know how to treat them properly and do things to them that they won't when they become more experienced. Consequently we don't have a trial period. I hope I have explained things OK.
We do recommend buying a tutorial tape, such as Ashwin Batish's Tabla Part 1, when geting the first set of tablas to get the most out of your instrument. You may see some of these at this link.
If you have a confidence problem buying sight unseen perhaps you'd be more comfortable finding a store somewhere and going to try them out. I am unable to recommend a place where you can do this, though, perhaps you can ask around or look on the web a bit more?

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"What tablas would you advise a beginner to buy? What happens of they get broken in transit?" - DJ

The $40.00 packing and shipping includes insurance against breakage in transit so this is covered.
If you are a beginner at tabla then I'd recommend the Buckingham Standard Tabla. The grade B student tablas don't really sound as nice. I keep them because some people say they "must have" the very cheapest tablas they can buy. Although they an OK job, but it's false economy to purchase the grade B student tablas because one can get tired of their sound rather quickly and find oneself buying another set.
By the same token I'd advise buying the AA tablas if you want a set for a lifetime. The best instruments are always the best investment.
I realize that some may see what I am saying is poor salesmanship and that I should be advising you to purchase the most expensive set that I have. All I can tell you is that is try to respect my customers and wish for a long relationship with them so this is why I offer this kind of advice.
However, if it were me, personally, I'd buy the AA tablas because as with everything I do I always try to buy the best I can afford so there are no excuses for my not performing well. Sorry if this sounds contradictory, but this is just my personal feelings overcoming my financial logic! I like to feel as proud as I can be of my possessions and feel I devote more time and care to them if they are the very best I can afford. There is also the fact that the skins on the AAs will last longer as Gouri selected them for long life as well as great sound.
I do hope all this isn't too confusing. I do like to be as honest as I can and I guess all this makes sense - doesn't it?
The figured brass or nickel over brass bayas are really just a matter of taste. AA tablas are available in either configuration, brass or engraved nickel over brass.
If you are a beginner and don't have a teacher then you'll probably need some kind of tutorial system. Perhaps you'd like to look over the materials available by clicking this link
to see if there is something that may suit you there.
For ideas on how to order please click this link or use the "Buy me" secure e-commerce button you'll see under the item you need..

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Dear N. P. Cutchey, I am considering purchasing one of the type A Tabla's that you list. Can you please tell me the difference between them. We have played the Mridung (Mridangam) on a limited basis but are new to the Tabla.
Are there some things I should be careful of when keeping tablas?
Thank you,Om Shanti,Doug

Hi Doug,
Deluxe comes with a side by side fiberglass carrying case.
Deluxe figured brass also comes with a side by side fiberglass carrying case.
Standard still comes with a polymer case.
Student tablas also come with a polymer case. They have an aluminum shell for the Baya (left hand) drum
All prices are plus $40 packing, insurance and shipping in the US.
Broadly speaking one can say that the Deluxe series are better made. They have better heads/sound than the Standard tabla set.
All the above are currently in stock and every tabla set is carefully inspected when it comes here and before being sold.
Please use this link for the A and B grade tabla pages:
The AA series are pretty much ultimate quality tablas and come with a choice of cases.
Here's the link for the AA grade tabla pages:
Tabla is a much more delicate instrument than ordinary drums and most beginners aren't generally aware of this. Arguably they're the world's most intricately made drum. In order to get the very best from your tablas it may be a good idea to learn how to take care of them from the get go. Aswin Batish has made a video that contains much information about tablas for beginners. Here's the link for this and other Tabla tutorials:
I keep both the David Courtney video and book plus Ashwin Batish's Tabla videos for the beginner as they each have their own things to show and teach.
There are some very important things to watch out for in the "Care and feeding" area of tablas.
a) Don't let them get damp. Dampness may injure both the skins and the gab (black spot). Wet skins can go mouldy as well as tearing when tuned up. The gab's glue is water soluble.
Also, in drying out the heads, please be careful not to over dry or "cook" the skins as they may become brittle.
b) Tune the Dayan (Right Hand small wooden drum) symmetrically. That is, tighten up the straps so the head is stretched to the same tension from all sides.
c) Never hit a tabla drum with anything other then the hands. One hit with a stick can damage a head permanently.
These are just the basics of tabla care.

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Hi Peter,

Do you have any fiberglass tabla cases in stock? If so, how much are they and what is the shipping cost?


Hello V, nice to hear from you again. It's $120.00.
I have one in stock - packing, shipping and insurance cost in the US is $30.00.
I do take all four major credit cards if you'd like to send me the particulars.
Best regards, Peter.

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The tablas I ordered arrived yesterday and the bayan, the metal one, has a good sized dent in the side. Please advise me about returning it and getting an undamaged replacement.

Hello L, I have your replacement packed and ready to go on Monday. Fedex ground (RPS) say they'll pick up the damaged goods (Bayan drum and packing materials) on Monday, too.
Perhaps you can leave the items for collection outside where the driver will see it with a note or something if no-one will be at home? Best regards, Peter.

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What are the main differences between the student tabla and the deluxe? Dubjam

How are you, What is the difference between a student tabla and a grade A tabla? thank you, Albert

There's quite a bit of difference.
The dagga is nickel plate over heavy brass in the Grade A tablas or figured brass in the Grade A brass tabla set. The student tabla set has a dagga with an aluminum shell which isn't nearly as good for tonal response.
Skins and straps aren't as high grade in the student tabla sets either, they generally don't last as long.
All in all one gets what one pays for.
This being said the student set is still very useable - "bad" student tablas are rejected when they are inspected.
So far as I know we are the only tabla sellers who have an inspection procedure as a routine part of what we do. Many sellers are "Boxes in and boxes out" operators - meaning it comes in a box and goes out the same way without the box even being opened. This may be OK when you go to a store and try out the instrument there, but I think it's not good enough for website purchases where you can't even try the instrument out before purchasing it.
Buckingham doesn't (and won't) stock instruments we don't like or respect. My point of view is that if I wouldn't care to personally own an item then I won't sell it.

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I would like to learn tabla in my spare time and I am looking for a good quality tabla that is easily tuned. Are student models more easily tuned than professional models?
Thank you,

Student models are simply less expensive and are of lower quality. Tuning is about the same. The consideration is financial - if you wish for the best quality and sound then the student tabla set isn't for you.

May I make a couple of recommendations to make your beginning easier? Videos help you learn tabla more quickly and easily. Books are a little harder to learn from.

Please consider purchasing the following:

Learning Tabla with David Courtney. (video) Tape 1 - Introduction: About Your Tabla: Purchasing, Tuning, Sitting and understanding your tabla. 22 mins. running time video with a 21 page booklet.


Introduction to Tabla Part 1/Part 2 by Ashwin Batish Ideal for beginners - among topics explained are: Care of Tablas, Tuning, right and left hand positions and more.

You may care to go to the tutorials and book page by clicking on this link. Now we have secure e-commerce you may order on line with your credit card if you like.

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Got more questions? e-mail Peter and I'll do my best to find an answer for you, plus I'll put the Q&A into this FAQ so this will help others.