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Bol Techniques


The order and orientation of plucking in sitar is very important. To describe the method of plucking, we used a technique of what is known as bols. For tabla players and other Indian percussionists, the bol is known as the name of the sounds produced by the drums. In sitar, the bol is the name of the way a string is struck. In sitar, there are four bols to know.


Before we discuss the bols, we must discuss how one plucks the sitar. The sitar does not use any kind of plectrum, such as the coconut jab of the sarod or the guitar pick for some guitarists. Instead, the index finger of the plucking hand wears a finger pick known as the mizrab. The finger and mizrab have the dual role of plucking and act as a plectrum for the instrument. Note how the correct orientation of mizrab for playing sitar. For those who actively play vina, you may have your mizrab orientation to be slightly different. For sitar players, the finger is inserted between the two metal flaps in such a way that the top loop of the mizrab is dividing your finger symmetrically, not frontally.



It is important that one purchases a mizrab that is not too tight or too loose. Just the right snug fit is needed with the top of the mizrab being a quarter inch longer than the top of the finger.



DA is the bol representing the upward strike. The mizrab starts from the bottom end of the string and strikes upward.


RA is the bol representing the downward strike. The mizrab starts from the top end of the string and strikes downward.


DIRI is a quick flick doing a Da, followed by an immediate Ra. It will seem like a “stutter” from the sitar.


CHIK is a Ra stroke played on the chikari string. For the most part, the chikari strings will always receive Ra orientation.


When playing, the strumming pattern is always Da-Ra-Da-Ra-Da-Ra. If a chikari string is in the composition, then that will take over the Ra bol. For example, Da-Ra-Da-Chik-Da-Ra-Da-Chik-Da.


Watch the video to see how the strumming action for the bols take place.


UPDATED: June 23, 2009