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Parts of the Sitar

Here is just a quick run-down of the parts of the sitar.


Kaddu is the gourd or the sound-box of the instrument. The gourd is a fruit from the pumpkin family. It has been hollowed out to main various Indian instruments. Since the kaddu is a dried out shell of a gourd, it must be handled with care as not to crack it.


Tabli is the soundboard which filters out certain tones produced by the strings. The tabli is made of wood (usually teak or tun wood). Its thickness has to be perfect in order to have a good sounding instrument. A tabli too thin will yield in an instrument with great sustain, but poor volume. A tabli too thick will sound loud with poor sustain. As seen on the above diagram, decorations are found on the tabli. Although decorations do not affect the sound quality, decorations on an instrument usually indicates that great care was done in preparing this instrument.


Dandi is the neck of the instrument. It is made of two pieces of wood glued frontally (thus, the inside of the neck is hollow). It is also known as the fingerboard, as fretting the notes takes place here.


Kunti is a tuning peg. There are five kuntis for the five main strings on the sitar, two specialized chikari kuntis, where the chikari strings are affixed, and the smaller tarab kuntis which affix the sympathetic strings of the sitar. Depending on the style of sitar you get, you may vary on how many tarabs you receive. If you have a Vilayat Khan model, you will have a kunti for string#2, but there will be no string there.


Upper Tumba is an optional gourd made of either gourd, wood, or metal. There is a differential sound difference with the upper tumba. Some sitar players will not have an upper tumba, while some add it on for aesthetic reasons.


Pardas are metal frets that can be moved. As Indian music is based on pure intervals and changing microtones, notes will have to be altered in order to perform or play certain ragas. The frets are tied to the dandi by high quality thread or fishing line. An instrument’s quality can be evaluated if the string tying the parda does not have any varnished grooves on its opposite site. If there is, there it is an indication that instrument might be a rushed job.


Tuning Beads allow one to fine tune the main strings. It is important to use the main kuntis first to tune the general area of the desired note. If one needs to tune, one may use the tuning beads to tighten or loosen the string.


Jawari is the most important piece of the instrument. The flat bridge of the instrument (made of bone) has a special contour angle that gives the sitar its distinctive sound. Some musicians have their special style of jawari. Some like it open like Ravi Shankar (which yields a buzzy sound), medium like Nikhil Banerjee (not extremely buzzy), and closed like Vilayat Khan (very little or no buzzing). The sympathetic strings also have their own special bridge.


UPDATED: June 23, 2009