[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

Re: droning questions

Bill wrote:
>In the spirit of the Tueffel and Glisstar thread, is anyone out
>there aware of a manufacturer of electric sitars or guitars with
>additional drone strings?

There's a luthier who builds what he calls a "sympitar" which is a standard
acoustic guitar (normal guitar frets) with internally placed sympathetic
strings.  See:

>I've never seen an actual sitar, but from photos it appears
>the drones run under very large D shaped frets, with the melody
>strings passing over the top of the metal arc of the D.
>Is that accurate?  Any DIYers ever try this?

What you described above is correct.  However, on a sitar these raised,
curved frets are so high above the neck that they serve as a fingerboard
themselves.  That is, the top of the fret is 1/2 inch above the neck, which
is actually hollowed into a trough-like shape.  The bridge (which is
specially shaped to give that characteristic sitar twanginess) is
correspondingly high as well.  So there's no way you could ever actually
touch the string to the "fingerboard" as on a guitar, violin, etc.  The
frets are raised and curved to facilitate the graceful, sliding glissando
effect called "meend."  On a good sitar one should be able to "bend" the
main string a full fifth (e.g., from C to G) from any fret.  Because this
pulling features so prominently in sitar technique, there is quite a wide
space between the highest string (the "main" string) and the end of the
neck -- it would be as though the highest string on a guitar was the D
string!  When most string players see my sitar they want to know why there
aren't *more* strings on it :-)

The sympathetic strings, which have their own separate bridge, lie beneath
the main playing strings (and under the frets).  These strings run through
small holes that have been drilled into the "fingerboard" and connect to
friction pegs that run through the hollow neck.  The neck is hollow not 
to provide a place for the sympathetic string pegs, but also to increase 
overall resonance of the instrument.  The sympathetic strings are tuned to
the notes of the scale that one is playing in, and get retuned for every
different melody.

I think it would be difficult if not impossible to do a full guitar
conversion using sitar frets and sympathetic strings, because of the solid
neck, as well as the height of the frets/bridge.

Years ago a musician that I worked with bought a goofy used 60's relic
called a "Rah-Zeetar" which was an electric "sitar" (looked like the real
thing) with a resin/plastic "gourd" resonator and body, along with standard
sitar frets, bridges, and pickups for both the main and sympathetic 
However, the frets were fully chromatic (unlike a "real" sitar) and the
stringing did not allow for the openly-tuned rhythm/drone strings called
"chikari" on a standard sitar.  I found it poorly set up for playing
classical Indian music, since it seemed designed more to allow a guitarist
to be able to just jump in and "play sitar" without having to learn an
entirely new technique.  I doubt that these are made any longer, but it
might be worth looking into.

Good luck, and remember, "it don't mean a thang if it ain't got that twang"