General Information on the Sitar


The Sitar is the most popular melody instrument in classical northern Indian music today and is, together with the Surbahar and the Tanpura, part of the family of long-neck lutes. The large resonance box is made of a dried pumpkin; - neck, cover and a possible second smaller resonance box are mostly made of Tun wood, an Indian variety of teakwood. Metal strings made of steel (bass strings also of brass or bronze) run across two bridges made of bone. The frets are movable by cords that are tied to the neck and are also made of steel. Depending on the special features of the Sitar (full decoration, plain decoration or Sitars in Vilyat Khan style) it is more or less lavishly decorated with inlaid work of celluloid.


The Sitars that are being made nowadays can be divided into two main categories. One group complies in construction and features with the so-called "Ravi Shankar Style" (Kharaj-Pancham), the other group orientates itself to the Vilayat Khan Style. On these two kinds of Sitars, different musical styles are played. Sitars in the Ravi Shankar style usually have 2 resonance boxes, 13 sympathetic resonant strings and 7 playing strings. 4 of the 7 playing strings are played as melody strings and comprise 4 octaves.

The Sitars in "Vilayat Khan Style" (Gandhar-Pancham) have on principle only one resonance box.There are 11 sympathetic resonant strings and 6 playing strings, 2 of which are played as melody strings over a range of three octaves. The design is unsophisticated and decorations and inlays are sparse.


The central element in tuning a Sitar is the keynote which can be selected individually and is usually between c and d, often c sharp, depending on the desired sound pattern.

Tuning in Ravi Shankar Style (Kharaj-Pancham)

2nd string (Jure) - tuning to the keynote
4th string (Kharaj) - tuning an octave lower than the keynote
6th string (Chikari) - tuning an octave higher than the keynote
7th string (Chikari) - tuning two octaves higher than the keynote
5th string (Pancham-Chikari) - is the fifth over the keynote
3th string (Pancham) - is the fifth in the lower octave
1st string is the main playing string (Baj) and is tuned to the fourth

If you have chosen c sharp as the keynote, the following tuning results: f sharp, c sharp, G sharp, C sharp, g sharp, c' sharp, c'' sharp.

The sympathetic resonating strings (Taraf) are tuned to the applied scale. The longest resonating string is tuned to the keynote and then you tune from the lower seventh upwards to the high third. An especially important note in the middle octave can be tuned twice

Tuning in Vilayat Khan Style (Gandhar-Pancham)

The first two strings are tuned exactly as in Kharaj-Pancham style (see above), neither is there a difference for the two Chikari and the Pancham-Chikari strings. Instead of the two low melody strings Pancham and Kharaj, however, in Gandhar-Pancham-Sitars only one additional Chikari steel string is used. This string is tuned either to the big or small third. Thus the complete tuning of the playing strings with c sharp as keynote looks like this: f sharp, c sharp, f, g sharp, c' sharp, c'' sharp. For the resonant strings the tuning usually starts with the seventh and then goes up the scale to the third in the high octave.


As standard tuning for a Kharaj-Pancham Sitar (see above) the following strings can be used:

1. 0,30 mm steel
2. 0,40 mm bronze
3. 0,55 mm bronze
4. 0,85 mm brass
5. 0,27 mm steel
6./7. & taraf 0,22 mm steel

These (and other) strings can be ordered from TARANG either as a complete set or individually or on rolls


Both, the Sitar and the Surbahar are played in a sitting position on the floor. The pumpkin body rests upon the musician's foot and the instrument is held in a way that the neck is in a slanted position of about 45 degrees in front of the player. The playing strings that run across the large bridge are plucked using a wire finger pick on the right index finger. The resonant strings that run across the small bridge vibrate automatically without being plucked. The left hand fingers the melody on the frets. The strings are not only pressed down on the frets but also pulled sideways. This technique makes the unbelievable variety of ornamentation and microtones possible that is so essential in Indian music.


All Sitars offered by TARANG Indian Instruments are instruments by leading Indian instrument makers. They are, on principle, handmade unique objects and not industrially mass-produced items. We offer a wide variety of different manufacturers, models and Sitar styles in different looks and sound philosophy to choose from.

For beginners we have the simpler versions available in a price range of 450 to 650 Euros. The instruments do not have very high standards concerning the sound and also the quality of craftsmanship is a little bit simpler but with the branded starter models being made with good craftsmanship and having good sound qualities. More serious music lovers and musicians will be more interested in our de-luxe Sitars in the price range of around 990 Euros, as these have a significantly better craftsmanship and also a better sound quality that can never be reached by the more inexpensive instruments. Instruments in the price range starting from 1.300 Euros meet the highest requirements. Here highest-quality materials are crafted carefully according to the traditional art of instrument-making. These instruments have brilliant sound qualities and their craftsmanship and high-grade design make them instruments for life.