Culture Guides

Sitar

The sitar is a stringed instrument from India unlike any other in the world. It takes decades of daily practice to master, especially as the instrument is capable of playing microtones hidden in the ordinary musical scale. Masters like Ravi Shankar have captivated the world with the sound of this instrument.

The sitar consists of a long piece of wood, usually teak, lined with curved metal frets connected to one or two resonating gourds made of pumpkin. There are six or seven strings above the frets and twelve or thirteen sympathetic strings beneath the frets. The player plucks the strings with a pick called a mizrab and usually only actively plays the first string, allowing all the others to resonate as the tones vary.

Traditionally, students practice for hours a day under the tutelage of a guru. The home for learning sitar is without a doubt Varanassi. A sitar typically costs between $200 and $500. Long classical compositions suited to varying times of day and seasons called raga can be learned on the instrument. A percussion instrument called the tabla and a droning called the tampura often accompany the sitar.

You can learn more about musical instruments in India here.