sitar

The sitar is an Indian instrument - a kind of long-necked lute.

Here you will find:
  • The first test version of tuning instructions for a sitar.

  • the documentation of the repair of a broken Sitar body (tumba).

  • and - on a separate page - a survey of the components of the sitar . You can even highlight them in color, if you have the Internet Explorer.

sitar back view, with extra-resonator
Virtual tuner for a Sitar:
For the sitar, there is no universal tuning, because it depends on the respective piece, the raga. Besides the re-tuning of the melody and resonance strings even the frets are shifted.

My virtual tuner provides a standard tuning as a small support for the beginners.

(Note: If you are not sure about the correct pitch choose the lower octave. - Even if the instructions are to the best of my knowledge I cannot guarantee for broken strings or other defects on the sitar.)
 
 

Sitar repair: broken tumba
I have documented the repair of my damaged sitar body (tumba, pumkin, gourd) here. People who have also ruined their sitar might find some consolation, courage and incentive in my repair manual. I cannot, however, take responsibility for any unsuccessful attempts of repair .

 
The prehistory
Sitar repair - the prehistory

How exactly it could happen is still a mystery to me: In order to replace a broken resonance string, I put my sitar on my bed. I decided to fetch some pliers in order to twist the strings, because the ends of the strings might have injured my fingers. When I was about seven meters off I heard a sinister "blob" behind me.

At first I cursed myself, because I had been sure that the sitar, which had been lying on the flat end of the second resonator, would continue to do so. Seeing the broken body of the sitar I cursed the poor construction. Why had its builders not reinforced the pumpkin, if the body is so fragile?

But now I understood, why Amelia Maciszewski -in her sitar videos on Expert Village and YouTube is always sitting on the floor and why the whole room seems to be filled with cushions.

Sitar repair - after opening the breaking point

After opening the breaking point, finally, I cursed the existing reinforcement, because it was made very crudely and didn't have the appropriate size.

Thus,. however, it was possible to look into the interior of the sitar.

 
Materials used for the repair
Materials used for the repair
  1. Titebond Original Wood Glue
  2. Titebond Wood Filler
  3. Crepe tape
  4. an old plastic card
  5. one sheet of sandpaper (grain sizes 240, 600 and 1200)
  6. a small piece of wood (wedge)
  7. an old bicycle tube
  8. a clamp
  9. Packaging material for padding the sitar during the repair
  10. Oxidrot spray and glossy varnish.
  11. Option: very thin hide glue for the repair of the hairline crack
  12. without picture: water and a cleaning rag
Note: Titebond glue-and-Titebond spatula are not sold in german shops,
but you can order the products via internet:




(118ml are enough for about five repairs.)
 
Preparation of the repair work

Because the instrument is lying on its soundboard during the repair, I protected all protruding parts there with insulation tape and crepe.

Before the repair you have to reduce the string tension:
If you reduce it too much, however, the bridges will begin to slip. So you should fix them with tape before slackening the string tension or removing the strings.

Preparation of the sitar repair: Protect the chikari-pins! Preparation of the sitar repair: Protect the chikari-pins! Preparation of the sitar repair: Protect the pegs! Preparation of the sitar repair: Protect the bridges!
 
Sitar repair - Adhesive work

I have been meditating for a long time about where to begin with the repair, since the break between Tumba and soundboard had caused a hairline crack (red arrows). I was afraid that after the repair everything might break again.

That is why I decided to bring my sitar to Ulrich Sommerrock, an excellent lutenist and experienced restorer of old guitars.

Sitar repair - Adhesive work

"I will start the repair at the end of the main crack and do it in in several stages," said Uli, while he already applied Titebond glue.

Sitar repair - Adhesive work 1

With a wedge (red arrow), he made the two sides of the crack even and fixed it ...

Sitar repair - Adhesive work 2

... with a bicycle tube. Excessive glue was removed with a wet piece of cloth.

After the glue had dried, the wedge was put to another position and the last three steps of the repair were repeated:
Sitar repair - Adhesive work 3 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 4 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 5
Sitar repair - Adhesive work 6

The hairline crack was filled with very thin bone glue.

After the glue in the main crack had dried the other two cracks were repaired. A clamp and a small wedge of wood provided for the correct position of the parts that had to be glued.
Again the cracks were fixed with tape and left to dry.
Sitar repair - Adhesive work 7 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 8 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 9
Finally, the reinforcement of the body helped to prevent the two remaining fragments from falling into the interior. Small handles of crepe were fixed to the parts, Titebond was applied and the pieces were put in their correct position and everything was fixed again with Crepe.
Sitar repair - Adhesive work 10 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 11 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 12 Sitar repair - Adhesive work 13

Thank you, Uli!

Sitar repair - sanding and filling
Before applying Titebond wood filler, I sanded the surface with coarse sandpaper grain size 240). Then I applied Titebond-filler with an old piece of plastic and partly with my fingers.
Sitar repair - sanding and filling 1
Sitar repair - sanding and filling 2 Sitar repair - sanding and filling 3
After the filler had dried, I sanded the surface with finer sand paper (grain size 600). Then I used even finer one (grain size 1200) for the whole Tumba (except the decorated edge of the soundboard). Again I sanded the surface and removed the dust with a wet piece of cloth.
Sitar repair - sanding and filling 4 Sitar repair - sanding and filling 5 Sitar repair - sanding and filling 6
Preparing the sitar for varnishing
Before putting on the varnish I taped the neck of the sitar with newspaper and crepe, then the wooden decorations, the bridge (red arrow) and the edgings (green arrows).
Preparing the sitar for varnishing 1 Preparing the sitar for varnishing 2 Preparing the sitar for varnishing 3
Sitar repair - Varnishing
In India the Tumba of the sitar is varnished with about 20 layers of ' lakh-dana ' varnish, as I read somewhere. This might be something like shellac, I don't know.
Shellac is available in stores, but it is transparent. The risk of seeing the filler after varnishing was too great for me.

That's why I decided to take a glossy varnish with a reddish colour (Oxidrot = Oxyde-Red) which seemed to be quite similar to the original colour.

But it didn't seem to be easy to get hold of this varnish. I found an undercoat of the said colour in a DIY superstore and some clear varnish.

I applied the undercoat three times at an interval of two hours. Then: I let it dry for one day.
Danach: einen Tag trocknen lassen.
Finally, I put on two layers of clear varnish.
Sitar repair - Varnishing 1 Sitar repair - Varnishing 2
Sitar repair finished
Although the tumba looks a bit too orange in the last picture(probably because of the wet varnish and the light) is looked very good after the varnished had dried and the strings were put on again.
Sitar repair finished!
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