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Our Sitar Setup

It is a rare instrument that arrives from India in perfect playing condition. After all they are coming from the other side of the world, from a climate quite different from ours. In fact, most of our time is spent preparing the instruments we receive to be ready for our customers.

A new sitar is especially sensitive. It takes a while for all that wood to adjust to its new incarnation as a musical instrument. Keep in mind that there is a lot of tension on the neck - all those strings tuned up to pitch are going to pull the neck up a little. A good maker will take this into account when doing his final setup, his bridgework and fret placement. But you never know how much the neck will tighten in the first few months, or even the first year. All it takes is a tiny movement for all the frets to be off and the beautiful jawari to be flat.

So, for each of our new sitars we first restring them completely. We feel that the wire we have is better than the wire available in India. (This is borne out by the volume of visiting musicians who stock up on our wire.) We play them. Most importantly, we check the "jawari" and redo it as necessary.

Jawari literally means "glimmering" or "jewel like". The curved bridge of a sitar, or tanpura, produces that characteristic buzzing sound. The angle and shape of that curve determines the sound the string gives, and thus the character of the whole instrument. The art of jawari, of filing the bridge to the correct shape, takes years of practice.

We are fortunate to have Kalyan Godden working on our sitars. Kalyan learned the art of jawari and instrument repair from his father, Brian Godden, who was our repair man for years. In the last 10 years, Kalyan has worked on hundreds of sitars, day in and day out, and this has allowed him to perfect his craft. He checks every new sitar we sell, and does any jawari cleanup that is needed.

We set up most new sitar with a "semi-open" jawari. This will allow them to break and sound good, and also last for while. A very open jawari may sound good at first, but may wear out quickly. We honor any customer request for specific jawari, say for the "Nikhil Banerjee" style, which is a little more closed.

All new sitars come with a case, an extra set of strings, and some extra mizrabs.