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Low-Tech Sitar Sound


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Check out this low-tech Sitar thing I just invented for my accoustic [steel strings]: I rolled up a AAA battery in a little cloth and taped it up. The middle of the battery has just enough cloth to barely contact the A string, as inserted under the E, A, D strings about maybe an inch from the bridge. One third of the battery has less cloth and doesn't touch the D string; the remaining third of the battery has enough cloth to hold tight under the E string. You gotta then tune the E down about a half so that it goes back to E. The cloth [before taping] is stepped like so, in other words:



***************************** <-- Holds E


******************** <---- Buzzes A


********** <----- Slips under the D string


Just roll the AAA up in its little blanket and tape it in place. You'll want to play around with the length of it so that the part under the A just barely contacts the string.


With the battery then sideways you position it a little left/right and back and forth until you get a good Sitar buzz going when you pluck the A string. You might find it necessary at first to also twist the battery around if it isn't perfectly round. You'll know if you got it right--you'll get this harmonic buzz like a good Sitar produces.


You can get good results with something like Norwegian Wood, starting off by strumming D, etc. [i often mute out the bass E on a Dmaj chord with my thumb.] Since the Sitar was originally dubbed over the Beatles first take on the Norwegian Wood recording and since nobody in the band had really learned how to play it comfortably yet the result is surprisingly close in sound to the original two guitars plus Sitar makeup. I'm playing a bright-sounding Ibanez AW200VV that rings well, sounding enough like the 12-string they used.


I played it for my nephew and he was totally jazzed over the sound it produced.


Admittedly it's a bit fussy to get going but it stays in place well, once positioned. I'm guessing a better solution could be made with some more effort and perhaps setting up all the strings with a mechanical device that pulls away.



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Cool! This type of stuff is known as "prepared" guitar, and similar things have been done with pianos.


A metal Band-Aid box slipped tightly over the headstock and tuners will vibrate along sympathetically, and yield an almost "resophonic" like sound. I bet that you could mic it or use some kind of contact pickup for cool recording results.


By the way, welcome to the Guitar Forum, GetOffTheStageYouSuck!


Is that an "Indian" name that you were given or something? :P;):D:thu: Just raggin' on ya!

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Cool idea! :thu: Maybe you could post a sample or photo, in case anyone wants to "try this at home".


I have enough trouble with making my guitar sound like a guitar let alone trying to make it sound like a sitar! So I won't be trying it anytime soon, but thanks for sharing just the same. :P


Oh and BWT- what's with the nick? CuriousCaevano and I would really like to know.

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> Is that an "Indian" name that you were given or something?


That would be my stage name if I ever did get on stage. I figure my fans would chant the band's name while we're playing. ;-)


> Maybe you could post a sample or photo, in case anyone wants to "try this at home".


This is literally one of those three-minute inventions. My wife was on the phone with her mother and I knew I wasn't going to get any playing in unless I either moved where I was sitting or muted out the guitar. So being the lazy kind of guy I put all kinds of effort into staying put; I slid one of those small square washrags under the strings, letting most of it fall into the sound hole. I "adjusted" it a little, sometimes bunching more/less of the cloth under the strings while I played. In theory, these adjustments were meant to get more/less volume and all of a sudden I got this accidental Sitar buzz when everything was just right. I happened to be playing Norwegian Wood at the time and I immediately knew that I had to have this sound for the song. Eerie coincidence. About a minute later it was "wham, bam, thank you Energizer" and I was in business.


Anyway, I should mike up a sample of the sound at least so you can here how good it is. I guess I could take a picture of it but that's going to take some ranglin...


> I did a similar thing with a wood dowel on a strat.


Paostby, how's the quality of the sound from straight off the wooden dowel? I played around with my version a little and I think the fringe edge of the cloth is what produces the best tone, as combined with a good strong strumming and a lightweight pick.


Oh man, come to think of it I should check this out on my oscilloscope. [geek alert] No, but the shapes sounds make are really cool and it would be good to know what exactly is going on with this whole buzz thing. I just saw a picture of an electric Sitar from the late 60's and it had a set of sympathetic strings off to the side and a C-shaped metal rig off the bridge that I suppose resonates between the groupings of strings or something.


Anyway, the sound's still good on the A string even after fretting a Cmaj--the wedge doesn't change the pitch of the string, only the tone. It'd be cool to get a lever that pushes something up against the string so that you could do that first note of "I Feel Fine", unplugged of course.


I'll C what I can do


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That's a really cool trick...


John McLaughlin played in an acoustic indian group called Shakti back in the good ol 70s (crazy good music). He had this special modified guitar made that sounds like a sitar. I don't know everything that went into it, but the difference I saw was an extra set (about 6 strings or so methinks) going across the sound hole, but under the regular six strings. These extra strings were at about a 45 deg angle relative to the regular strings. I guess you could call them sympathetic strings. It looked like they were bridged at both ends tho, so I don't know how you'd tune them.


Anyways, seems like a cool idea too. Happy pluckin'

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Here's one similar to the one I saw in the Beatles' gear: http://www.quest-md.com/stars/star_e.html


They make it sound like George used this model though but I'm pretty sure this wasn't the one on Rubber Sole, the White Album or that the Beatles ever recorded with.


Here's an acoustic "Sympitar": http://www.beyondthetrees.com/sympb.htm "Once tuned to the desired pitches..." sounds like you've got to tune them.


Sympathetic strings have been around since the late 1700's on violins and violas. I'm pretty sure the one I saw was at Versailles.


What's weird is that my "low-tech" doesn't have any sympathetic strings involved. I've definitely muted all but the A and it still rings out. I guess the string's in sympathethy to itself, probably creating sympathetic harmonics down the string based upon its position there near the bridge.



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There are two components to the "sitar sound". One is the sympathetic strings, and the other (and possibly more important) is the buzzing bridge. The Coral and the Sympitar each get it partly right.

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Okay, here's the attachments...






As I said earlier it's basically just a AAA battery with just enough cloth wrapped around it to barely touch the A string.


The placement is a little fussy but you get the hang of it. Apologies for my recording but that was the best I could do.



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I first tried this with a regular pencil. The flat edges and the gloss finish were fine in producing the sitar sound.


I changed to a dowel made of very dense wood that had a similar look to the Strat finish.


Most recordings of the Coral guitar in use do not use the sympathetic strings. I don't need them for my uses, either.


I would like the Jerry Jones model, though. I heard he designed the original Corals.



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