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The sitar is an Indian stringed instrument that is plucked and was made popular in America through famous music bands, such as The Beatles. Since there are two main types of sitars, it can be hard trying to figure out which one to buy and whether or not it's a quality Indian instrument. Just remember that you can find a quality version of this Indian instrument if you know what to look for.

What type of sitars are there?

There are two basic types of sitars: Gandhar Pancham, or Vilayat Khan, style and the Ravi Shankar, or Kharaj Pancham, style.

Gandhar Pancham:

  • The first style mentioned above has a simple straight neck and only six strings of which there is a Jora, a main, and four for rhythm.
  • The six-string sitars are carved more simply than the other kinds.
  • They usually have faux mother-of-pearl inlay running the length of the neck.
  • The GP has a crisper sound, and the chords are more well-defined than the Ravi Shankar style sitar.

Kharaj Pancham:

  • The RV, or kharaj panchum, style sitar typically has a gourd at the top of the neck.
  • It has seven strings: three of which are for rhythm, two kharaj strings, one main, and one jora.
  • This Indian sitar style has that buzzing sound commonly associated with sitar music.

Your decision on which sitar to buy depends on whether you want a sitar with a crisper sound or one with the traditional Indian sitar's buzzing sound.

Should you consider your dominant hand when purchasing a sitar?

Yes, there are specific sitars for left- and right-handed people.

How do you play a sitar?

The sitar is played with a special pick called a mezrab. You wear the pick on the index finger of your strumming hand and pluck the strings with this pick.

Does a sitar require special strings?

Yes. They usually come in sets of 18. Seven of them are the main ones, and the other 11 are sympathetic. They are usually either steel or bronze. Some people recommend the ones with a loop end for easy restringing.

What do you use to tune a sitar?

Tuning of this instrument can be done using a rechargeable or battery-operated chromatic tuner. You can adjust the pegs with your fingers when tuning. If you're eager to start playing music, then remember that the sympathetic strings don't have to be tuned as often as the main ones.