types of sitar - traditional sitar, electric sitar

Exploring the Types of Sitars

Ravi Shankar Sitar

Now that you know what a sitar is, how do you know which one is right for you? Well, while you’ll find many styles and details, there are really only two main types of sitars: the “Ravi Shankar” and the “Vilayat Khan.” Both of these, you may notice, are named after true sitar pioneers.

However, we should mention that among these two types of sitars, there are various styles and updates. For instance, you may prefer to learn and eventually master the “bass sitar,” known as the Surbahar. Or, you can act like Bob Dylan, and modernize your sitar playing with an electric sitar. If you’re looking for more information about the electric sitar, click here. As for the Surbahar, you’ll find a detailed overview further down on this webpage.

At Sitars.net, we’ve provided all that you need to know about these stringed instruments. On our website, you’ll find full descriptions about both types of sitars. But what exactly are the differences between these two types of sitars? If you are looking for more information about the electric sitar click here.

 

Sitar Type #1: The “Ravi Shankar”

Ravi Shankar Sitar a.k.a R.V. Sitar

The first type of sitar is the “Ravi Shankar” (or “RV”), which is named after the renowned sitarist and musical legend. RV sitars also feature 12-14 sympathetic strings. You’ll find that Ravi Shankar sitars are equipped with bass melody strings. This type of sitar also boasts a second small pumpkin that is attached near the top of its neck. The Ravi Shankar sitar is constructed with two extra bass strings. As a result, these types of sitars produce a deep, bass-filled sound.

Typically, this type of sitar boasts a top dried gourd at the top of its neck, which serves as a second resonating chamber. However, RV sitars feature an additional upper gourd that is attached to the rear of the headstock. Often, RV sitars serve as works of art and music. Ravi Shankar types of sitars are usually decorated with a good deal of extra carving and penwork.

Sitar Type #2: The “Vilayat Khan”

Vilayat Khan Sitar a.k.a V.K. Sitar

The other main type of sitar, the Vilayat Khan (V.K.), is slightly smaller than the RV style. Unlike the Ravi Shankar type of sitar, the Vilayat Khan typically features just one gourd, while the top one is eliminated. In addition, the VK type of gourd is equipped with fewer sympathetic strings and features no bass strings.

But in place of the missing bass strings, these types of sitars are constructed with an additional rhythmic accompaniment string, known as a “chickaree.” This additional feature enables the Vilayat Khan type of sitar to produce a fuller and more chordal sound quality.

 

In addition, the V.K. type of sitar features far less wood carvings and decorations. This may be due to the fact that the V.K. type of sitar is often played by a specific school of sitar-playing, the “Etawa gharana.” These particular sitar performers embrace a minimalist approach to decoration. Most often, they prefer sitars that are dark brown or black in color.

What About The Bass Sitar?

Bass Sitar a.k.a Surbahar

Besides the two main types of sitars, there’s another option for music lovers. The “Surbahar,” or bass sitar, is a larger type of sitar that typically employs very thick strings and a much wider neck. The surbahar sports a broader fret-board, as well. This type of sitar offers a deeper tonal quality, as well. Among sitar enthusiasts, this type of sitar is considered much more difficult to play than other types.

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